A small time thief is recruited by a mobster to help with the racketeering. He doesn't like the job, but with the mob on his back, a femme fatale in his bed and a sick friend to care for, he will have to keep all his wits about him.
I first saw this film when still at school, in my final year. At that time, I thought it was a passable "western" but it lacked the Hollywood glitz to which I'd become accustomed and acculturated.
Fifty years haven't dimmed my appreciation of the story and film, but those years have readjusted my focus on the quality and veracity of the production. By today's digital standards, the colour saturation is just too pronounced, but given the times, it was ideal to convey the stark contrasts of the Australian outback the parched land, the unrelenting sun and the tough times experienced by the settlers.
The story is basic: two brothers get caught up in cattle rustling with Captain Starlight (Peter Finch) who gets caught eventually, while the brothers escape to go off to the Bendigo gold fields to make honest money, they hope. Unhappily for them, they get embroiled in a bank robbery staged by Starlight and his gang and, once again, are on the run, one and all.
And, that sets up the final action sequence whereby a large body of troopers attacks the mountain hideout of Starlight's gang, with inevitable results. That shootout is still one of the finest ever put to film: realistic and beautifully photographed from many camera angles, providing the viewer a box seat of what such a battle must be like.
Peter Finch acts superbly: witty, urbane, considerate, competent and very tough all in one. Who really knows what the real Starlight was like, the one who actually roamed and robbed the areas around southern Queensland and northern New South Wales? I think Finch pulls off a reasonable portrayal.
The rest of the cast is adequate to very good, with Maureen Swanson the standout performer as Kate Morrison, the woman spurned by Dick Marston (Ron Lewis); not a woman to be tossed aside, as he finds out. David McCallum, in his fifth movie, plays the other brother, Jim Marston who gets involved with Kate's sister, Jean (Jill Ireland).
As a piece of Australiana, it's worth the time to see. As a story about the bush ranging days of early Australia, it has its moments, particularly the final shootout.
Recommended for all.
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