Arcade machines have become a background fixture in nostalgia-based film and television, a timestamp of the 80s and 90s, but now, along with their humble custodians, they’re the focus of a new documentary, Still Standing; which charts the history of arcade and pinball in Australia – from its height in popularity to preservation and resurgence thanks to the infectious passion of dedicated enthusiasts.
I came across a Creature from the Black Lagoon pinball at my local shopping centre a few years ago. Unfortunately, I wasn’t carrying any change, but you only have to stand in their presence to experience the magic of these mechanical wonders. Still Standing stems from the question of what happens to those mesmerising machines we played as a kid, and so happens to be largely a South Australian Story told by filmmaker, Brad Gilbertson. Our first stop on this journey is the Australian Pinball Museum in Victoria, housed inside a rather unassuming roadside motel. We subsequently meet a variety of individuals, such as a savvy businessman who developed the world’s largest indoor arcade of its time during the 1970s in Adelaide, followed by the much loved, but aesthetically questionable Magic Mountain. On the flip side, we have those who keep the dream alive, like the private collector, Jeff, a man who wears his heart on his sleeve and kindly treats us to a unique unboxing. His shed is comparable to the warehouse in Raiders of the Lost Ark, a treasure trove of coin-fed relics.
At its heart, Still Standing is a warm and affectionate love letter to an industry that served as a wild and fun social mixer for so many, along with the personal histories and communities it spawned. It’ll be easy for some to say, “just play the games digitally”, but arcades offered a special experience and I think the most stubborn of detractors will see that, especially through Gilbertson’s cinematography, which presents the machine as if they were the ‘Monolith’ in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Still Standing is currently streaming for FREE on Tubi and it will be dropping on Amazon Prime, DocPlay along with other VOD platforms later this month. Tomorrow night, February 11th, is the Queensland Premiere at the Majestic Cinema in Nambour on the Sunshine Coast, also home to the Sunshine Coast Pinball. You can find all the links and details right, linktr.ee/stillstandingdoco
(2023, director: Brad Gilbertson)
stills provided (screen-grabs)