A Cry in the Dark (1988)

PG-13 | 121 mins | Drama | 11 November 1988

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HISTORY


       According to a 6 Mar 1991 DV news item, Guilty By Suspicion, Evil Angels, and Azaria were working titles.
       A 26 Nov 1985 HR news brief announced that producer Verity Lambert had optioned the film rights to John Bryson’s 1985 book, Evil Angels, about the disappearance of Lindy Chamberlain’s baby, Azaria, whom Chamberlain claimed was taken by a dingo at a campsite. At the time the book was optioned, Chamberlain had been found guilty of murdering her daughter and was serving a life sentence in prison, while her husband, Michael, had been convicted as an accessory to the crime but relieved of his prison sentence so that he could care for the couple’s two sons.
       Although a 26 Jul 1986 Screen International article noted that Thorn EMI was initially involved, the company was replaced by Cannon Entertainment Inc. as an investor. Screen International also named Roadshow Coote and Carroll as a co-producer, but the company did not receive onscreen credit. A 16 Feb 1988 HR article stated that director Fred Schepisi agreed to participate in the film on condition that Meryl Streep play “Lindy Chamberlain.” According to a 6 Nov 1988 LAT interview with Streep, she was the only non-Australian cast member, and received a $4 million salary, as reported in 20 Apr 1987 and 11 May 1987 DV news items. The total production budget, according to an undated HR news item in AMPAS library files, was $15 million.
       Although a 25 Aug 1987 DV item cited the principal photography ... More Less


       According to a 6 Mar 1991 DV news item, Guilty By Suspicion, Evil Angels, and Azaria were working titles.
       A 26 Nov 1985 HR news brief announced that producer Verity Lambert had optioned the film rights to John Bryson’s 1985 book, Evil Angels, about the disappearance of Lindy Chamberlain’s baby, Azaria, whom Chamberlain claimed was taken by a dingo at a campsite. At the time the book was optioned, Chamberlain had been found guilty of murdering her daughter and was serving a life sentence in prison, while her husband, Michael, had been convicted as an accessory to the crime but relieved of his prison sentence so that he could care for the couple’s two sons.
       Although a 26 Jul 1986 Screen International article noted that Thorn EMI was initially involved, the company was replaced by Cannon Entertainment Inc. as an investor. Screen International also named Roadshow Coote and Carroll as a co-producer, but the company did not receive onscreen credit. A 16 Feb 1988 HR article stated that director Fred Schepisi agreed to participate in the film on condition that Meryl Streep play “Lindy Chamberlain.” According to a 6 Nov 1988 LAT interview with Streep, she was the only non-Australian cast member, and received a $4 million salary, as reported in 20 Apr 1987 and 11 May 1987 DV news items. The total production budget, according to an undated HR news item in AMPAS library files, was $15 million.
       Although a 25 Aug 1987 DV item cited the principal photography start date as 30 Sep 1987, a 31 Aug 1987 DV article noted that the start date was set for 5 Oct 1987, while 24 Nov 1987 HR production charts stated filming began 19 Oct 1987. Production notes in AMPAS library files described A Cry in the Dark as “the biggest film ever undertaken in Australia.” Along with 1989’s Mull, it was one of the first two films to be shot at the newly completed Australian Film Studios in Melbourne, according to a 15 Nov 1988 HR brief. The cast was comprised of 350 speaking roles and 4,000 background actors. Locations, spread thousands of miles apart, included the cities of Darwin and Mt. Isa, and Ayers Rock. As noted in the 6 Nov 1988 LAT, temperatures reached 122 degrees Fahrenheit during filming, and a desert storm plagued the final days of production.
       Although Lindy Chamberlain was released from prison in Feb 1986, she had not yet been exonerated of murder charges at the time of filming. Despite the belief still held by many that Chamberlain was guilty, Verity Lambert stated in production notes that the Northern Territory government cooperated with filming and provided aid when needed. In contrast, echoing the media frenzy portrayed in the film, tabloid reporters harassed Meryl Streep and her co-star Sam Neill during production and published “wild stories” about them, which the actors denied. In addition to tabloid harassment, the 16 Feb 1988 HR reported that cast and crew received violent threats while filming was underway.
       Critical reception was mixed, with both the 11 Nov 1988 NYT and 28 Nov 1988 New Yorker comparing the picture to a made-for-television drama while praising Streep’s performance. Streep was awarded Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival, and nominated for an Academy Award and Golden Globe Award for Best Actress. Other Golden Globe nominations for the film included Best Motion Picture – Drama, Best Director – Motion Picture, and Best Screenplay – Motion Picture.
       After Lindy and Michael Chamberlain’s exoneration in 1988, a 26 May 1992 HR news item reported that they had been awarded $980,000 by the Australian government as compensation for their wrongful convictions. According to a 13 Jun 2012 LAT news item, an Australian coroner finally ruled that Azaria Chamberlain was killed by a dingo in early Jun 2012.
      Following opening credits, two title cards read: “This is a true story,” and, “It began in August 1980 at Mt Isa in the Australian state of Queensland.” Preceding end credits, the following title cards appear: “September 15, 1988. Eight years after the disappearance of their baby Azaria, Lindy and Michael Chamberlain finally won the fight to prove their innocence. All three judges of the Northern Territory Court of Appeals exonerated the Chamberlains of all charges”; “The fight to restore their lives continues.”

