Jedda the Uncivilized (1955) Poster

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Great scenery, lack-luster plot!
JohnHowardReid11 April 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Copyright 1956 by Charles Chauvel Productions. U.S. release through Distributors Corporation of America: 12 June 1956. New York opening at the 46th Street Embassy: 27 February 1957. U.K. release through Independent/British Lion: 13 August 1956. Australian release through Columbia: 5 May 1955. Sydney opening at the Lyceum: 5 May 1955. 9,046 feet. 100 minutes. Cut to 88 minutes in the U.S.A, 73 minutes in the U.K. U.S. release title: Jedda the Uncivilized.

NOTES: Charles Chauvel's final feature. After completing Jedda, he shot 13 eps for the television series Australian Walkabout. He died in 1959. "Jedda" was Number 24 at Australian ticket windows for 1955.

COMMENT: Surprising to notice Jedda had a "General Exhibition" certificate on original release. It certainly wouldn't get such an all clear today. Obviously filmed without the co-operation of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the film graphically shows animals being shot and killed.

Not as emotionally disturbing, but still irritating are crude technical elements such as obvious post-synching (including a ridiculously phony voice for the narrator) and a disappointingly Mickey Mouse music score from Australia's famed Isador Goodman.

Director Charles Chauvel manages to get some breathtaking scenery in front of the camera, but his skills with the players are much less impressive. Tudawali comes across best. Betty Suttor and George Simpson-Lyttle are especially bad, leaving the viewer to wonder how such abominably hammy performances could have survived a screening of the initial rushes in the cutting-room. The story is so drawn out that the chase is uninvolving. It's the location photography that really impresses, the great red canyons of the Northern Territory that Kayser has so finely captured in a color system that obviously favors reds by day and purples by night. Eric Porter is credited for "additional photography", though actually his contribution is mainly limited to the animation of the jedda birds before "The End" title - and very obvious animation it is too!
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Nice Color
arfdawg-116 August 2015
The Plot Jedda is an Aboriginal girl born on a cattle station in the Northern Territory of Australia.

After her mother dies giving birth to her, the child is brought to Sarah McMann, the wife of the station boss.

Sarah has recently lost her own newborn to illness.

She at first intends to give the baby to one of the Aboriginal women who work on the station, but then raises Jedda as her own, teaching her European ways and separating her from other Aborigines.

Jedda wants to learn about her own culture, but is forbidden by Sarah. When Jedda grows into a young woman, she becomes curious about an Aboriginal man from the bush named Marbuck. And it goes on from there.

It's a dated movie and maybe if you are Australian you'd love it. For the rest of us it's a bit of a bore. But the color sure is sweet.

Another reviewer said the negative made it to England but most of the film was destroyed in developing in England. This is untrue.

The last roll of negative was destroyed in a plane crash on its way for developing in England. Chauvel re-shot these lost scenes at Kanangra Walls in the Blue Mountains and Jenolan Caves west of Sydney Cave Scenes were Filmed in the River Cave, Diamond Cave, Imperial Cave, and Mud Tunnels at Jenolan. Editing and sound recorded were completed in London.
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Strong 1956 Colour epic from Australia
ptb-828 March 2005
JEDDA was a major cinema release in 1956 in Australia and has long been regarded as a cinema classic in this country. For international audiences now that RABBIT PROOF FENCE has found success in most countries, it is well worth seeing JEDDA as a 1956 counterpart. Filmed in Gevacolour (not Technicolor) it was the first film made in any color here. Heralded at the time for its daring depiction of the real and confronting tribal practices of ancient aboriginal Australia JEDDA still is able today to enthrall a (slightly forgiving) audience and still make you appalled at the very racist White Australia policy in force from the Government of the day. Sadly some of the acting is dated, especially in the beginning, but once Jedda is a woman and the tribal lure starts, it really becomes fascinating. The use of color in the outback expanses and the extraordinary presence of the two genuine black Aboriginal main actors allows JEDDA to become a major statement about the well-meant but misguided practices of Government policies and how they are (still) totally unsuited to such a spiritual people. The sequence where Marbuck 'sings' to Jedda, seducing her in a hypnotic sexual trap is quite startling and un nerving. The climax of the film rivals NORTH BY NORTHWEST for spectacular mountaintop drama. JEDDA would be available from SCREENSOUND Australia the Canberra Archive and interested persons could buy it on-line. It is exceptionally interesting. A near counterpart from the USA is the 1947 Indian/Chinese drama BLACK GOLD, made by Allied Artists and Directed by noir expert Phil Karlson.
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When worlds collide
tomsview7 October 2017
There are things in this old movie to give one pause, especially Aussies.

On one hand we have a historically significant film that despite flaws is compelling enough in its own way, while on the other the situation that has bedevilled relations between indigenous and white Australians for the last 230 years is displayed without a hint of embarrassment.

