Australian outlaw Ned Kelly prepares for screen return

Day and Date Down Under

The bushrangers were convicts and sons of convicts who lived in the Australian bush and robbed both settlers and country banks between 1820 and 1880. They are the Australian equivalent of U.S. outlaws of around the same period. The most famous of these is Ned Kelly (1854-1880), the son of an Irish convict settler. Kelly became notorious due to a number of bank robberies, plus his ability to outwit the police. He also had a form of armor and a steel face cover that he thought would protect him from gunshots. It was not long after his death in 1880 that the theatre became attracted to his notoriety and at least five plays were staged over the next 25 years. In 1906, American Frank Mills made, in Australia, what is considered by many the world's first feature-length film, the silent Story of The Kelly Gang. The film cost around 1,000 Australian pounds to make and earned a profit of 25,000 pounds. Not surprisingly, a second film, The Kelly Gang, was made later that year. The authorities thought that the police were not very positively portrayed and the films were banned for many years.

But Kelly was destined to live on, and did so in 1923's When the Kellys Were Out and 1934's When the Kellys Rode, followed in 1950 by The Glenrowan Affair. Mick Jagger came to Australia in 1969 to film Ned Kelly with British director Tony Richardson, a film that received very mixed reviews. The more recent 2003 film of the same name, directed by Australian Gregor Jordan and starring Heath Ledger, received a somewhat better critical reaction. In between, Yahoo Serious did a very comic take on the bushranger with Reckless Kelly (1993). And now Ned Kelly is about to get back on his horse and ride into Victorian towns to rob their banks. Matthew Holmes, fresh off his film on another bushranger, The Legend of Ben Hall, is aiming to raise A$2.5 million for a new feature. He feels that there is a lot about the bushranger that has never been shown before on film and he aims to make a very fresh version. No casting has been announced as yet.

The MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) in outer Hobart in Tasmania is Australia's largest private museum and one of the most talked about. It has been described as a subversive adult Disneyland. Now the people behind MONA have teamed up with Riverlee developers with a proposal for the historic Odeon Theatre in Hobart. They want to build an entertainment precinct in the block with four cinemas, art galleries and restaurants and to make it a prime entertainment area. The council is not keen on some aspects of the development and discussions are ongoing.

Australian films took in A$42.6 million by the end of May. This five-month total is almost double the 2016 full-year total of $24.1 million. Heading the box office was Lion with A$29.5 million. Red Dog True Blue had earned $5.8 million and both Jasper Jones and Dance Academy: The Movie had crossed the A$2 million barrier.

The Empire Cinema Bowral, which opened in 1915, is said to be Australia's oldest continuously running cinema, a significant achievement seeing that the town has only a population of 12,000. The cinema was first twinned and then changed to a four-plex. One of the elements that helps it survive is the cinema’s place in the community. The Films in the Southern Highlands group has more than 300 members who attend special screenings once a month as well as regular screenings. Great to see a 102-year-old cinema still entertaining the community.

Send your Australia/New Zealand news to David Pearce at