Episode 5: Skin Deep (1978)

We’re putting a bow on 1978 with a discussion of a proper hidden gem – Geoff Steven’s small-town drama Skin Deep. When the local gym in the small North Island town of Carlton decides to modernise by hiring city masseuse Sandra (Deryn Cooper), her arrival stirs up passions and conflicts hidden under the town’s surface.

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Skin Deep coverDirector: Geoff Steven
Producer: John Maynard
Screenplay: Piers Davies, Roger Horrocks, Geoff Steven
Director of Photography: Leon Narbey
Editor: Simon Sedgley

Sandra Ray
…Deryn Cooper
Bob Warner…Ken Blackburn
Phil Barrett…Grant Tilly
Vic Shaw…Alan Jervis


  • While Skin Deep is one of the more difficult titles to see out of all the films we’ve covered so far, if you live in New Zealand you’re in luck! The wonderful Aro Video still have a VHS copy rattling around and they provide a country-wide rental delivery service! Assuming you still have access to a VCR, that is.
  • Speaking of that VHS, the cover (above) has to be one of the most unappealing of all time. A sloppy cut-and-paste job from a publicity still, it doesn’t begin to hint at the tone or story of the film.
  • While we praised the film’s handling of the relationship between Phil Barrett and his wife Alice, we completely forgot to mention actress Glenis Levestam whose performance as Alice is very subtly and carefully realised. A huge oversight on our part.
  • For a contemporary view of the film, here’s an excellent review from Art New Zealand magazine by William Dart. He gets a bit carried away with comparisons to American cinema, but otherwise makes many astute observations.
  • Skin Deep was the first film to receive production funding from the Interim Film Commission. It was made on a total budget of $180,000.

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