World Cinema Series 9 April: Mad Dog Morgan
||Mad Dog Morgan
||9 April 2013 (Tuesday), 7.30pm
||National Museum of Singapore, Gallery Theatre
93 Stamford Road
FREE for SFS Members or Reel Card holders. Get your free ticket by flashing your membership card at the SFS desk at the theatre entrance. You may ask for up to 2 more tickets for your guests if you hold a SFS Reel membership card. Non-members may sign up at the SFS desk -- we will issue membership on the spot. Free seating.
Director: Philippe Mora
1976 / Australia / 98 min / 35mm / NC16 (Some Nudity and Violence)
Mad Dog Morgan is an antipodean Western that threads the thin line between perceptive craftsmanship and brutal profanity. It had one foot within the crop of industry-recognised and culturally significant feature films made during the resurgence of Australian cinema in the 70s; its other foot remains lodged within muddy "Ozploitation" territory—a slate of low-budget and swiftly produced exploitative films which emerged in tandem with this movement.
Set against the immense and sublime, sun-scorched natural landscapes of Australia, Mad Dog Morgan follows a man’s early days as a gold miner who succumbs to opium addiction, endures a torturous tenure in prison, and subsequently transforms into a feared outlaw. With his aboriginal sidekick, he roams the vicinities of Victoria and New South Wales, terrorising wealthy landowners and dodging police hound-dogs. These episodes develop as a series of loosely connected exploits that frame the physical and mental intensities of the protagonist Dan Morgan, paving the way for his hazy descent into madness.
Resurrecting the legend of Australian outlaw Dan Morgan to screen, a young Philippe Mora took a bold step in casting Dennis Hopper at a time when the actor was notoriously unhinged and unstable. What resulted is pure filmmaking lore wherein Philippe's youthful ambitions collide head on with Hopper's free spirit in a hazardous film shoot within the outback. With his reckless method acting, Hopper brought the aggressive yet fragile and childlike disposition of Dan Morgan to life in a drunken frenzy. This is matched by his irrepressible tendency for ad-libs and improvisational mischief which led to a brilliantly awkward convening of his own off-screen persona and the ghost of the legendary outlaw.
The film's current obscurity and status as a cult curiosity can be attributed to its grotesque portrait of humanity and its association with the lineage of Australian exploitation and "B grade" films. But beyond its budget constraints and rough edge is a witty and honestly crafted anti-authoritarian tale that chews on the knots of Australia's history of colonialism in a naïve yet headstrong manner. Its unpolished edge is not a flaw, but the very quality that imbues the film with a distinctive rawness and tactility that lays testament to the perilous nature of this cinematic event.
Born into a family of artists, Philippe Mora grew up within the cultural community of Melbourne during the 50s, and started making films at the early age of 15. In 1967, he relocated to London where he developed a practice in avant-garde visual art and genre filmmaking. After a successful string of exhibitions, he made his first feature, Trouble in Molopolis (1969)—a musical financed by Arthur Boyd and his then housemate Eric Clapton. His next two films—Swastika (1973) and Brother, Can You Spare a Dime (1975)—were documentaries which explored Nazi Germany and America in the Great Depression respectively. During the 70s, when there was a renaissance in Australian cinema, Mora returned to his homeland where he founded Cinema Papers, an influential film journal. He also made his first theatrical release, the outback Western Mad Dog Morgan. His success led him to relocate to Los Angeles where he continued making films such as the musical The Return of Captain Invincible (1983), and a string of horror films such as A Breed Apart (1984), Howling II: Stirba – Werewolf Bitch (1985) and Howling III (1987). He is currently working on The Surrealist, a 3D fiction film about Salvador Dali’s love triangle between his wife and the Mona Lisa.