Filmmakers Charles and Elsa Chauvel put forward two opposing points of view in "Jedda": one suggesting that indigenous Australians should be assimilated into the wider white society and the other claiming instincts instilled in a people during 50,000 years of isolation could not be suppressed in a few generations. However what really hits you in "Jedda" is the patronising and condescending way the whites treat the blacks - forget about equal pay and land rights.

When an Aboriginal mother dies, her baby is taken in by Sarah McCann, the white wife of a cattle station owner. She had just lost her own baby, and although it's not a classic example of 'The Stolen Generation', it's not far off. She calls the little girl "Jedda" and raises her as her own.

But as "Jedda" grows she is drawn spiritually to her own people despite a relationship with Joe, a half Aboriginal, half Afghan stockman. Casting Joe as a white man or half white may not have travelled well back in '55; apartheid didn't officially exist in Australia, but boundaries were easy to find. Paul Reynall, a white actor in blackface, played Joe.

A renegade Aboriginal, Marbuck (Robert Tudawali), enters the scene and sensing Jedda's conflict, takes her forcibly on a journey through dangerous country. He is pursued by Joe, but when he is rejected by his own tribe, tragedy ensues.

The film seems rough around the edges compared with films from Hollywood and Britain at the time. The most fascinating aspect is the two unknown Aboriginal actors from remote areas who were virtually thrust in front of the camera - Rosalie Kunoth Monks as Jedda and Robert Tudawali as Marbuck. Rosalie Kunoth Monks who was aged about 15 didn't really know what was happening. Although the Chauvels were decent people who treated her well, years later when asked if she was tempted to go on with an acting career, she replied, "No siree!" She became a nun and then a high-profile spokesperson for her people.

Tudawali on the other hand caught the acting bug, but his life ran off the rails. In 1988, his story was depicted in an uncompromising film, "Tudawali" starring Ernie Dingo. It highlighted problems the Chauvels didn't.

Black and white relations in Oz have had a considerable airing in films since "Jedda", including films made by indigenous Australians, but the whole thing is definitely still a work in progress.
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grahamvr30 May 2019
When some of the people here who have reviewed this film say the bad and wrong things about it they obviously have a rather misunderstanding of film making. This film, made in 1955 should not be compared to films off today. Yes, they killed animals in it but that was the way of life in the outback then, the film shows realism. Yes it was shot on location in the Northern Territory, however from what I have researched the last reel was lost and had to be reshot. Because of the expense of going back to the NT it was shot in the Blue Mountains. So be it many films are reshot in different places.

Enjoy JEDDA for what it is, an outstanding film of its day and far, far better than many films made now in 2019.
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A generation stolen?
bamptonj4 March 2002
An aboriginal cook from a Northern Territory cattle station dies giving birth. The child is subsequently adopted by the proprietors - the McManns' - who have just lost their own daughter. The child is named 'Jedda', meaning 'little wild goose' and she is raised (as best Sarah can, yet against the pleaful wishes of her husband and coworkers) as a white girl ("bringing her closer to our way of life"), not knowing her own language or culture. Having learnt the piano, her A.B.C. and generally being taught how to behave a proper Australian woman, the polite girl soon comes to be greatly adored by all on the ranch. Yet come rainy season, when all her aboriginal friends 'head bush', Jedda regrets not being able to go with them.

Temporarily becoming a station-hand at the McManns' Station is Marbuck - a nomadic, fringe-dwelling Aborigine - whom Jedda is strangely drawn to. His tribe still observes the traditional customs of the Dreamtime as they were at the time of White Settlement. To Jedda, Marbuck is a true and absolute representation of the culture that has, because of her upbringing, always been denied and outrightly repressed (both by her 'parents' and subconsciously, herself). However, when she is unexpectedly abducted by him, she is somewhat abhorred by the experience. When Marbuck brings his new bride before his tribal elders, he is non-too-politely asked to leave his 'white' wife. The two head off into the bush; Jedda uncertain what her fate will be and Marbuck undecided what action he will take.

While the topical issue of the Stolen Generation may come to mind, this film is, I believe, in no way a comprehensive piece of propaganda in favor of such a process; in fact the message the film seems to give is a mixed one. At the start of the movie, Sarah's husband recognizes and extols the pride the local Aborigines have in their culture and respects them for retaining their ancestral links (though perhaps for material reasons) - "they go out on their walkabout and come back better stock-men for it." He pleads to Sarah not to try "turning that wild, little magpie into a tame canary. Her roots are deep, they don't tame, only on the takes a thousand years to 'tame' it, you're trying in one life". Sarah, however, insists in almost a missionary tone that adopting Jedda is the only action they can take if they are to bring "them" closer to the 'Australian' way of life: "that's the old cry isn't think they like to sleep with their dogs and their flies?"

