Epitaph

Promotional Trailer

Presented by Paul Gittins: Half-hour dramatised documentaries revealing the stories behind intriguing gravestones.  Many of these true stories have never been told before. Greenstone produced 3 series of Epitaph, which won Best Factual Series, 1999 NZ TV Awards.

These stores behind the inscriptions include –  A Glorious Death: Francis Vernon Douglas was a young New Plymouth man who had the looks to become a film star but chose the priesthood. He was based in the Philippines when war broke out. The Japanese, believing him to be a spy, tied him to a pillar in a church and tortured him for three days – but he said nothing. There is a college named after him in his hometown but mystery still surrounds his fate. Paul’s journey begins at the memorial plaque which proclaims that Father Francis died a ‘glorious death’.  A Glorious Death preview above.

The Waikino School Tragedy: an poignant inscription on a Waihi gravestone sends Paul in search of the truth about a dark but little-known chapter in New Zealand history, in which a deranged farmer takes awful revenge at a small country school. Plus Lighthouse Man: the discovery of a strange monument in Dunedin leads Paul to a charming but ultimately tragic yarn about two ambitious young Scots engineers who come to the South Island to build lighthouses, ports, railway tunnels and bridges – but find that Nature is a unforgiving foe.

“Let them shoot me”: These provocative words were among the last spoken by David Russell, a plucky young Scot from Napier who was shot by the Germans in World War II because he wouldn’t give them information about a POW escape plan. Russell is now a hero to the Italians – but little-known in New Zealand. This sad but heartwarming story of love and courage involves not just the soldier, but also the woman he left behind in Napier. How does a woman live with grief and unanswered questions for 50 years?

“Til we meet again”: This is the poignant message left at the foot of the grave of a young actress who was poisoned in the 1930s. Who left the message? Who killed the actress? What was the scandal that rocked Auckland? One of the stars of this showbiz story is Freda Stark, famous for dancing nude painted entirely in gold.

And ‘Stiletto’: A stiletto – a dagger – was found in the Wellington home of Italian Louis Chemis, and helped convict him of the murder of his landlord. It is now widely accepted that Chemis was not guilty – so why was he so readily convicted, and who was the real killer?

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Production Details

Producer: Tony Manson

Assoc. Producers: Andrea Hotere, Philppa Mossman

Exec producers: Paul Gittins, John Harris

Network exec: Geoff Steven, John Wright

Original idea by: Paul Gittins

Directors: Larry Justice, Liz Taege, Megan Jones, Paul Gittins, Mark Everton, John Milligan, Athina Tsoulis

Researchers: Denene Marten, Hilda Watson

Archivist: Kim Muriwai

Writers: Roz Mason, David Ambler, Megan Jones, Mark McNeill, Peter Bell, John Milligan, Athina Tsoulis

Offline editor: Patrick Monaghan

Online editor: Brendan Gibbons

Production manager: Philippa Hall

Production coordinator: Denene Marten

Production assistants: Nicky Grant, Kim Muriwai

Location manager: Clinton Bowerman

Art director: Emma Aubin

DOP: Michael O’Connor

Sound: Beth Tredray, Mike McCree

Sound mix: Terry Murphy

Narrator/presenter: Paul Gittins

Original music: John Gibson

Production accountant: Jeanette Wiles-Cromie

Financial controller: Glenda Paterson

Funded by: TVNZ & NZ On Air