Dusters Down Under – Part 5: Ned Kelly (2003) …

“I’ve never shot a man, but if I do, so help me God,
you’ll be the first!” – Ned Kelly (Heath Ledger)

Poor Ned by Redgum

Ned Kelly Banner


This will be the last of the Kelly movies that I’m covering. It was generally well received and reviewed. It’s main interest for us is the notable cast of Heath Ledger. Orlando BloomGeoffrey Rush and Naomi Watts.

Internet Movie Database IMDB gives it a 6.5 out of 10. Rotten Tomatoes, 56%. I think it warrants a 7. I believe time will be more generous to this movie. Not a bad movie at all.

IMDB review

Rotten Tomatoes review

Metacritic review

Ned Kelly 2003 poster

Ned Kelly 2003 poster 2

Ned Kelly 2003 poster 3
The Kelly Gang ?? evidently a name change took place …

A movie which clearly favours the image of Kelly as the hero – not the villain.

I have a general theory about movies where the Hero dies at the end – that this usually hurts the popularity of the movie – often in a large way. Tom Horn, for instance, I believe would have been a much more popular (maybe even a Classic) Western had Steve McQueen hadn’t been hung at the end – even though this was true to fact. In Westerns, it seems people want their Heroes to ride off into the sunset … not hang from a tree. But due to the political and social ramifications of Ned Kelly – which are actually magnified by his execution – plus the fact that it is a much better known story – Ned Kelly seems to smash my theory all to bits. It’s a different animal.

Ledger and Bloom are both competent actors and have no trouble doing the heavy lifting to carry the movie. Ledger fails in physically looking like Kelly (IMO), but is strong otherwise. Geoffrey Rush is our villian which seems similar to his role he later played in Les Miserables (2012) as the tenacious Inspector Thenardier. Rush is special actor and does his usual excellent work.

Naomi Watts inclusion is the film is dubious – and questionable as an historic event – it seems merely to be included to create a romantic interest. I can understand the intent, but …

On another tack, I feel the movie suffers for the same reason most of the Kelly movies suffer – in not being able to tell Kelly’s story as fully as it should be in just 110 min – where some interesting parts of Kelly’s story are purely glossed right over – such as the making of his famous armour. (But perhaps little is known about that??) But waiting for the perfect Kelly movie is likely something that will never happen.

Neds Gun 1

Heath Ledger / 1979 – 2008

Heath Ledger

Orlando Bloom

orlando bloom

Geoffrey Rush

Geoffrey Rush

Neds Guns

Coming up:
Dusters Down Under: Mad Dog Morgan, Snowy River, Quigley Down Under … 

The Thring thing …

Frank Thring 2

Looking waaay down the Casting credits for Ned Kelly (1970)I noticed a name that seems almost buried down there. Possibly hiding. “FRANK THRING – as Judge Sir Redmond Barry”

Frank Thring


Frank Thring … A Man Who Could Deliver a Line

When you see some pics of Frank Thring, you’ll recognize him right away as he was a famous Heavy in several epic flicks including: Ben Hur (as Pontius Pilote); King of Kings (as Herod); The Vikings (evil King Aella); and others …

Ben Hur Frank Thring with Heston

Ben Hur Frank Thring
Littering … Roman style
Frank Thring - The Vikings
Littering … Viking style

Thring was an Australian and his family was steeped in the Film and Theatre trade so Acting came naturally to him – soon operating his own Theatre troupe – before heading to England to star with the likes of Olivier in Shakespearean productions and plenty of renowned Stage work – as you can surely tell by his imperial demeanour and powerful projection.

In most of his films, Thring was definitely (typecast) the villain. And what a villain he was – playing some of the most heinous people in history: Herod; Pontius Pilate … the stature of his roles as evil emperors, kings, politicians, etc. seeming to amplify this evil persona – and you can’t get much more evil than being the guy responsible for executing Jesus. One wonders if Thring didn’t have a difficult time just walking down the street.

Frank Thring in Ned Kelly 1970

Ned Kelly is not the only Western style movie that Thring appeared in. He’s in another Aussie Western called Mad Dog Morgan (1976) which stars Dennis Hopper (which I will cover later). As a Bad Guy in both per usual.