              End credits acknowledge Bond Brewing, Adventist Church, and Government of Northern Territory of Australia, and include the following written statements: “The Uluru (Ayers Rock – Mt. Olga) National Park has since November 1985, been jointly managed by its Traditional Aboriginal Owners together with the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service. We thank all those involved in the joint management of the Park for their assistance”; “Filmed at Australian Film Studios, Dallas, Australia”; and “Developed with financial assistance from the Australian Film Commission.” More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
21 Jul 1986.
---
Daily Variety
20 Apr 1987.
---
Daily Variety
11 May 1987.
---
Daily Variety
25 Aug 1987.
---
Daily Variety
31 Aug 1987
p. 2, 6.
Daily Variety
5 Sep 1987.
---
Daily Variety
4 Nov 1988
p. 3, 16.
Daily Variety
6 Mar 1991.
---
Hello!
25 Jun 2012.
---
Hollywood Reporter
26 Nov 1985.
---
Hollywood Reporter
24 Nov 1987.
---
Hollywood Reporter
4 Nov 1988
p. 5, 44.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Nov 1988.
---
Hollywood Reporter
26 May 1992.
---
Los Angeles Times
6 Nov 1988
p. 26.
Los Angeles Times
11 Nov 1988
p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
13 Jun 2012
Section AA, p. 2.
New York Times
11 Nov 1988
p. 6.
New Yorker
28 Nov 1988
p. 103.
Screen International
26 Jul 1986.
---
Variety
2 Nov 1988
p. 22.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT

NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Darwin Court
Darwin Court
Alice Springs Court
The Police & Rangers
Darwin Court
Alice Springs Court:
Darwin Court:
The Media:
The Police & Rangers:
Gossipers:
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Cannon Entertainment Inc. Presents
A Golan-Globus Production
In association with Cinema Verity
A Fred Schepisi Film
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
3d asst dir
3d asst dir
Video dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Exec prod
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op steadicam
2d cam asst steadicam
Focus puller
Clapper loader
Video op
Cam maintenance
Gaffer
Best boy
Elec
Asst grip
Asst grip
Asst grip
Stills photog
Video tech
Video cam
Video cam
Video asst
Video asst
Video asst
Video asst
Videotape facilities
Videotape facilities
Videotape facilities
Videotape facilities
Film laboratory
Film laboratory
Liaison
Filmed in
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Prod des
Art dir
Art dir
Asst art dir
Asst art dir
Art dept coord
Draughtsperson
Art dept runner
Art dept asst
Art dept liaison
FILM EDITORS
Assembly ed
Asst ed
Cutting room asst
Cutting room asst
Video ed
Negative matching
SET DECORATORS
Set dresser
Set dresser
Props buyer
Props buyer
Props buyer
Asst set dresser
Standby props
Standby props asst
Const mgr
Leading hand
Leading hand
Brush hand
Scenic artist
Set finisher
Set finisher
Set finisher
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Const asst
Const asst
Const asst
Const asst
Painters asst
COSTUMES
Cost des
Cost supv standby
Asst standby
Costume maker
MUSIC
Mus mixer
Orig mus performed by
Scoring eng
Scored at
SOUND
Sd rec
Boom op
Supv sd ed
Supv sd ed
Sd ed
Sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Foley artist
Dial mixer
Eff mixer
Foley rec
Foley rec
Dolby eng
VISUAL EFFECTS
Title des
MAKEUP
Miss Streep's hair and make-up
Makeup artist
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Casting
Line prod
Cannon prod exec
Children's drama coach
Vehicle coord
Vehicle coord
Continuity
Accountant
Accountant
Accounts asst
Accounts asst
Prod coord
Prod secy
Dir's asst
Prod's asst
Post prod supv
Post prod supv
Post prod secy
Unit mgr
Asst unit mgr
Asst unit mgr
Loc mgr
Loc mgr
Prod runner
Prod asst
Prod asst
Addl pub services
Tutor
Res
Casting asst
Transport mgr
Asst mgr
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Caterer
Caterer
Caterer
Caterer
Caterer
Caterer
Legal counsel
Legal counsel
Legal counsel
Completion guarantor
Unit nurse
Unit nurse
Safety officer
Security
Dog wrangler
Release script
STAND INS
Stand-in for Meryl Streep
Stand-in for Sam Neill
Double for Meryl Streep
Double for Meryl Streep
Double for Sam Neill
Double for Sam Neill
Double for Aidan
Double for Reagan
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the book Evil Angels by John Bryson (New York, 1985).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Evil Angels
Guilty by Suspicion
Azaria
Release Date:
11 November 1988
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 11 November 1988
Production Date:
began October 1987 in Australia
Copyright Claimant:
Evil Angels Films, Pty. Ltd.
Copyright Date:
16 December 1988
Copyright Number:
PA395815
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in Selected Theatres
Color
Lenses/Prints
Filmed in Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
121
MPAA Rating:
PG-13
Countries:
Australia, United Kingdom, United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In August 1980, Lindy Chamberlain and her husband, Michael, take their two sons, Aidan and Reagan, and nine-week old daughter, Azaria, on a road trip to Ayers Rock in the Northern Territory of Australia. One night, at a campsite near the rock, Michael throws food scraps to a wild dingo lingering nearby and Lindy reprimands him for encouraging the animal. After putting Azaria to sleep in a basinet inside the children’s tent, Lindy returns to Michael at the grill, several feet away from the tent. Suddenly, another young mother hears Azaria crying and alerts Lindy, who rushes toward the tent and sees the backside of a dingo half-immersed in the children’s tent. It appears to be shaking its head, although Lindy cannot see what is in its mouth. Lindy yells at the dingo and the animal flees. By the time Lindy reaches the tent, she discovers that Azaria is missing from her basinet and cries, “The dingo got my baby!” Although Lindy chases after the dingo, it is too dark to see. Hoping to save Azaria, Michael and several campers wield flashlights as they make their way into the brush surrounding the campsite. When the police organize an even larger search party, Michael, a minister of the Seventh Day Adventist church, leads them in prayer, acknowledging that Azaria can no longer be alive but thanking them for their continued efforts. A nearby hotel offers to house the Chamberlains, free of charge, while police continue to investigate. Unable to sleep, Lindy frets about leaving the tent unzipped while Michael wonders aloud why God has taken their baby. The next day, police report they have found nothing. News reporters arrive ... +


