Stanley Graham, his wife Dorothy and their two children lived on New Zealand’s South Island in a wee town called Kowhitirangi where they worked a small farm. Around about 1938 Stanley and his wife were convinced that the local people were poisoning their beasts. When the income from the farm plummeted the family fell into debt and their relationship with the neighbours deteriorated. Convinced that their bad luck was due to the town folk the couple started to threaten and abuse people who happened to pass their property. Target shooting late at night, the fact that they had an assortment of lethal weapons in the house and that Stanley was an expert marksman did not make their association with the local people any less tense. In 1941 the police started to collect firearms from the inhabitants for wartime use. It was during the dispute over weapons that Graham began his chain of killings and went into hiding in the bush.
The depiction of these events was the subject of Mike Newell’s 1982 New Zealand/UK feature film Bad Blood, which was based on the book Manhunt – The Story of Stanley Graham and adapted for the screen by Andrew Brown. This is an exceptionally well-made film that conveys the historical context of the period and communicates the social realities found in these small insular communities. Even after witnessing the brutal and unnecessary killings you can’t help but empathise with Stanley Graham who, along with his wife, had obvious metal problems brought on by a persecution complex. The outstanding nature of the movie is underscored by the quality of the acting and not just the great Australian actor Jack Thomson who plays Graham with just the right amount of understatement but Carol Burns. Burns, who had honed her skills in the theatre a good ten years before acting in film and in TV play’s, give’s a more than credible performance as Stanley’s devoted wife and accomplice Dorothy. Denis Lill plays Constable Edward Best, a familiar face at one time on British TV. The other plus with this film is that it was made and shot in the actual locations where the carnage took place.
|The memorial to the victims of Stanley Graham.|