(aka 'The Story of the Kelly Gang')

Directed by Charles Tait
Australia 1906

 

The Story of the Kelly Gang is considered the first narrative feature film ever made. Filmed outside Melbourne when the Kelly legend was still fresh, it was believed lost for many years. The Australian National Film and Sound Archive and the BFI have restored parts of the original 1906 film to create an amazing package, which includes two commentaries on the national and worldwide significance of the film, alongside soundtracks and a variety of viewing modes.

***

Having just celebrated its centenary, The Story of the Kelly Gang is not just a fine example of early Australian film, but also proof that any suggestion that the continent’s cinema is no more than a ‘Hollywood photocopy’ is not simply derogatory, but born of ignorance. While the American film directors were trying to impress their audiences with ‘feature films’ that were running at just a quarter of an hour long, the Tait brothers in Australia were entertaining theirs with a story about a national celebrity (Ned Kelly), which ran for over an hour. This first true feature film established the medium’s potential to deal with a complex narrative, and also established Australia as the world’s leading player in the motion picture business before World War One.

Tait’s film, like most contemporary landmarks, was to become a double victim, first of censorship (for encouraging violence), and secondly of time. The recent discovery of a large excerpt at the National Film and Televison Archive in the UK, made it possible to understand what really made The Story of the Kelly Gang a unique popular experience: a film combining action, comedy and drama with a subtle ease, such that the story has space to breathe, but above all, is able to maintain the audience’s attention and good spirits.

Excerpt from Culture Wars [Ion Martea] located HERE

Theatrical Release: December 26th, 1906

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DVD Review: Madman Entertainment - Region 0 - PAL

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Distribution Madman Entertainment - Region 0 - PAL
Runtime Study Version (31:52), Restored Version (16:09) 
Video 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.81 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

Audio Optional Musical Accompaniment (Dolby Digital 2.0) 
Subtitles None (Intertitles redone in English)
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Madman Entertainment

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• Audio Commentary by Ian Christie
• Audio Commentary by Graham Shirley
• Study Version (31:51) with optional commentary (Shirley and Sally Jackson)
• Before and After Restoration (1:45)
• Image Gallery (2:26)

204-page book

DVD Release Date: 2007

Transparent Keep Case and book inside cardboard case 

 

Comments:

It's hard to point flaw at this, over 100-year old, restored, production. At times it looks quite amazing for its age - and in others it shows extensive damage marks (see samples of both below). The original feature is reputed to be over an hour-long but this is all that has survived (16 restored minutes and about a half-hours worth of the entire production - warts and all). The transfer is, single-layered and interlaced - most probably due to frame rate conversion but otherwise can be quite visually impressive.

Optional 2.0 scores can be chosen (or none) - the first is by Mauro Colombis (heavy piano-based) and the second score is more new age (electronic) by Endorphin. I preferred the first as it was more in-line with silent tracks I have heard in the past. There are no surviving intertitles for the film so some new have been recreated (sample below). If they weren't thought to originally exist - they have been put in italics.

The supplements are extensive - NFSA have procured commentaries for both and in the 16 minute restored version we have a choice of a dry Ian Christie or Graham Shirley (Senior Curator of Moving Image). The Study Version (31:51) also offers an optional and interesting commentary by Shirley and Sally Jackson. There is also a short split-screen Before and After Restoration - at less than 2 minutes and a similarly short Image Gallery. The bulk of knowledge about the film comes from an extensive 204-page book included. It is obviously the de-facto reference for this film - quite probably the 'first long picture in the world'. It approaches the historical context of the film and is a wonderful keepsake for those keen on learning more about this proud production.

It's obvious a lot of love went into development of this DVD as it would be surprising that expenses would be recouped. It is true history in motion and if you look at it from that reference point it can be a truly fascinating experience. Kudos to the team involved in creating this and for those at all keen - we heartily endorse.  

Gary W. Tooze

 



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Remade Intetitle Sample

 

 


 

Screen Captures

 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 

 


 

 


DVD Box Cover

   

CLICK to order from:

Distribution Madman Entertainment - Region 0 - PAL




 

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