Episode 16: Race for the Yankee Zephyr (1982)

To close out 1981, Never Repeats goes on a wild adventure with David Hemmings’ Race for the Yankee Zephyr, at the time the most expensive film ever made in New Zealand. So what does $6 million buy you in 1981? International stars (Donald Pleasance, George Peppard), gorgeous Queenstown locations, and some spectacular helicopter stunts and jet boat chases. But is it any good?

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Race for the Yankee ZephyrDirector: David Hemmings
Producers: Antony I. Ginnane, John Barnett, David Hemmings
Screenplay: Everett de Roche
Director of Photography: Vincent Monton
Editor: John Laing
Music: Brian May

Ken Wahl
Sally…Lesley Ann Warren
Gibbie…Donald Pleasance
Brown…George Peppard
Barker…Bruno Lawrence


  • If you’ve got a Blu-Ray player, the best way to watch Race for the Yankee Zephyr is the Blu-Ray released by Ascot Elite in Germany. It is Region B, and should work with any Blu-Ray player purchased in New Zealand. You can order it directly from Amazon.de. For everyone else, there is a decent Region 4 DVD available. As always, the best place to help you track down a copy is NZ Videos, who also have some alternate purchasing options for the Blu-Ray if you’re not comfortable ordering from Amazon.
  • One of the primary sources used in researching this film was the fantastic Ozmovies website, which has a whole ton of information about the production taken from sources such as the Australian ‘Cinema Papers’ magazine which we otherwise wouldn’t have had access to. There’s plenty of quotes and detail there that aren’t covered in the podcast, so if you want a fuller picture of Yankee Zephyr‘s production it’s highly recommended.
  • The great Grant Tilly has a small role in the film as an antiques dealer. He doesn’t have much to do, but it’s always nice to see his face.
  • Yankee Zephyr was David Hemmings’ fifth film. His prior work includes the David Bowie-starring Just a Gigolo, and the odd Australian thriller The Survivor – the latter also produced by Antony Ginnane. After Yankee Zephyr he mostly stuck to directing made-for-TV movies, as well as episodes of popular TV series like Magnum P.I., The A-Team, and Quantum Leap.
  • In the ’60s, Hayden’s late grandfather worked as a parachute and jungle survival instructor. When George Peppard needed to learn how to parachute for a film role (possibly 1965’s Operation Crossbow) it was Hayden’s granddad who instructed him. Below is a scan of the signed photograph gifted by Peppard upon completion of the training. The inscription reads: “For Ron, with thanks, George Peppard”.

Signed Peppard photo

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