Mad Dog Morgan poster 2

Frank Thring Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Frank-Thring/108730252484822

The Frank Thring Website: http://users.tpg.com.au/editline/thring.html

Dusters Down Under: Part 4: Ned Kelly (1970) …

Wild Horses / Stones

Ned ... the truth________________________________________________________

I feel it’s safe to say that at this point, that no definitive film depiction of Ned Kelly has yet been made. It would take a protracted mini-series to tell his whole story properly – as it spans many years and many events.
There have been some good documentaries, but …
The question still remains: Was Ned Kelly a Hero? or a villain?
I believe Kelly was a pretty rough character and certainly a law breaker. And he and his family were definitely on negative terms with the authorities/police – for quite a while – whose own behaviour seems to have been much less than honourable or praiseworthy.
Wrongs and bad blood on both sides – leading to an inevitable conflict – which Kelly, and his gang, could not win.
You might say however, that Kelly extracted his ‘pound of flesh’ – and made his point – before he left.
His courage and bravado are admired by many in spite of what may be acknowledged as dastardly deeds.
Kelly Historians and experts often simply present their evidence and leave us to decide for ourselves.

More Kelly

After 1960 a fistful of Kelly movies were made. Some are parodies/comedies which would really mean little to us over here – not being as immersed – or inundated (as it were) – in Kelly culture and lore as our friends Down Under. Therefore, I will not cover those here, but I look to 2 well known – and interesting – takes on Kelly’s tale:
Ned Kelly (1970) starring Mick Jagger
and Ned Kelly (2003) with Heath Ledger, Orlando Bloom, Geoffrey Rush …

Ned Kelly (1970)

It’s amazing how many actors and entertainers successfully jump from music to the movies. Over the years a large number of singers, pop artists, crooners, Rock Stars, County Music entertainers, etc. have all made the leap: Sinatra, Streisand, Kristofferson, Dean Martin, Timberlake … Liza Minnelli, J Lo, Bing Crosby, Elvis (gulp), … it’s actually a very long list, with some not only becoming very good actors and Stars, but winning Oscars: Sinatra, Streisand, Minnelli, Crosby, Cher (what!?) …

But it doesn’t always work that way. Right Mr. Dylan?

So here we have Mick Jagger seemingly cast out of nowhere as Ned Kelly (Albert Finney was Director Richardson’s first choice – but not available).
Jagger has actually appeared in over 25 movies since 1966. He’s persistent if nothing else, but even if he did have some degree of charisma on the Big Screen, his acting is … well, bad. And though Jagger is photogenic enough in stills, this charisma does not translate when the pictures are moving.

Plain and simple: if you’re going to be the Star in a movie, you better be able to shine.
Most of us would do no better – but it just wasn’t there. 

Strangely, Mick did not do the soundtrack for the movie- singing only one track “The Wild Colonial Boy.” But that’s another story – with several people bailing out – the task eventually falling to a song writer named Shel Silverstein, and singing done mainly by either Waylon Jennings or Kris Kristofferson – who were not established music stars as of yet. Interesting.

Overall Ned Kelly (1970) is often viewed as a mere curiosity. And if Jagger wasn’t in it, it might never be viewed at all.


Ned Kelly 1970 IMDB

Ned Kelly 1970 Rotten Tomatoes

Stick to Rock & Roll Mick.

But there’s no need to have sympathy (for the devil) because Jagger surely has carved out a place in the entertainment industry amongst the greatest Rock & Roll stars of all time. And still going.

The Last Time / Stones 


If only the movie was as good as the posters …

Ned Kelly 1970 - Mick 1

Ned Kelly 1970 - Mick 2

Ned Kelly 1970 - Mick 3

Ned Kelly 1970 - Mick 4

Ned Kelly 1970 - Mick 5

Coming up:
Dusters Down Under Part 5: Ned Kelly (2003) … 

Dusters Down Under: Part 3: Ned Kelly / 1906 to 1960 …

I’m going to move through the Kelly movies movie right up to 1960:

The Kelly Gang (1920)
When The Kellys Were Out (1923) 
When The Kellys Rode (1934) 
The Glenrowan Affair (1951)
Stringybark Massacre (1960)

The Kelly Gang 1920

The Kelly Gang (1920)

One Image (above)

From Iron Outlaw http://www.ironoutlaw.com/html/movies.html

Director: Harry Southwell
Cast: Godfrey Cass … as Ned Kelly

“Welsh-born filmmaker Charles Southwell had a vision: to present the great drama of the Kelly saga on the Australian screen. He laboured at this task for 15 years, producing three films of indifferent quality along the way – The Kelly Gang, When the Kellys Were Out, and When The Kellys Rode. Southwell’s endeavours were hampered by political sensitivities, with any pro-Kelly material liable to be banned.”

When The Kellys Were Out (1923) 

No images – No posters.

