The Plumber – 1979
She opened her door to… a nightmare!
Matt Carroll producer
Judy Morris – Jill Cowper
Ivor Kants – Max (the plumber)
Robert Coleby – Brian Cowper
Candy Raymond – Meg
Henri Szeps – David Medavoy
Yomi Abioudan – Dr. Matu
Beverley Roberts – Dr. Japari
Bruce Rosen – Dr. Don Felder
Daphne Grey – Caretaker’s wife
Meme Thorne – Anna
David Burchell – Professor Cato
Paul Sonkkila – Reg the cleaner
Pam Sanders – Ananas
Rick Hart – Detective
Review by Noel Bailey
You really oughta ALWAYS check your tradesman’s ID!,
What a straight-up quirky little gem from Peter Weir. Proof indeed that you do not need big budgets to make celluloid winners. Weir has such a great talent for drawing out the extraordinary from the most ordinary of scenarios. A bush-walk that defies explanation at HANGING ROCK, a country town with a lurid secret in THE CARS THAT ATE PARIS, oveflowing domestic storm-water in THE LAST WAVE and here, the humble PLUMBER, or maybe the stranger from Hell?
Filmed for the most part in Jill Cowper’s (Judy Morris’s) apartment, if not the bathroom itself, her nightmare starts when she has need to call a tradesman to fix faulty plumbing in her bathroom. Whether Max has multiple pre-emptive social issues to deal with or simply reacts later to her upper-class dismissive treatment of his blue-collar status is not made clear. In the bathroom however he rules unchallenged and Jill finds herself at the mercy of what appears to be a serially disturbed tradesman.
Less of a thriller and more a black comedy, Weir places his protaganists each in unfamilar locales. Jill, a highly educated anthropologist, married to a doctor and studying indigenous behavioural activity has absolutely no idea how to respond to this intrusive workman who stops for 10 minute tea-breaks every five minutes and composes a rock-song for which he asks her considered opinion. While the situations thrown up are critically funny at times (Kants gives his greatest performance here) an air of extreme unease pervades proceedings. By degrees, the bathroom is totally destroyed as Max works to compensate for that social-class chip on his shoulder, the size of a Redwood! The scene of the dinner party wherein an overseas guest is trapped under collapsed rubble in the bathroom is a hoot.
After Morris has hit rock-bottom and realises that fear is the key, she devises a way to get back at him. Some viewers regard the end as “soft” if not a total cop-out. What it actually shows is that just sometimes, fighting fire with fire works!
THE PLUMBER was filmed in Adelaide and originally received limited theatrical release. It was not until it was shown on television however that the “legend” of this great little movie was founded and its popularity mushroomed.
Not to be missed under any circumstances.