Acting on a rumour, Meg Blake (Googie Withers) – the wily widowed owner of the local pub at Mirribilli in Western Australia – pegs out a mining claim in the middle of a piece of land on nearby Spinifex Hill that a large corporation named Benson Mining plans to claim to mine nickel.
The corporation head, Ed Benson (Alfred Sandor), is then forced to pay her $100,000 for her claim on the proviso that she helps promote the proposed mine.
Benson Mining shares skyrocket as Meg is wined and dined by Benson at all the best places in Perth, where she meets what passes for “the right people” in Perth society and goes on a wild spending spree.
Meanwhile, a group of hippies move into Mirribilli’s crumbling station, spouting nonsense about peace and love, smoking pot and dancing to psychedelic music.
The hippies are led by tall, mysterious ‘guru’ Claude Fitzherbert (oddly played by conservative radio announcer John Laws in a false wig and beard).
Claude decides to shave, cut his hair, and follow Meg to Perth to try and con her out of some of her ‘bread’.
Meg’s daughter Jenny (Joanna McCallum) – recently expelled from University – goes home to Mirribilli. When she hears the news, she teams up with hippie Arthur (Ross Thompson), and together they set off for Perth on his motorbike.
Radical Jenny violently opposes what she calls “profiteering on the Stock Exchange” and has a stand-up fight with her mother, whose fortune is rapidly diminishing. But neither Jenny nor Harry Phillips (Ed Devereaux) – a prospector and old friend of Meg’s – can bring her back to earth.
The situation blows up when Harry attends a stockholders’ meeting of Benson Mining and exposes a swindle. Ed Benson slips away to find his wife, Betsy (Doreen Warburton). Through her, Ed has been stashing away the profits from the mining deal in a Swiss bank account, and now he has plans for them to leave the country and collect their money.
But Betsy is gone. She is already on a plane heading for Geneva, accompanied by Claude Fitzherbert.
Broke and somewhat chastened, Meg heads back to Mirribilli, picking up Harry along the way.
He cheers her with the news that another claim he has staked for her has “come good”. They return to the old pub in time to join in the fun at a swinging, rollicking hippie party.
Nickel Queen was directed by Googie Withers’ husband, John McCallum, on a budget of $500,000. Location shooting took place in a rundown town near Kalgoorlie called Broad Arrow. The faded old pub with a pin-up of a young Don Bradman in the bar was revamped to become Meg Blake’s hotel.
Sir Henry Bartholomew
Lady Bill Hook
Sir Rollo Anderson