Made in 1955, of course, it does not try to counteract the attitude at the time that most Aborigines were fringe-dwellers and subservient to White Australia, though the film does not go out of its way to illustrate it either. Nevertheless, all the aborigines we see either exist as hired-hands especially dependent on the station's hospitality or can be categorized under the "gone bush", tribal stereotype that most Australians at the time subscribed to. Perhaps to cater for this expectation of a 1950's audience, the film makers have chosen to select unusually black Aboriginal actors. Even if not done on purpose, the cast of extras, filmed under garish-pastel Technicolor, look almost like they have been covered in Vaseline. If not for the desert scenes, an international audience may have thought they were seeing the clichéd charcoal Islanders of early Hollywood cannibal films, rather than the browner ingenious inhabitants we know today. They all address whites as "boss" and "missus".

This film is greatly entertaining and heartbreaking, epic in its scope and is genuinely well-made, though the local utilization of the color format (the first film in Australia to do so) may make you chuckle. There are some very tense moments in the film as well as some beautifully shot scenes of the outback, and this movie was totally made on location. JEDDA is, we are told, a true story.
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A fascinating story leaves vivid memories over 45 years later.
mandy-13 August 2002
In 1955 when I was 14 years old, my mother and I emigrated to Australia. I went to 8th grade just outside Sydney -- Cremorne Girls High School. The opening of "Jedda" the first Australian color feature film was a very big deal there. In fact the opening of any film was a pretty big deal there, entailing reservations and dressing up.

In "Jedda," the title character, an aboriginal girl is brought up by a white family that adopts her. As a young woman, she is mysteriously drawn to go "Walkabout" as people of her tribe have for hundreds of years.

It must have been a good year for films. "Rock Around the Clock" heralded the dawn of rock 'n roll and "Black Board Jungle" launched the career of Sidney Poitier in a tale of urban classroom violence. "Rebel Without a Cause" came out in 1955 too. I can't remember what films I saw in any particular year before or since more vividly than these. Among those classics, the now unknown "Jedda" stands out with lasting images of a beautiful aboriginal woman, stunning countryside and the residue of an emotional wallop that keeps me thinking and wishing I could see it again over 45 years later.
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Unconvincing dialogue
johnlmodra6 October 2016
Found this cinematic delight hard to watch for long because i felt the couples relationships too much of an artificial construct; lacking the sort of hard one unity that would make them adopt the child and the compromised lifestyle their child would inevitably face. The stiff painted portrait and dialogue is one of inevitable failure instead of the inevitable challenge all aboriginals and remote desert cattle growers and their families face. Dad being anything but helpful and far too theoretical and impractical to be credible as a partner friend and confidant . Instead of an ongoing tension that would characterize her growing up there is the overwhelming sense from the start that this fictional and overly unwise woman will lose the child .Doomed by a decision to cast the white woman carer as stupid- i don't find it a convincing story even though the intercultural tensions are and always would be tough .An opportunity lost?
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xtrailer9 October 2010
To quote from Wikipedia: Originally the movie was filmed on location in the Northern Territory in Australia. The production process itself was a laborious process as the colour technique used, Gevacolor, could only be processed overseas in England. The film produced was fragile and heat-sensitive, which was a problem as the Northern Territory has a typically hot climate; film was stored in cool caves to protect it from deteriorating. The last roll of negative was destroyed in a plane crash on its way for developing in England and the scenes were re-shot at Kanangra Walls in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney.

The reviewer that said the film wasn't filmed on location is clearly wrong. It was only the last reel that was lost.
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Film not shot on location after all.
Seth_says9 September 2004
After reading a previous comment on the film while researching information for an essay, I was edging to make a correction. Here it is:

Because Jedda was the first colour film to be produced in Australia, the printing technology had not actually yet reached our shores, so all the colour film reels had to be sent to England to be developed. While to reels reached England quite safely they were unfortunately damaged on their return and almost all the footage was lost. Charles Chauvel lacked the extra budget to go back out onto location, and found it much cheaper to bring all the cast to him. Thus most of the film had to be reshot in the Blue Mountains, between Sydney and Canbera, instead of on the original location.
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swami7327 January 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I thought so. Some of the film's footage shot in the high mountains towards the conclusion of the movie is very familiar to me as The Blue Mountains of N.S.W. Australia. The mountains of the Northern Territory are so very different and they haven't as much darkness in their color. I thought that was obvious. However without being a spoiler, I think what the poster who said it was shot entirely on location meant was that it was shot entirely on location here in Australia. Which is something to be proud of given the other comments made about how rare film was in Australia during the time of its release in 1955. For a film in and about Australia and her people to be shot in Gevacolour(not Technicolor)is a wonderful compliment.
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