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Ghosts... of the Civil Dead is a 1988 Australian drama-suspense film directed by John Hillcoat. The script was written by Hillcoat, Evan English, Gene Conkie, Nick Cave and Hugo Race. It is partly based on the true story of Jack Henry Abbott.

Ghosts... of the Civil Dead
Ghosts of the Civil Dead.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJohn Hillcoat
Produced byEvan English
Written byNick Cave
Gene Conkie
Evan English
John Hillcoat
Hugo Race
StarringDavid Field
Chris DeRose
Nick Cave
Dave Mason
Music byNick Cave
Blixa Bargeld
Mick Harvey
CinematographyPaul Goldman
Graham Wood
Edited byStewart Young
Correctional Services
Outlaw Values
Release date
  • December 1988 (1988-12) (Europe)
Running time
93 minutes



The story is set in Central Industrial Prison, a privately run maximum security prison in the middle of the Australian desert. An outbreak of violence within the prison has resulted in a total lockdown. A committee is appointed by the prison's governors to investigate the cause of the outbreak, but their findings are in stark contrast to the facts behind the riot. As the viewers see, both the prisoners and the guards are slowly and deliberately brutalised, manipulated and provoked into the forthcoming eruption of violence, to justify the construction of a new and more "secure" facility.


The script was based on the book In the Belly of the Beast by Jack Henry Abbott and research done with David Hale, a former prison guard at Marion, Illinois. The film was shot at a disused aircraft factory in Melbourne[2] in October and November.[3]

Origin of titleEdit

In Roman law, a person convicted of a crime where the punishment included loss of their legal rights as a person was civiliter mortuus, a person without civil rights, a civil dead.



Award Category Subject Result
AACTA Awards
(1989 Australian Film Institute Awards)
Best Film Evan English Nominated
Best Original Screenplay Nick Cave Nominated
John Hillcoat Nominated
Hugo Race Nominated
Gene Conkie Nominated
Evan English Nominated
Best Actor in a Leading Role Mike Bishop Nominated
Best Actor in a Supporting Role Bogdan Koca Nominated
Best Editing Stewart Young Nominated
Best Original Music Score Nick Cave Nominated
Mick Harvey Nominated
Blixa Bargeld Nominated
Best Sound Bronwyn Murphy Nominated
Rex Watts Nominated
Peter Clancy Nominated
Best Production Design Chris Kennedy Won
Best Costume Design Karen Everett Nominated
Beverly Jasper Nominated


The spoken line "Welcome to Central Industrial. We are the future" has been sampled by Future Sound of London in their song Central Industrial on their Accelerator album;[4] also sampled by Woob in their song Void, Part One on the various artists album em:t 0094,[5] and by Jam and Spoon in their remix of Moby's Go.[6] Sonic Subjunkies samples various parts of the film in their songs Central Industrial and Central Industrial II: The Lockdown.


  • Fuchs, Christian [1996] (2002). Bad Blood. Creation Books


  1. ^ "Production Survey", Cinema Papers, September 1987 p. 67.
  2. ^ David Stratton, The Avocado Plantation: Boom and Bust in the Australian Film Industry, Pan MacMillan, 1990 pp. 229-230
  3. ^ Jillian Burt, Ghosts... of the Civil Dead, Cinema Papers, March 1988 pp. 8-11.
  4. ^ "The Future Sound of London". Retrieved 12 April 2014.
  5. ^ "Woob". Retrieved 12 April 2014.
  6. ^ "Moby". Retrieved 12 April 2014.

External linksEdit