In turn-of-the-century Australia two criminals ingratiate themselves with a rancher in order to swindle him.However, the two partners become rivals for the affection of the rancher's beautiful daughter.
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Douglas Fairbanks Jr.,
During early 20th century Australia a young broke man is trying to find money to allow him to return home.The young Richard Connor checks into a Sydney boarding house where he's mistaken for a drunk rancher's long-lost son.The same night Richard attempts to rob a stranger,John Gamble,but when he finds out that the stranger too is broke they decide together to rob a local gambling house.During the robbery the owner is shot and the robbers take off with the loot.Just by chance,they meet the drunk rancher again.The rancher insists the young Richard is his lost son.When Richard and his robber partner discover that the drunk rancher has an extensive property they decide to play along with the long-lost son scenario and claim the eventual inheritance.However,the rancher's daughter,Dell,becomes an unforeseen obstacle to their plans. Written by
SOON all Australia will be seeing the motion picture that has excited world-wide interest...Two years to make but worth waiting for. A motion picture of Australia - for Australia - expertly made as only Hollywood knows how! See more »
According to Maureen O'Hara's 2004 autobiography "'Tis Herself", 'Richard Boone' and Peter Lawford were arrested in a gay brothel "full of beautiful boys" while making this film. The studio managed to prevent this from being reported by the press. See more »
"Kangaroo" is a decent film once you get past the lame title. There's hardly a kangaroo to be seen in the movie, but it seems the producers of this big-budget film shot on location in Australia wanted something to say "exotic" right away, and why take a chance misspelling "koala bear"?
Not otherwise much different from the types of films they called Westerns and made by the score in Hollywood in the 1950s, "Kangaroo" features Peter Lawford and Richard Boone playing a pair of outlaws, on the run after killing a no-good gambling-hall owner. They find themselves able to make their escape by pretending to have bought a herd of cattle from an old rancher with a drinking problem (Finlay Currie). And if the rancher happens to think one of them is his long-lost son, what's the harm in indulging him for some extra security?
Having low expectations of both Boone and especially Lawford going in, I was pleasantly surprised at how well the two anchored the proceedings as gritty, amoral partners of circumstance. Boone has a fun time playing a devil-may-care type with a deep vocabulary who makes his philosophy clear early on: "I never feel any regrets. I died years ago...To live, one must first die."
The two even manage to launder their bloody booty by giving it to the rancher and pretending its their payment to him in exchange for cattle. What if the cattle die, from a long-standing drought now gripping the whole region? Well, it's better than a noose for this pair, and as a game of chance, it's no worse a bet than any other either man has taken on in recent months.
Lawford's Richard Connor is the conscience of the pair, a solid backboard for the proceedings as Boone gnashes on the hammy script for all its worth. He has a hard time reconciling himself to pretending to be the rancher's long-lost son, especially after he gets a load of the rancher's other sibling Dell (Maureen O'Hara).
O'Hara is only okay here, a far cry from the light of so many John Ford movies shot around the same time. Director Lewis Milestone is himself no slouch, he shot "All Quiet On The Western Front" and gets value both from the location shoots and isolated moments like when a few raindrops plink down on dusty ground.
"Kangaroo" offers a ripping set-up, and in sequences like a long cattle drive where parched cows attract crows while the cattle drivers wait in vain for rain, you feel the desperation of the story and its main characters right in your guts. Perhaps I was the victim of a poorly-edited cut, but my 85-minute version of the movie feels otherwise gruesomely truncated, especially when a sudden whipfight breaks out in the last five minutes and is resolved by an off-camera gunshot. Not a way to end a movie!
Still, there's more to like than not to like here, even if the plot feels at times lamely stretched to take in such vintage Australian elements as aborigines and boomerangs. Everyone wears a Crocodile Dundee hat, too. Yet there's a charm to all this, too, in Hollywood's first movie shot in Australia playing like a Randolph Scott western with a bigger budget and more ambitious cinematography.
The biggest problem is the truncated sense of time; one can imagine the film going a little longer in certain directions, fleshing out story lines that seem to wither here. Maybe it did, and I was only the victim of a cheap DVD transfer. I liked "Kangaroo" enough to enjoy the better parts and not sweat the weaker stuff so much. Not great, as I said, but decent entertainment.
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