Thursday 14 July 2022

An Overlooked Australian Film (2) - David Hare remembers, in graphic detail, THE PHALLIC FOREST (Kit Guyatt, 1970) and also remembers author Michael Wilding.

Now probably forgotten but a huge breakthrough in Oz cinema from 1970.

As far as I can remember The Phallic Forest was written by Michael Wilding, then in professorial residence at Sydney University on the Leavisite faction of the then warring English Department. He co-produced it with Kit Guyatt who directed it.
I attended in 1970 at Sydney Uni what was probably its only screening, given the explicit nudity and a last-scene erect cock poking through a fence. The credits for the movie are exhaustive but leave two mysteries unanswered: where was it shot (Kit lived in Balmain at the time.) and who owned the quite splendid cock which finally ends the tensions between Female Lawrentian cock worship (always displaced from D.H. Himself.) And the lead actress’ clarifying laughter in the final shots at the Freuduan absurdity.
In 1970 the film in public screening would have instantly attracted vice squad raids and legal punishment. But a mere year away, Australia introduced the “R” certifucate in September 1971. In the year following, 1972 United Artists commercial distribution would bring in Pasolini’s Decameron, for public screening intact, including female frontal nudity and yet another erect cock. Another year later my friend Jennifer Sabine would import a copy of Genet’s Un Chant d’Amour for deposit at the then National Film Library. Yet more cock!!
Vive le Queue! I once asked Kit if he could introduce me to the owner of the Phallic Forest cock, but he never ‘fessed up.

Mike Wilding was a charming man also a good mate of the late Frank Moorhouse. His time at Sydney Uni was marked by ideological warfare between a more or less left and right factions, with the latter winning alas. The latter was championed by the hideous Leonie Kramer whom we all called Leonie Crazy. I should add I never even made it past English 1 - this was one of several units of the eventual BA which I flunked effortlessly. Five years to struggle through a three year pass BA. I loathed Uni for the study side but the politics and sex and drugs made it worthwhile.

Mike did a Sydney Uni seminar on Pasolini which he invited me to host, having heard about my dissertation for Italian year three pass from my professor, Fred May. I had done zero preparation and given my terror of facing audiences I was hiding away getting stoned in a nearby house in Glebe. But friends dragged me out and into the Union conference rooms where the small audience encouraged some degree of expostulation from me, and the whole thing eventually rolled along very nicely. Mike had a knack of getting the best out of “difficult” people, like me, at that time.

Editor's Note: Kit Guyatt and The Phallic Forest are not quite totally forgotten. A box set (cover above) of three of Kit's films including The Phallic Forest, is available for purchase via digital download from

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