One of the best-known Australian filmmakers of the 1970s, producer/director Tim Burstall charmed filmgoers down under with such homespun comedies as Stork and Alvin Purple. Though he was credited as being one of the earliest filmmakers of the 1970s "Australian New Wave," Burstall later branched out into thriller territory, where his sharp skills for social satire seemed somewhat dulled, resulting in poor box-office returns and a gradual slowing of his productivity in the late '80s.
A native of England who immigrated to Australia with his family at age nine, Burstall spent much of his early career working as a journalist and PR representative for the Australian government. A win at the 1960 Venice Film Festival for his early short The Prize found the aspiring director growing increasingly comfortable behind the camera, and in the following years, Burstall would hone his skills on documentaries and as a student assistant at UCLA with work on Martin Ritt's Hombre. In the late '60s, Burstall returned to Australia to helm the drama Two Thousand Weeks, an arthouse hit that quickly ignited the new wave despite critical evisceration. His subsequent comedy, Stork, was met with a bit more widespread enthusiasm, and when the bawdy sex comedy Alvin Purple hit the screens in 1973, audiences came in droves to witness the risqué antics of a nerdy but endearing loser who somehow becomes a sex symbol. Though such later departures as End Play and The Last of the Knucklemen were often cited as entertaining, competently produced films, audiences stayed away, and Burstall's career faded following his 1986 film Kangaroo (an adaptation of author D.H. Lawrence's novel of the same name). A handful of made-for-television features including Great Expectations, the Untold Story and Nightmare at Bitter Creek followed in the late '80s. In late April of 2004, Tim Burstall suffered a fatal stroke in Melbourne, Australia. He was 76.