Australian State Records Website: http://gallery.records.nsw.gov.au/index.php/galleries/50-years-at-state-records-nsw/5-05/

Australian film censorship in the 1920s:
“…no official encouragement whatever should be given to moving picture promoters to attempt to make a hero of a criminal.”

In accordance with the relevant regulations, the film had to be submitted for approval by the Censor Board. As this correspondence shows, despite some differences of opinion, permission to screen the film for the public was not granted, even though the company had made a number of changes following initial rejection by the Board.
The authorities were well aware that the exploits of the gang endured in the public imagination, despite the passage of forty years. The Board’s concerns about the possible glorification of outlaws (and consequent ‘corruption of public morals’) meant that it could be difficult to obtain permission to screen any film that featured bushrangers, particularly the Kellys.

When The Kellys Rode (1934) 

Several excellent Posters

when the kellys rode
when the kellys rode 2when the kellys rode 3
The Glenrowan Affair (1951)

No posters – No images

The Glenrowan Affair – From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

It was Rupert Kathner’s final film and stars VFL star Bob Chitty as Kelly. It was known as one of the worst films ever made in Australia.

The film was given its first screening in Victoria at Benalla. Townspeople were worried relatives of the Kellys would cause trouble. However, the screening was accompanied by audience laughter. Nonetheless the screening raised ₤400 for charity.

Reviews: – From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

“This near-unendurable stretch of laboured, amateurish film-making is something that the developing Australian film industry will wish to forget-swiftly and finally … A film made on a shoe-string (as this obviously was) could still achieve a little crude vitality. This one isn’t even robust enough for the unconscious humour (and there is plenty of that) to be really enjoyable. The script is dreary, the photography more often out of-focus than in, the editing is unimaginative and the acting petrified. It would be misplaced kindness, in fact, to try and ferret out a redeeming feature.”

Stringybark Massacre (1960) 

No posters – No images

Director: Gary Shead

Garry Shead’s avante-guard filmmaking techniques result in a stylish re-creation of the murder of three police officers at Stringybark, Victoria by Australian bush outlaw, Ned Kelly.

Dusters Down Under Part 4: The Kelly Movies 1960 to present … 

Dusters Down Under: Part 2: The Story of the Kelly Gang (1906)

“A thrilling moving picture from start to finish
The Most Sensational, The Most Thrilling and Interesting LIVING PICTURES EVER TAKEN.”

ned kelly song … waylon jennings

the story begins

Wikipedia: The Story of the Kelly Gang is a 1906 Australian film that traces the life of the legendary infamous outlaw and bushranger Ned Kelly (1855–1880). It was written and directed by Charles Tait. The film ran for more than an hour, and at that time was the longest narrative film yet seen in the world. Its approximate reel length was 4,000 feet …

the story of the ned kelly gang poster

There are only about ten minutes the of film left. Many rolls of damaged film were found in an old barn which was once the family home of the Crews in Yarraville, Victoria. The roles were sent to Canberra but they were unable to recover most of the footage. In November 2006 the National Film and Sound Archive made a new digital copy of the movie. This has 11 minutes of extra film which was discovered in the United Kingdom. The movie now is 17 minutes long. It has the main scene of the Kelly’s fight with the police at Glenrowan (called the Kelly’s Last Stand).

ned kelly and gang


shooting sidesaddle

ned in his armour
Ned in his famous armour

neds's end

ned stamp

ned kelly armour

Dusters Down Under Part 3: The Kelly Movies cont … 

Life intrudes … The Journey …

I’m stuck again. A bit.

It’s fear. It’s always fear.

Sometimes I just want to walk along a beach with my feet in the sand and the ocean.
or sit by a campfire.
look at the Stars …

waddie mitchell cowboy poet

all these things stop my mind. they are primal and make me know that Life is all something so precious and very special.
my ‘little self’ can never understand encompass it. but here I feel ‘connected’. at peace.
so we try … with our arms open wide.
to understand the plan … and our place … in all this

tomorrow i go back to work. i’ve essentially taken 6 months off since i quit my job as a security guard doing 12 hour night shifts for 4 years – which was killing me.
(shoulda quit that job 2 years before i did).
meanwhile my pension has kicked in. and everybody was right: you can’t live on it.
so back to work.

i’m going to be a Greeter at a huge appliance/hardware/home building place. it’s not as anaemic as it sounds – actually useful – as 80 percent of the people that come in the door don’t know where to find what they’re looking for.
i don’t know either. yet.
so i’m worried … and nervous. hoping this will all work out …. and permit me to survive.
maybe it won’t. maybe God has a different plan.
he often does. i might not like his idea, but it’s usually better than mine.
i just can’t see the big picture. yet.

in looking at my blog … it’s mind bloggling.
i got all this Ned Kelly stuff. and i wonder: is anybody really interested? would anybody really care?

