Peter Brock abused his first wife.
This shattering revelation is the turning point in a new movie, Brock: Over the Top, and the one that lifts it well beyond just another feel-good romp through Peter Perfect’s television highlights reel.
At last there is a production which does far more to reveal the real Peter Brock, going beyond the well-worn path of the legendary racing car champion and Australian sporting icon, than anything else which has come since his awful early death.
Michelle Downes, a former Miss Australia who married Brock in the early 1970s in a tidal wave of passion and media coverage, finally confirms the big dirty secret in the life of Brock in the impressive new documentary.
She is open and real and there are newspaper clippings from the time to support her statements on life with the early Brock.
Downes talks about calling the police and being told it was a “domestic” and they would not get involved.
In those days Brock was a smoker, a drinker, a meat eater and much, much more. He was as wild as a high-country brumby and unlike anyone else in motor racing.
His days of yoga, herbal tea and spiritualism were over the horizon in the far distant future.
As time passed in the 1970s and into the 1980s, Brock’s rough edges were knocked away – by Harry Firth in the garage, Tim ‘Plastic’ Pemberton in the publicity department and Beverly ‘Bevo’ Brock in his personal life – and all of these key people are shown, with Plastic and Bevo doing honest face-to-face interviews in the same way as Downes and a host of others.
In many ways it’s the interviews that turn the latest Brock production into a two-step film, as the racetrack pictures and Brock’s personal chat carry the story with colour-and-movement before the personal interviews provide context, emotion and reflection. The distinction is provided by sepia colouring of the interviews, which are conducted ‘down-the-barrel’ directly into the camera almost like evidence in a courtroom.
The action pictures are great, from the rare early colour coverage of his home-built Austin A30 through the Torana glory days to the later years in Commodores.
Smart editing also provides Brock’s thoughts on many events, including the victory in the Repco Reliability Trial in 1979 that he personally regarded as his greatest success.
The action is linked, and explained, and made real, by the interviews as a long string of motorsport identities – Allan Moffat, Dick Johnson, John Harvey and Graeme ‘Mort’ Brown, take their turn in front of the camera and talk racing.
Phil Scott, the retired doyen of motorsport journalists and former Wheels editor, talks through the Brock business empire and the Polarizer incident that fractured ties with Holden.
Then there are the family members, from Brock’s brothers Lewis and Phil to his three children and his last love, and partner at the time of his death, Julie Bamford.
The insights are real and often raw, particularly when his daughter Alexandra talks about her relationship with her father and Phil talks about being sacked by his brother, and this will be the first time that many viewers are aware of the complications in Brock’s life and relationships.
Some people unload personal baggage in their interviews, but that is the way they see things and their part in the Brock story.
By the finish, the new Brock movie provides a proper 3D view of an amazing man who was so much more than just a race-car driver.
From a personal perspective, as Brock was a genuine friend to me and we shared many personal and intimate moments, I like the movie and I think the production team has done an A-grade job on a difficult topic and a complicated character.
Some people will find it hard to watch some parts, and diehard Brock fans will be in denial about some of the commentary.
But it’s true and real and a five-star effort that’s essential viewing for anyone with even a passing interest in a man who was a living national treasure.
Brock: Over the Top is made for the cinema and is available to rent from Friday, July 3 on Apple TV, Fetch, Foxtel Movies, Google Play, Sony PlayStation and Microsoft Xbox.