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Australia 1982/1988
Directed by
George Miller / Geoff Burrowes
102 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2 stars

The Man From Snowy River 1 & 2

The director of this B grade Western transposed into the Australian vernacular and the Victorian High Country is not George Miller of Mad Max fame but rather George Trumbull Miller whose work had mainly been in television (notably The Sullivans).

Presumably the producers, Simon Wincer and Geoff Burrowes, who had also worked with Miller in television, decided that by leaving the middle name out they would sell a few more tickets. And sell they did. That this instance of commercial film-making (it was made during the tenure of the 10BA-tax concession ruling) that qualitatively lies somewhere between a not-very-good-telemovie and a tourism commercial remains one of Australia's most financially successful films ($AU17.2 m and $US 20.7m, the latter presumably owing something to Kirk Douglas's drawing power) is a salutary lesson to domestic film-makers who struggle to find an audience for their highbrow output.

Not only does it build on the aura of Banjo Paterson's famous poem of the same title with which generations of Australians grew up but the Australian landscape is exploited for all it's worth to stir the settler spirit. Verbal and visual cliché abounds within a cornball story of manly independence and womanly dependence whilst its equally clichéd score (by Bruce Rowland) serves to drown its deficiencies in a geyser of syrup.  Adding injury to insult, apparently a good many horse were killed in the making of the film including the prominently featured black stallion.

The 1988 sequel, the reassuringly titled The Man From Snowy River 2, was, as sequels go, more of the same but a somewhat more polished affair. Geoff Burrowes, who was producer on the first film does an effective job of investing his project with high-end theme park production values and the result is as smooth as butter with plenty of impressive horse riding, gorgeous photography, incongrously Americanised farmhands and glib heroics. Kirk Douglas who played two roles in the first film, has inexplicably morphed into Brian Dennehy, who, even more oddly, seems to be affecting a cowboy drawl in order to play Sigrid Thornton's Dad.




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