It’s the mid 1980’s in the most crime-ridden city of Australia. Only one man keeps the scales of justice even. Cowboy Detective, Lieutenant Jangles. After his partner is killed in a blazing shootout, Jangles goes on an explosive and blood-soaked mission to avenge his death. His quest for vengeance unintentionally makes him the enemy of a mysterious new crime boss, who has been quietly taking over Brisbane City. When their paths finally cross, one thing is made clear, this town isn’t big enough for both of them.
This the plot for Ozploitation feature Lieutenant Jangles, co-created by Nicholas Champeaux and Daniel Cordery. We caught up with the co-writers to talk about this feature now available from Scream Team Releasing.
Tell us where the idea came from for Lieutenant Jangles?
NIC: The story of Jangles’ origins is a long one, which is why we made a movie-length documentary for the Bluray to get the full story on record. The short version is; it began life as an inside joke between a group of film school friends while shooting a short film back in 2012. From there myself and Dan (jangles co-creator) decided to make a fake trailer after joking about it for so long and the response was so good that we got together as a group and started the ball rolling to turn it into an actual feature. The concept and tone changed so much over the years and eventually evolved into the finished product we have now.
DAN: The idea of Jangles never stops changing. Where it starts as a Cop in Brisbane, Australia, fighting crime… after making the feature we could now easily drop angles into horror, sci-fi, fantasy, western, rom-com and he would fit perfectly… and then blow a bunch of stuff up. I think that adds to the originality of Jangles, he is such an organic and weird new character that he is nothing but uncharted territory… Being Australian helps a lot. No one has really strayed from Crocodile Dundee.
For the unanointed, what are Ozploitation films?
DAN: Ozploitation is Australia getting in on the Exploitation boom. Action, violence, sex, drugs, fast cars, rock and roll and making the film look like a successful Hollywood film for no money at all. What makes Ozploitation stand-alone is nothing looks like Australia, nothing sounds like Australia and nothing really is Australia. A perfect example is “The Howling 3”. When we could have just made a straightforward Werewolf movie, we have to change the wolves to marsupials with pouches. Aboriginals summoning werewolves during the daytime, which is probably culturally insensitive by today’s standards. But that was the rule of Exploitation films, throw anything on screen… ANYTHING.
NIC: Yeah, classic low budget action or horror cinema from the 70s and 80s. Films like Mad Max and Turkey Shoot are great examples and even the lesser-known Aussie biker film “Stone” which we reference in Jangles. There’s a great documentary called “Not Quite Hollywood” all about Ozploitation cinema that everyone needs to see.
Tell us about the writing process?
NIC: There were 2 stages of writing, the first round was the original script that I wrote which would have been maybe 80 pages, those years are all a blur now. But after we’d shot all that and showed the initial rough cut to the cast and crew and other filmmakers who saw the potential of what it COULD be if we just put in the extra effort, we decided to flesh out the plot and give more depth to some of the characters, especially the villain. So Dan and I sat down and thought up new plot points and scenes and where they would fit into the existing cut.
DAN: I think the only things I wrote were the first drafts of the Chopper scenes and then Nic worked them into the script. Then scenes like the Baron’s speech I came up with during that 2nd phase, which is a reference to Warriors where Cyrus is talking to all the gangs in New York.
What films do you pay homage to in Lieutenant Jangles?
NIC: I can’t remember all of them but the opening is straight-up Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with the news report on crime in the city. There are a lot of Robocop similarities, Miami Vice was chucked in there too. Looking back on it now the film is like Team America, it’s not a straight-up Zucker Bros spoof style movie, but it is definitely making fun of kick-ass action films while also being a kick-ass action blockbuster at the same time. Everything is super crude with the ridiculousness cranked to 11. It also reminds me of the Tom Green film Freddy Got Fingered, in that the audience can’t tell if it’s genius satire or just really really stupid, but it knows its target audience and plays to all its strengths.
DAN: Whether it was a direct reference or just channelling the energy, various characters from the Paul Hogan show such as “Sergeant Donger” and “Leo Wanker” were definite homages in terms of the Australian aspect. For me, a lot of the technical aspects of referencing the 80s is through Robert Rodriguez’s commentary from Planet Terror. From the camera work to the colour grade, a lot of my influence comes from his exploitation rule set from Planet Terror. One of my favourites “firing 7 shots from a 6 shooter pistol. In Jangles we have 2 characters get into a car… 3 doors slam shut also everyone has an unlimited supply of bullets until you need a knife fight to happen. Exploitation baby; Never let continuity get in the way of sweet action.
Tell us about the casting of Matt Dickie?
DAN: When I first met Matt in film school, there was this vibe about him that is so hard to explain. He just felt like a famous 80s action star. There were so many short films I was writing that never got made where I wrote the lead role specifically for him. Spanning from a Terminator Time Travel action film to a Bruce Lee style Kung fu film with him as the villain. But thankfully once Jangles came around and the first time he ever played the character it just felt like a no brainer. One of the earliest quotes I ever got from Matt was “acting’s a piece of piss”.
NIC: The original “Jangles” was our film school friend and producer Morgan, who spawned the original joke with his portrayal of a cop in the short film I mentioned earlier. But when Morgan didn’t want to star in the trailer, Dan suggested we ask Matt if he wanted to do it as Matt had just shot a fake trailer with his mates called “creek thing” which pays homage to 70s/80s horror exploitation films. And once we got Matt on board the real Jangles was born.
What was the first day of filming like?
NIC: Hot! The first official shooting block was during a ridiculously hot summer and the first day we were shooting in a shed with a tin roof so it was like an oven in there, and we filmed for about 14 hours. We had to figure out how to work with each other as a unit while figuring out how to be filmmakers at the same time because this was everyone’s first feature film attempt.
