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Mad Dog Morgan (1976)

The true story of Irish outlaw Daniel Morgan, who is wanted, dead or alive, in Australia during the 1850s.



(screenplay), (book)

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Detective Manwaring
Superintendent Cobham
Superintendent Winch
Wallas Eaton ...
Sergeant Smith
John Hargreaves ...
Martin Harris ...
Robin Ramsay ...
Graeme Blundell ...
Italian Jack
Gregory Apps ...
Liza Lee-Atkinson ...
Elaine Baillie ...
Farm Girl
Don Barkham ...


Australia in the 1850s. Daniel Morgan, like hundreds of other ex-patriots from the British Isles (he is from Ireland), has come Downunder to seek his fortune. There is a gold rush going on, and Morgan wants to strike it rich. As fate would have it, Morgan soon finds himself on the other side of the law, broke and desperate. A single act of highway robbery gets him 12 years of hard labor. While in prison, he is systematically abused. Upon release, Morgan vows revenge on those who wronged him. With the help of an aborigine named Billy, and a growing legend of audacity, Morgan soon becomes a hero. The locals love him, while the wealthy and powerful fear his influence. They want this outlaw dead or alive, and will stop at nothing to see that their sense of justice is done. But Morgan only wants those to pay for the crimes they have committed, to recognize that he wasn't always a bushranger - he was made into one. It wasn't only his mind that made him bad. It was society that turned him ... Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

1850s | outlaw | australia | dog | prison | See All (87) »


the true story of the legendary Mad Dog Morgan... a jolting chapter in history. See more »


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

9 July 1976 (Australia)  »

Also Known As:

Mad Dog Morgan  »

Filming Locations:

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


Dennis Hopper was imported from the USA to headline this Australian feature film. See more »


The end credits show the copyright date in roman numerals that is incorrect. They are displayed as MCMDXXVI, but for 1976 they should be MCMLXXVI. See more »


Supt. Cobham: By all means, off with his head... and don't forget the scrotum.
See more »


Referenced in Daria: The Teachings of Don Jake (1997) See more »


Over The Border
Australian traditional song
Performed by Danny Spooner
See more »

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User Reviews

a shaky, low-budget, Dennis-Hopper fueled above-average curio, though not a "classic"
13 August 2010 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

If looking on the DVD cover that is provided by Troma (yes, that old chestnut) - and by this I mean the *new* sort-of remastered uncut DVD version released last year, not the much lamented previous version that looks like hell- you would think that you have been missing out on something really special for your whole cinematic life. How has one not seen a mid 70's Aussie-Western (also one of the very first Australian film distributed in the US) which stars Dennis Hopper as a mad bandit going around the Queensland colonies in the 19th century donning a fake beard and shooting (mostly) those who he deems deserve a killing? It could go either way: it could either be the case where it is a suppressed classic just waiting to be unearthed, or it's a piece of Aussie trash given some prestige above its other Ausploitation films due to its star. Ultimately, the movie is somewhere in the middle, though it tries to be a classic when it can, and sometimes can't help but be kind of trashy due to its budget.

It's protagonist is something of an icon in Australia, like their Billy the Kid (sadly I'd yet to hear of him until this film), who started out as just an Irish farmer who enjoyed his opium, but ran away from a massacre of the Chinese in the area. He then got put in jail for one hold-up, got tortured and raped in prison, and then got out to try and become normal again, only to get shot and get healed by an aborigine. If this sounds like something interesting so far, it is. But the only downside it's at this point that the film finally takes off, after the first half hour; it's not that the opening half hour is bad in the slightest, since the cinematography by Mike Molloy is always something cool to look at in widescreen anamorphic. But the pace is kind of jerky and shaky, going from one set-up to another with a jarring feeling. This happens at other points in the film as well, but not as much as at this part.

And yet, as just noted, when Morgan is shot and heals up with the aborigine (a very natural David Gulpilil), he then decides to fight back. In a way he becomes an outlaw since he's left with no alternative, but at the same time goes for it for all it's worth. He especially attacks the upper class, those who have lots of money and land, and he becomes the big target for the police and authorities in the area, garnering a 1,000 dollar reward. It's here we get to see the big bad Dennis Hopper becomes as Morgan, and the film takes on a quality that is kind of special: it's a western, but it's also an anti-western. It's not about how Morgan is just some amoral villain going around to rob and maim and kill. His terms of being criminal are partly for survival (not too oddly enough one of his old prison "buddies" goes after him now as a member of the local authority), and partly to stick it to 'the man' circa 1860 Australia. We see the people who should be taking Morgan out as being, appropriately for the time period, not very sharp: one of their goals once they get kill Morgan is to study his skull to see how primitive he is.

It's this, actually, that Philippe Mora latches on to. How primitive a life does Morgan lead as an outlaw? His main compadre is an aborigine, who is barely looked on as human by the people in charge in the Aussie area, and as he keeps going along he's more at peace in an odd way with his fate. He knows how lucky he is to get *this* far, and he becomes more of a bad-ass because of it. He's a solid anti-hero, and Hopper makes the movie as awesome as it can get. He has a look about him- yes, even with that fake beard like something out of Cannibal the Musical- that is a little frightening, but also kind of sympathetic and sad. There's a scene where his Morgan is in a house with a woman, and she basically offers herself to him sexually, and he just softly speaks about how he just can't do it, and speaks about his mother. It's a very odd but touching scene, mostly due to Hopper's dedication to the role. By the end he becomes a kind of tragic figure.

He's not just the only reason to see the movie; when it's at its best, Mora's direction is sharp and exciting, particularly with action scenes as you really don't know who will get it and how bad in rifle and bullet fire, the blood being a big factor as well. And the cinematography, even in a print that is still shoddy in this updated Troma release, is striking and ethereal, giving the movie a whole other quality than I expected. Is it a great movie? Surely not. The pacing is not always tight, and some of the supporting performances are weak, as they tend to be in low-budget B-movies. But for what they had to work with, star included, it's definitely worth checking out.

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