1906 The Story Of The Kelly Gang
1920 The Kelly Gang
1923 When The Kellys Were Out
1934 When The Kellys Rode
1951 The Glenrowan Affair
1960 Stringybark Massacre
1960 Ned Kelly
1970 Ned Kelly
1993 Reckless Kelly
2003 Ned Kelly
2003 Ned

how much should i use? how deep should i go? is Crocodile Dundee a Western?
maybe i outta just jump over this stuff and go straight to Quigley and Snowy Mountain???
I’m frozen with indecision … like a jumbuck in the headlights. and no handy billabong.

OK .. i’ve decided on a smattering of Kelly – some of it IS good.
Then on to the Classics …

Dusters Down Under: Part 1… Frontiers and Kelly

The Vanishing Frontier ??

waltzing matilda …

Although there’s still good chunks of unspoiled country out there, I think it’s generally felt that the American Western Frontier is gone. That’s only partially correct. If you check any map, you will see that huge areas of Montana, Oregon, Washington and the Central US States (the Mid West) still have plenty of wild areas where there are few roads, few people, and little development – much is still uncluttered and unspoiled. Further, we might mention Alaska and other North American habitat such as in Canada: Alberta, British Columbia, the Yukon Territory, the Northwest Territory – all sparely peopled. map of US and Canada

But the American and Canadian frontiers are not the ONLY frontiers on this planet. One other such place – which still has a ton of Frontier and an Old West history to boot – is Australia – and it’s Outback. Australia

And over the years several excellent Western style movies have emerged from this frontier Down Under, including a couple of Western Classics. Let’s have a look.

So far, my research has uncovered about 25 Western style movies made in Austrailia – dating all the way back to 1906! Yeah.

The Ned Kelly Industry

 “It is not that I fear death. I fear it as little as to drink a cup of tea … Let the hand of the law strike me down if it will; but I ask my story be heard and considered.”

ned kelly


Most of you will not be surprised to discover that about half of these Western style movies made in Australia are about the famous Australian Outlaw, Ned Kelly, and his gang.

The Australian media on Ned Kelly is staggering: movies, films, documentaries, websites, TV shows, books, comic books, merchandise, coins, statues, toys … on and on.

Despite our obvious fascination with Outlaws (Billy the Kid (23 movies), Jesse James, Butch Cassidy, (many more) there are other reasons for Kelly’s high profile in Australia. Firstly, due to Australia’s short history his exploits and adventures stand out. Secondly, he is Iconic in Australia – he fits Australian mood and attitude like a glove (or suit of armour) – the common (underdog) man pitted and rebelling against an overbearing dictatorial force – the Brits. Australians – many of whom are ancestors of prisoners sent here by the British – still have a large angst against stuffy authority of any kind – particularly if it’s British. Check their national anthem, for instance, Walzing Matilda, which depicts a lowly hobo (a swagman) being set upon by the police – whereby he commits suicide rather than be taken prisoner. Ned Kelly IS that swagman – to a T – who also sacrificed himself for his brothers and fellowman and Freedom. This mindset carries through to this very day and can be readily seen in such movies as Crocodile Dundee – a modern day unpretentious hero and bush ranger who’d rather share a drink with doorman than ride in a stretch limo, Mate. And though not all Australians share the view that Kelly as a sort of Australian Robin Hood, it’s safe to say that many surely do strongly relate with with his character and his cause – the rugged individual battling again injustice and oppression.

 I Won’t Back Down – Johnny Cash

All this being said the same problems that have risen with other celebrity outlaws – most notably Billy the Kid – arise with Kelly – the mixture of fact and fiction. A rather large gulf may existed between what is legend, and what is the truth? The depiction of Kelly most often appears to be sympathetic – and maybe that is just. Several documentaries have attempted to uncover the true Ned Kelly. But I won’t be covering those here. I’m just looking at the movies. Otherwise this could turn into and extra long expedition. 

For info on Kelly this Website looks pretty good:

Iron Outlaw website: http://www.ironoutlaw.com/html/history_01.html – perhaps the definitive source and resource of all things Ned Kelly.

Coming up:

Dusters Down Under Part 2: The Kelly Movies …