Wednesday, June 18, 2014


A week or so ago I mentioned that when I went to watch the movie Kangaroo, I noticed that what used to be the Fox Movie Channel had finally been rebranded as FXM Retro. Ever since I started watching the channel a decade or more ago, I noticed that they seemed to take a limited number of movies out of their vault and run them over and over before putting them back in the vault. So it's not surprising that Kangaroo shows up again, tomorrow afternoon at 1:35 PM on FXM Retro.

Finlay Currie plays Michael McGuire, a cattleman somewhere in the outback of South Australia circa 1900 who's come to the big city to try to take out a loan. The weather's been bad, and the drought threatens to kill off everybody's stock of cattle, so McGuire is looking for a loan to tide his ranch over until the next rainy season -- if the rainy season comes. McGuire is also an inveterate drinker, which would probably explain why he's staying at a flophouse for sailors, and why he goes babbling on about some long-lost son. Seeing everything at the sailors' hotel is John Gamble (Richard Boone). The two will meet up again later.

But first, Gamble has some other business to take care of. Passing by the local casino, he hears Richard Connor's (Peter Lawford) winning £4,000, so Gamble proceeds to try to rob Connor out of the money. Except that Connor actually lost the money, and is broke, so the two team up to try to rob the casino's safe. They get the money, but unfotunately the manager gets shot along the way, so now our two gamblers are going to be criminals wanted by the police. Which is where Michael McGuire comes in again.

What better way to get out of Sydney than by telling McGuire they'd like to buy some of his cattle off of him? It'll give McGuire the money he needs, and it will get our two criminals on the run out to South Australia presumably safely away from the police, for a while at least. And to grease the wheels, Gamble suggests to McGuire that Connor is in fact that long-lost son he's been looking for. Not that Connor is particularly happy about it, since his presence here feels more at times as though he's been blackmailed into the whole cockamamie scheme. And things are going to get a whole lot more complicated when they get back to the ranch and find that McGuire has a lovely daughter named Dell (Maureen O'Hara). Connor would like to fall in love with Dell, excapt that he's supposed to be her brother, which presents all sorts of problems. There's also the fact that one of the ranch hands eventually notices the marks from the leg irons one of the escapees was in....

Kangaroo, to me, plays out like a typical Hollywood Western, only with the action moved over to Australia instead of the US west, much like The Jackals and Untamed would use South Africa later. The problem is, the Australian settings -- and Fox really did go to the expense of filming on location in Australia -- are not used to the effect they could. There's a couple of sequences with Aboriginals, and some footage of native Australian fauna. But there's really nothing to give the impression that they couldn't have set the story in the US and filmed in some western scrubland location. The plot is also fairly thin, and the actors are all pedestrian. Kangaroo is by no means a bad movie; instead, there's just nothing distinguishing about it.

Amazon claims that Kangaroo did get a DVD release at some point in the past, but it seems to be out of print.

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