DAN: I don’t think I’ve ever been on a set that went that long, especially one that had to cover so many different scenes across the whole movie in one day. But it was good, it whipped us all into shape for the 5-year nightmare we had ahead of us.
How hard is it to sell this sort of film to potential distributors?
NIC: Next to impossible. These types of films are “underground” and there is a bit of a stigma about them from a business standpoint where they don’t feel marketable or profitable. But you get those rare cases where the word of mouth spreads and they blow up in popularity and then have insanely devoted and large fan bases and become a staple in pop culture. The upside of when Jangles inevitably gets torrented is that more people will see it and maybe we’ll become one of those films. Luckily we found a home for Jangles with American company Scream Team Releasing, who’ve been really cool to us because not ONE single Australian film festival or distributor wanted to touch this film, but it’s been killing it overseas in the festival circuit, so yeah, figure that one out.
DAN: Lieutenant Jangles is also one of those films that you can’t really describe to someone and they’ll know exactly what you’re talking about. Imagine saying “It’s like Schwarzenegger being an unstoppable force in Commando, but he’s also like a buffoon child… and duct tape that together with obscure Australian humour… wanna buy the film?”. But once people see Jangles, they instantly get it and generally love it.
What is next after the release of Lieutenant Jangles?
NIC: I just plan on sitting back and watching what happens now that we’ve released it to the world and getting strangers raw reactions and opinions. Other than that I have no plans personally after Jangles, it was pretty taxing and there hasn’t been any time to rest since the concept trailer back in 2012 until now because there was the filming which spanned over 2 years, then post-production, then a film festival run and THEN trying to sell it to a distributor. After we scored the deal, Dan and I then had to film the making of documentary which was like making another entire film in itself. People are demanding a sequel but to be honest, I think Jangles was lightning in a bottle in terms of how we made it, the people we worked with and the end result being so good. Everyone was working for free, I was constantly pouring my own money into it and it took up way more time and energy than any of us had originally anticipated or signed up for. It might look like it was just fun all the time from the outside but it was insanely hard work behind the scenes to just get this thing done.
DAN: Yeah, I spent over a year living in my grandmas shed working on the Edit, VFX and Colour grade. Making a massive action film for no money was the worst. I think a $500,000 budget for a sequel, and I’ll come back. Jangles is endless with what you could do next. But yeah, I would never ever make another Jangles film the same way. I have my own films that I want to make and stories to tell. As for Jangles? We must have come up with 500 ideas for sequels, a tv show adaptation, a cartoon, action figures… even joked about an American remake and who we would cast in the roles. The first movie was a gruelling 5- year process getting lightning in a bottle. But yeah, all depends on the world’s reaction now that the Bluray is FINALLY out.
I take it, you are a big fan of 80s action films, name us some of your favourites?
NIC: Probably the same as most people; Predator, Terminator, Robocop, First Blood, Commando, Mad Max, then of course films like Beverly Hills Cop and Lethal Weapon… Naked Gun.
DAN: Yeah that’s pretty much my list too… Robocop and The Terminator are technical masterpieces to me.
Why do you think filmmakers keep revisiting the 80s so much for content?
DAN: I think the 80s was the finale of the massive colourful boom of culture, after World War 2 the whole planet was desperate for fun. And you can see the status quo from the 40s shift throughout the 50s 60s and 70s with the hippie generation, rock and roll music and once-taboo subjects being tackled across all mediums of art. The 80s was when the artistic expression was at its most wild yet technical. Once the 90s came around, anything colourful and crazy just sort of became marketable gimmicks. From the 2000s to today, everything is now packaged and sold as outrageous and crazy. And I think people return to the 80s because that was the high point of natural creative culture. But that’s the double-edged sword is now we are purely living in “reference world”, whereas back then they were doing things that had never been done before.
NIC: I feel like it was one of the best, if not, THE best decade in cinema, definitely the most influential. Special and practical effects were at their peak, computers were slowly being incorporated, it was the last decade of that “lawless” Hollywood, in that you could do almost anything and political correctness wasn’t dominating entertainment. Guerrilla filmmaking was quite commonplace, like in Terminator for example sometimes it was just James Cameron and Arnie filming stuff on the street. Stories and the way they were told were so inventive and creative, which is probably why they’re still copied today. It’s a decade that’s stuck in time but also timeless. In saying that, I’m well and truly over the oversaturation of 80s nostalgia lately. When I first created the concept of doing Jangles as an 80s film, no one else was doing this yet as far as I knew, I just thought it was a neat little idea. Then after we made our concept trailer back in 2013, suddenly there was a big nostalgia revival for the 80s starting with things like Kung Fury, which Jangles constantly gets accused of ripping off. Even though our concept trailer dropped first.
Could you recommend an obscure 80s action film to our readers to check out?
DAN: This may be cliché coming from an Australian, But Crocodile Dundee. That film has so many great Aussie jokes going for it and I’m sick of “that’s not a knife” line being the ONLY thing people quote.
NIC: Miami Connection. Probably not obscure anymore, but I love it so much. Lieutenant Jangles is the brainchild of Australian filmmaking duo; Nic Champeaux and Daniel Cordery. Made for less than $15,000 AUD by a rag-tag group of friends from film school with everyone pooling their resources and contacts together to make this film happen. From the concept trailer in 2013 to it finally being released in 2020, it’s been a long and gruelling journey, with Nic and Dan being in charge of every facet this demented love child the entire way through giving up years of their lives and their sanity in the process.
From having a sold-out premiere in their native Brisbane in 2017 to taking it to film festivals around the globe and winning stacks of awards and praise in the process, it i now finally available to the public on Bluray through ScreamTeamReleasing.
Find out more about Lieutenant Jangles.