On 21st April 1976 a gang of gunmen held up more than 50 members of Melbourne ’s Victoria Turf Club, the audacious heist left the police with not a single clue but recriminations and rivalry threatens to bring the gang down… Mike Power (John Bach) who led the robbery had been in Prison in England when he learns of the way the Turf Club operates and after getting out on parole returns home to put his team together.
The Great Bookie Robbery which dates from the mid 80’s is one of those Australian drama’s that has lived long in peoples memories and is based on a real life event that took place at Melbourne’s Victorian Turf Club.
The gritty feel of the serial makes it hyper realistic, similar in style to UK productions like Widows or Out, there’s a rawness to the production that was a great antidote to all the glossy shows that were being made then. It’s pretty gruesome at times too, notably when things start to get a little out of hand after the robbery and the gang find themselves targeted by mobsters The Templer Brothers which leads to death and execution and an outcome which is surprisingly downbeat.
The cast, which includes a pre Home and Away Alf Stewart (Ray Meagher), is fantastic, John Bach as gang ring leader Mike Power is a very strong presence but there are also fine performances from a young Gary Sweet, the ever reliable Gary Day and even Rebecca Gibney. The 1980’s saw a major explosion in the fortunes of the Australian mini-series that was felt all over the world and whilst The Great Bookie Robbery probably didn’t conform to the typical costume drama epic it is easily the equal of any number of Town Like Alice’s or Sara Danes.
Channel 9 – PBL / 3×120 minute episodes / Broadcast 15 – 17 November 1985
Writer: Philip Cornford / Camera: Ellery Ryan / Design: Michael Ralph / Costume: David Rowe / Music: Dave Skinner / Producer: Ian Bradley / Directors: Mark Joffe, Marcus Cole
JOHN BACH as Mike Power
CATHERINE WILKIN as Carol Power
GARY DAY as Colin Reynolds
BRUNO LAWRENCE as Cracka Park
ANDY ANDERSON as Tony Lott
GEORGE SPARTELS as Jaffa Davis
DENIS MOORE as Russ Lockhart
PAUL SONKILA as Merv Temple
RAY MEAGHER as Bob Temp
CANDY RAYMOND as Sonya Reynolds
GARY SWEET as Chicka White
SCOTT BURGESS as Robbins
REBECCA GIBNEY as Bonnie
VICKI ANGUS as Mrs Casey