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Vintage Port Film Society

The Vintage Port Film Society was formed in 1990 and ran for sixteen years until 2006. Pat Grainger was a member and donated to PMHPS a dossier of film schedules, programme/program notes and some newsletters from 1995 to 2006 (Cat No 4482).

The Film Society was set up by Frank and Serena Steuart and monthly screenings took place at their house in Derham Street mostly on the third Saturday of the month. The majority of papers in the dossier have a simple b&w logo of two film reels ‘threaded’ through a wine bottle substituting for a projector. On one document dating from 1999, however, a different, colour version of the logo was used.

Vintage Port Film Society logos.

The notice for the 2006 AGM lists Bob Rothols in the role of President; Dal Ellis, Secretary; Frank Steuart, Treasurer and Serena Steuart, Projectionist and Vice President. In the latter years, Dal signed off the newsletters on behalf of ‘the Gang of Four’ so perhaps we can surmise that these four ran the society for all or, at least, most of its existence.

The programme of films was planned out at the start of the year with a main feature and supporting shorts each month. The feature films were an eclectic mix of movie classics, comedies, as well as somewhat obscure films and foreign language films. 

Vintage Port Film Society Program 2002

Casablanca was the chosen film for 18 March 1995 while Don’s Party was shown on 18 May 1996 (for the election). The 1967 Swedish film Hugo och Josefin was shown on 18 February 1995.

In 1995, yearly membership cost $15 with a $2 supper charge to attend each screening. Guests could attend a maximum of two evenings per year at a cost of $5 per screening. In 1998 the membership fee was increased to $20 and by 2004 it was $25 and the limit for guests was reduced to one visit per year. It is unclear how many members the Film Society had but presumably numbers were low given the venue for the screenings.

Members received brief notes for each film and no doubt there was much discussion over supper following each screening. The films were sourced from various places with 16mm prints coming from the film libraries held by organisations such as the Federation of Victorian Film Societies, the National Library and Cinemedia. Later films were shown on DVD which came from film libraries, ACMI or from the Steuart’s own collection. Often the source of the film, media type, country of origin, release date, the name of the director and running time were listed on the programme or as part of the film notes.

Vintage Port Film Society Program (Feb – Sep) 2004

On 19 September 1998 they screened the 1916 epic silent b&w film, Intolerance, directed by D W Griffiths and followed up two months later, on 21 November, with Abbott & Costello meet Frankenstein.

On 19 February 2005 they screened Jacques Tati’s 1958 comedy Mon Oncle where the hapless Monsieur Hulot visits his sister, brother-in-law and nephew in their technology-driven house. Monsieur Hulot made another appearance in their 18 February 2006 screening of Playtime from 1967. Obviously the comic genius of Tati was a hit. [Wonder if they also watched Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday from 1953 where Hulot causes havoc at a beachside hotel. Think Michael Crawford’s character, Frank Spencer, in the British TV series, Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em, or Rowan Atkinson as Mr Bean.]

The final screening each year, ‘Break up Night’ in November, was preceded by a BYO dinner at Dal and Bob’s place in Clark Street before moving on to Derham Street to watch the film.

Vintage Port Film Society Programme 2001

The mix of films continued through the years unabated. 2001 featured a mini-restrospective of the work of George Cukor. The New Zealand film Whale Rider was the choice for 16 September 2006 and the 1950 Japanese crime-thiller, Rashomon, written and directed by Akira Kurosawa, was screened on 20 March 1999.

Notes for the Vintage Port Film Society screening of Kurosawa’s Rashomon, 20 March 1999

The undated newsletter for September or October 2006 opens with Dal’s usual friendly intro, ‘Greetings Vintage Porters’ and goes on to talk about arrangements for the final screening of the year with dinner at Clark Street at 6.00pm with the film screening and desserts at 8.30pm at Derham Street.

Sadly the curtain will then close for the last time for Vintage Port.’

‘We’ve enjoyed Serena and Frank’s hospitality since 1990. During that time we’ve seen some wonderful films, features and shorts, we’ve been greatly entertained & always in the pleasurable company of friends & topped off with Frank’s very special supper.’

‘A big thank you to both of them for their 16 years of generosity & dedication to our film culture & our enjoyment of it.

The final screening of the Vintage Port Film Society on 18 November 2006 featured the 1964 Academy Award-winning film, Zorba the Greek, starring Anthony Quinn. 

Secretary, Dal Ellis, signs off a Vintage Port Film Society newsletter

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Acknowledgement of Traditional Custodians

We respectfully acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we meet and work, the Bunurong Boon Wurrung and Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung peoples of the Eastern Kulin Nation and pay respect to their Elders past, present and emerging.