Dusters Down Under: Part 6: Mad Dogs and Hoppers …

the lost cowboy award

“Beaten, branded, brutalized, but never broken.”

“Ferociously violent – unexpectedly kind. Ruthless bandit or rebel hero? An outlaw’s outlaw with a score to settle.
The true story of the legendary Mad Dog Morgan… a jolting chapter in history.”

Mad Dog Morgan

You know all those stories about Dennis Hopper ?
They’re all true.
A true Hollywood madman and renegade  – and proof positive that nobody can die before their time – no matter how hard they try.

Black listed and black balled from Hollywood for his insane antics, massive substance abuse and irascible nature, he just wouldn’t stay down. And somehow along the way left a noticeable trail of pretty good work – even appearing in 2 or 3 Western Classics

Wikipedia: “The director (Director Philippe Mora) says that Hopper was a handful during the making of the film, constantly imbibing drink and drugs. However he says the actor could be very professional, a skilful improviser and gave a performance which was “really extraordinary. I think he identified with the role.” He “brought an insanity to the role, and an intensity that most actors would have found impossible to create”.

Director Philippe Mora: recalled that when they finished filming Hopper: “Rode off in costume, poured a bottle of O.P. rum into the real Morgan’s grave in front of my mother Mirka Mora, drank one himself, got arrested and deported the next day, with a blood-alcohol reading that said he should have been clinically dead, according to the judge studying his alcohol tests.”

(MFW: Yep … there’s some strong “identification’ going on here.)


Mad Dog Morgan (Fully Restored Director’s Cut) Movie Trailer:
In 2009 Philippe Mora released his Director’s Cut – greatly improving image quality and the overall movie.


Incredibly, Hopper wasn’t the first choice for Morgan. Stacy KeachMartin SheenMalcolm McDowell and Alan Bates were all considered for the part. Keach was the first choice but disagreements meant his hiring fell through. Sheen was the second choice, and this casting too did not happen. Hopper finally was approached and did the part for 50,000 dollars.

Outside of Australia, this movie has been described an Australian Western. This movie actually won an award for Best Western at a Western Film Festival at the 1976 Cannes Film Festival. A 2009 Director’s Cut re-edited and remastered much of the footage – greatly improving it’s viewability.

This movie is based on the real life and death of Australian bushranger Daniel Morgan. All filming was done in the actual locations of the real events. The film was made and released about two years after Margaret Carnegie’s source book ‘Morgan: The Bold Bushranger‘ was first published in 1974 –  based on twelve years of research. Carnegie is credited for the film for both story and research.


MFW: I wouldn’t say Mad Dog Morgan is everybody’s bottle of rum (Morgan’s?). There are a some fairly graphic scenes in there and some of the movie making shows … edges. But there’s also some very good scenes and Hopper is almost mesmerizing in his maniacal presence and acting.

Mad Dog Morgan

Mad Dog Morgan and Dennis Hopper
Mad Dog and Hopper

The mythology of Australian bush-ranger Daniel Morgan says that Morgan was legendary for carrying eight revolvers, two in his hands and six on his belt.

Mad Dog Morgan at rest
Mad Dog dead … with a rather large pistol


Bushrangers – Australian outlaws in the 1800’s

Mad Dog Morgan
1830 – 1865

“We know him as Mad Dog Morgan but he was a man of many aliases. His known criminal record began in 1854 when, under the name “John Smith”, he was sentenced to twelve years’ hard labour for highway robbery at Castlemaine, Victoria. When he was released from jail he had a hatred of authority and become Australia’s public enemy No 1.

After his 3rd murder the reward for Morgan’s capture was raised to £1000 and police were sent to track and capture him.”

Apparently, the real-life Daniel Morgan’s real name at birth was John Fuller. He was also apparently known as Jack Fuller and John Smith as well as the nicknames of Billy the Native and Down-the-River Jack. There is also some debate as to his “Mad” nickname i.e. as Mad Dog or as Mad Dan.


This film is considered an Ozploitation picture, an Australian exploitation movie.

Ozploitation (a portmanteau of Australia and exploitation) films are a type of low budget horror, comedy and action films made in Australia after the introduction of the R rating in 1971. The year also marked the beginnings of the Australian New Wave movement, and the Ozploitation style peaked within the same time frame (early 1970s to late 1980s). Ozploitation is often considered a smaller wave within the New Wave, “a time when break-neck-action,schlock-horror, ocker comedy and frisky sex romps joined a uniquely antipodean wave in exploitation cinema”

Coming Up:
Dennis Hopper Western Filmography:

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

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