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Grievous Bodily Harm (1988)

A schoolteacher (John Waters) becomes obsessed with the idea that his wife (Joy Bell) did not die in a car accident, as everyone else thinks.


Mark Joffe


Warwick Hind (screenplay)

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4 nominations. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Colin Friels ... Tom Stewart
John Waters ... Morris Martin
Bruno Lawrence ... Det. Sgt. Ray Birch
Shane Briant ... Stephen Enderby
Caz Lederman Caz Lederman ... Vivian Enderby
Sandy Gore ... Barbara Helmsley
Kerry Armstrong ... Annie
Joy Bell Joy Bell ... Claudine
Kim Gyngell ... Mick
Craig Ashley Craig Ashley ... Agostino
Gary Waddell Gary Waddell ... Eddie Weaks
Gary Stalker Gary Stalker ... Derek Allen
Marise Wipani Marise Wipani ... Suzie
Saskia Schlicht Saskia Schlicht ... Natalie
Dominic Gowans Dominic Gowans ... Prentice


A schoolteacher (John Waters) becomes obsessed with the idea that his wife (Joy Bell) did not die in a car accident, as everyone else thinks.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


When desire is obsession and passion turns to madness. See more »


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Release Date:

January 1989 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Bodily Harm See more »

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
See full technical specs »

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User Reviews

I just want my wife back – just tell me where she is or I'll…
8 June 2011 | by RJBurke1942See all my reviews

I'd heard about this crime/thriller long time back, but only recently found a copy.

It's a true-blue Australian story that uses a conventional narrative – man on a quest – to flesh out three concurrent stories: a seemingly ordinary school teacher who is searching for his wife thought to be dead; the frenetic daily routine of a crime reporter with one of the national rags who stumbles into more than he expected; and a relentless copper who'll stop at nothing to get what he wants.

So, it has elements that you saw in films like Blood Simple (1984), or Farewell, My Lovely (1944, 1975), or Body Heat (1981) and many others – all of which are generally subsumed under the rubric 'film noir'. Think of Point Blank (1967), and you'll recall Walker (Lee Marvin) who just wanted his wife and his $40,000 back, stolen by the Mob; and the rest is classic cinematic history as Walker decimates the bad guys as only Lee Marvin could do it.

All of those films center upon a husband or boy-friend who's been suckered by The Woman – the one he's trying to find. This film doesn't have the star or directorial draw of the above films, but it's still up there with them as a true film noir.

The fascinating first twist (and there are clever twists in this film) is that the school teacher, Morris Martin (John Waters) is mentally unhinged to the point of insanity by the disappearance of his wife; and that leads him into impulsive acts – acts that you have to see to appreciate for their ferocity. The second twist is that the reporter, Tom Stewart (Colin Friels) is handed – literally – a fortune in a bag of cash from a bank robbery, in the first few minutes of this film; and which, in turn, eventually leads him to meet up with the anguished school teacher. The third twist is discovering – also early in the plot – that the relentless copper, Ray Birch (the late Bruno Lawrence), is also a cold-blooded killer who is after that cash.

Hence, while Morris continues his relentless search for his wife, Claudine (Joy Bell) – and Ray grimly and ruthlessly gets closer to the cash – Tom discovers that Claudine is alive and sets off to find her. Unhappily for Tom, so does Morris; but Tom doesn't know that. Ray, now with Tom in his sights as the bag man with all that cash, is not far behind. And, all the while, the body count just keeps getting higher...

And, as you watch and savor the unfolding nastiness and horror, you might think you will eventually anticipate how it might all end. Well, that's where the final twists come into play, and which upset all of your preconceived ideas about who gets what, and when. Truly, it's not often you are dealt such excellence in story, acting and direction, proving that you don't need block-buster money to provide intelligent and thrilling entertainment.

The filming is simply excellent, along with the editing which is sharp, focused and keeps you on edge – to follow the plot and to keep up with the fast pacing. The acting from the three central characters is just superb with John Waters – first time in my view – reminding me of a young Peter Finch and just as accomplished; Colin Friels always giving his best; and, well, Bruno Lawrence was simply one of the best actors I've ever seen. The supporting cast is more than adequate to help carry the story on, especially the very attractive femme fatale, Joy Bell.

This story and film, for me, reminds me most of the films of the Cohen brothers, well known as masters of dramatic irony, horror, and suspense. Director Mark Joffe and writer, Warwick Hind aren't there yet, but this one is an admirable addition to that type of film.

Just you wait to see the final irony in this one...delicious! Get a copy if you can. Highly recommended.

June, 2011.

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