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Australia 1975
Directed by
David Baker
106 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

The Great Macarthy

No one would call The Great Macarthy, which provided big screen debuts for lead actor John Jarratt and  television director David Baker, a good movie but like its vulgarian peers of the time it does have a certain nostalgia appeal as a window on the last decade of classic Strine culture.

Jarratt plays Macarthy, a hot-shot player of what was then called VFL football in his home town of Kyneton, a small burgh north of Melbourne. He is literally kidnapped by the South Melbourne Football Club, who owner Col Ball-Miller (Barry Humphries) firsly sets him up with a job then  marries him off to his shrewish daughter (Kate Fitzpatrick). But Macarthy falls in love with his adult education teacher, Miss Russell (Judy Morris), who tries to introduce him to the finer things of life.

Presumably Barry Oakley’s source novel was a good deal better than Baker and co-writer John Romeril’s script which like Baker’s directorial effort is a piecemeal affair lurching from one more-or-less successful episode to the next.  Indeed one suspects that Humphries creator of the iconic Bazza McKenzie character had a greater hand in matters than he is given credit for as the emphasis and, as far as it has any, strengths of the film is in its caricatural, farcical and absurd moments rather than any coherent filmic experience. The film’s lengthy opening montage with its estranging use of title cards and voice-over, sped-up film and lashings of Strine vernacular is in this respect its highlight.  Remarkably, just about every Australian actor of note of the time including, besides those already mentioned, Chris Haywood, Max Gillie, Bruce Spence, Maurie Fields, Frank Wilson,  John Stanton and Peter Cummins along with real-life VFL celebs Lou Richards and Jack Dyer appear and as well we get plenty of convincing footage of on-field play.  It’s not enough to make this film worth watching in itself but for anyone who recalls with fondness those days, it has its moments.

DVD Extras: On The Bench with The Great Macarthy, an all-new interview with Jarratt. Executive producer Richard Brennan, composer Bruce Smeaton and film buff, Paul Harris, provide a running commentary, both entertaining and informative. We also get the film's original theatrical trailer and things are rounded of nicely by Squeakers, a 35 minute short film by director David Baker.

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Available from: Umbrella Entertainment




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