In August 1980, Lindy Chamberlain and her husband, Michael, take their two sons, Aidan and Reagan, and nine-week old daughter, Azaria, on a road trip to Ayers Rock in the Northern Territory of Australia. One night, at a campsite near the rock, Michael throws food scraps to a wild dingo lingering nearby and Lindy reprimands him for encouraging the animal. After putting Azaria to sleep in a basinet inside the children’s tent, Lindy returns to Michael at the grill, several feet away from the tent. Suddenly, another young mother hears Azaria crying and alerts Lindy, who rushes toward the tent and sees the backside of a dingo half-immersed in the children’s tent. It appears to be shaking its head, although Lindy cannot see what is in its mouth. Lindy yells at the dingo and the animal flees. By the time Lindy reaches the tent, she discovers that Azaria is missing from her basinet and cries, “The dingo got my baby!” Although Lindy chases after the dingo, it is too dark to see. Hoping to save Azaria, Michael and several campers wield flashlights as they make their way into the brush surrounding the campsite. When the police organize an even larger search party, Michael, a minister of the Seventh Day Adventist church, leads them in prayer, acknowledging that Azaria can no longer be alive but thanking them for their continued efforts. A nearby hotel offers to house the Chamberlains, free of charge, while police continue to investigate. Unable to sleep, Lindy frets about leaving the tent unzipped while Michael wonders aloud why God has taken their baby. The next day, police report they have found nothing. News reporters arrive to interview the Chamberlains, and when their story is aired, Australians react in disbelief and joke about the improbability of a dingo eating a baby. Sometime later, the Chamberlains return home, and reporters continue to hound the family for interviews. Bloodstained baby clothes are found in a cave located near a dingo lair, and some reports state that the clothes were neatly folded. People gossip about the Chamberlains’ religious beliefs; rumors spread that they sacrificed their baby in a strange ritual and were once linked to the Jonestown cult. The couple is also faulted for giving so many interviews, but Lindy insists she simply wants to counter the untruths floating around. Angry about the hype surrounding them, Michael orders Lindy to stop talking to the press. Meanwhile, forensic scientists examine Azaria’s bloodstained clothes and determine that dingo teeth could not have made the tears. Police investigator Graeme Charlwood visits the Chamberlains at home and an inquiry is held soon after; however, a death threat interrupts Lindy’s testimony, and later, a bomb threat is called in to the Chamberlains’ hotel at Ayers Rock, where they are forced to return for further questioning. In a televised ruling, a judge finds the Chamberlains innocent, but states that a human, not a dingo, murdered their child. Michael is accepted into a masters program at Avondale College and the family moves to a new home near the campus. On the anniversary of Azaria’s death, Michael brings Lindy flowers and weeps, admitting that he is sometimes overwhelmed by anger because he hardly knew their daughter. Just as their lives begin to settle down, the chief minister of the Northern Territory police allows Graeme Charlwood to re-open his investigation of the Chamberlains. Their house is raided for a second time, and the families who were at the Ayers Rock campsite at the time of Azaria’s death are questioned. New forensic reports claim the baby was decapitated, and police find a stain underneath the dashboard of the Chamberlains’ car that appears to be dried blood. Murder charges are brought against Lindy, alleging she slit Azaria’s throat inside the car and transported the baby's body inside Michael’s camera bag to a hiding place. Meanwhile, Lindy convinces Michael to conceive a child with her, as they may not have another chance if she goes to jail. Michael struggles with his faith in God, unsure that he can continue to be a pastor when he cannot understand God’s will. As the trial begins, Lindy is visibly pregnant. Her defense lawyers insist that the “blood” found in the car could technically be rust, the nail scissors she is accused of using to cut the baby’s clothes were not sharp enough, and despite public opinion otherwise, dingos are capable of carrying up to twenty pounds in their mouths over long distances. During her testimony, Lindy claims that Azaria was wearing a matinee jacket on top of the baby clothes that were found, which would explain why no dingo saliva was detected on the underclothes. Lindy’s cool demeanor irks the general public, and she ignores her lawyers’ urgings to act more demure. Although the judge encourages the jury to remain unbiased, a majority of Australians believe Lindy killed her child and the jury agrees, finding her guilty. She is sentenced to life in prison and hard labor, while Michael is found to be an accessory and sentenced to eighteen months in prison; however, as the primary caretaker of their children, he is pardoned. Despite Lindy’s appeals to keep her baby in prison, the newborn, Kahlia, is removed from her mother’s arms an hour after birth. Michael raises the baby at home, along with Aidan and Reagan, and continues to fight for Lindy’s innocence. Over the next few years, the alleged blood pattern underneath the dashboard of the Chamberlains’ car is found in several similar models, and Azaria’s matinee jacket is discovered near Ayers Rock. Lindy is released from prison “on compassionate grounds” and her neighbors celebrate her arrival home. Although young Kahlia does not want to hug Lindy at first, the family is happily reunited. At church, Lindy tells her fellow parishioners that the fight to clear her name has only just begun. She and Michael are finally found innocent and exonerated in 1988, eight years after Azaria’s diappearance. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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