The Story of the Kelly Gang (Charles Tait, 1906)

Posted: January 2, 2015 in Movies
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The Story of the Kelly Gang is a 1906 Australian silent film that traces the life of the infamous outlaw and bushranger Ned Kelly (1855-1880). It was directed by Charles Tait, and based on the play by Arnold Denham. The film ran for more than an hour, making it the longest narrative film yet seen in Australia or the world.

The Story of the Kelly Gang was shot outside Melbourne, when the Kelly legend was still fresh, and was first screened at the Athenaeum Hall in Collins Street, Melbourne, on 26 December 1906. It was believed to have been lost for many years. However, in 2007, 11 minutes of material was discovered in storage in the United Kingdom, and has been re-incorporated by the Australian National Film and Sound Archive. The restored version now runs for 16 minutes and includes the key scene of Ned Kelly’s last stand.

Film historian Ina Bertrand writes that the tone of The Story of the Kelly Gang is “one of sorrow, depicting Ned Kelly and his gang as the Last of the Bushrangers.” Bertrand identifies several scenes that suggest “considerable sophistication” as filmmakers on the part of the Taits. One is the composition of a scene of police shooting parrots in the bush. The second is the capture of Ned, shot from the viewpoint of the police, as he advances.

The film is now recognized by the UNESCO Memory of the World Register for being the world’s first full-length feature film. The piano accompaniment was composed by Mauro Colombis, from the Pordenone Silent Film Festival.

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