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The Story of the Kelly Gang 1906
Description: Just as Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927) is testimony to German silent movie art, The Storyline of the Kelly Gang (1906) symbolises both the birth of the Australian movie industry and the emergence of an Australian identity. Even more significantly it heralds the emergence of the detail movie format. The Storyline of the Kelly Gang, directed by Charles Tait in 1906, is the first full-length narrative detail movie produced anywhere in the world. Only fragments of the original production of more than one hour are known to exist and are preserved at the National Movie and Sound Archive, Canberra. (unesco.org)
Released: 26 Dec 1906 Director: Charles Tait Writers: Charles Tait Actors: Elizabeth Tait, John Tait, Norman Campbell, Bella Cola Genres: Biography, Crime, Drama, History, Western
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The Story of the Kelly Gang Reviews:

THE STORY OF THE KELLY GANG is believed to be the world's first detail length film. Running at between 65 and 70 minutes, it was billed at the time as the longest movie ever made. It toured Australia for nine years and was an enormous success.Today only fragments survive, and it is difficult to judge the film's artistic merits. About nine mins of footage exists - some found on a garbage dump in Melbourne. Some of this footage may be out-takes. The footage is held by ScreenSound Australia, the National Screen and Sound Archive, in Canberra.The sequences present some enthusiastic acting, although the camera-work is static (like most movies of the period). The most remarkable shot is probably when a priest, carrying a wounded boy over his shoulder, walks toward and just past the camera, creating a powerful sense of drama and movement. The final shoot-out stage is also well filmed - with Ned Kelly moving, and shooting, toward the camera, as troopers flee to the sides.A remarkable film, of nice historical importance, that all movie students could see. Up until Globe Fight 1, when initially neutral America began to dominate the globe of movie distribution, Australia had one of the most thriving and innovative movie industries in the world.


This afternoon at the Barbican, I attended the UK premiere of the digitally restored 'The Storyline of the Kelly Gang', with perfect piano accompaniment by John Sweeney, as part of the opening day's programme for the Silent Movie & Live Melody Series running through June. It's also part of the London Australian Movie Festival, likewise at the Barbican ... so, I now ended up attending two movie festivals simultaneously! The restored movie is a double-bill with 'The Life Storyline of John Lee: The Boy They Should Not Hang'.'The Storyline of the Kelly Gang' is generally believed to be (and most likely WAS) the first feature-length film ever made, produced in 1906. Sadly, the past tense is appropriate here, as the movie is actually not known to survive except in fragments ... and some of those do indeed appear to be out-takes, as a previous IMDb'er has noted. Actually, I've also seen (in Australia) other reel of this film: not a projection of the movie's photo onto a screen, but rather I've seen (and touched) a mouldering reel of nitrate footage from the film itself, actually deteriorated beyond hope of restoration.As a part-time Australian (born in Scotland, expatriated Down Under as a 'child migrant'), I ought to feel proud that Australia produced the first detail movie. However, quite enough movies pre-dating 1906 survive (from different nations) to create it clear that a substantial amount of movie technique -- the close-up, the dissolve, the cross-cut -- had already evolved before this film was made. Watching this restoration at the Barbican, it occurred to me that credit for the single largest innovation in 'The Storyline of the Kelly Gang' belongs not to the photographer, director, editor or scenarist, but rather to that most unsung of movie figures ... old Smokey, the projectionist. Prior to 'The Storyline of the Kelly Gang', movies were so short that it was possible to shop two or more separate films on one projection reel. And, every reel being a separate story, the breaks between reels were natural breaks in the narrative. Many early cinemas had only one projector, with live entertainment provided during the longeur while the previous reel was rewound before the next reel should be shown. However, when 'The Storyline of the Kelly Gang' was exhibited in its original form in Australia (and soon in another countries), the projectionist had to maintain two sets of apparatus at the same go, so as to achieve a seamless transition between reels. I wonder how later movie editors began using a reel marker (traditionally in the frame's upper right-hand corner) to indicate that a reel was about to end.Despite being largely missing in action, the original 'Story of the Kelly Gang' is of incalculable historic importance. As for the digital ver which I enjoyed today, accompanied by Mr Sweeney's impressive performance on the keyboard, I'll rate it a full 10 out of 10. Bonzer, cobbers!


'The Storyline of the Kelly Gang' is undoubtedly one of the cinema's most significant achievements, and certainly the most revolutionary game ever to have come out of the Australian movie industry. However, it startles me to explore just how obscure the movie has actually become; indeed, much of our country's cinematic output has long vanished from public knowledge, an unfortunate consequence of our ever-growing reliance on Hollywood. In my efforts to rediscover many of Australia's forgotten classics, I'd decided that I might as well begin from the beginning: released on 26 December 1906, 'The Storyline of the Kelly Gang' said the thrilling storyline of Victorian bushranger Ned Kelly and his comrades, and is more than likely the first feature-length movie ever produced. Though only fragments of the movie actually remain, the National Movie and Sound Archive (NFSA) have done a remarkable job of compiling and digitally restoring the surviving scenes, with the DVD released earlier this year. Also included is a wonderful 200-page booklet – "The Storyline of the Kelly Gang: 'The Picture That Will Live Forever'" – written by Ina Bertrand and William D. Routt, which contains in-depth analysis, historical information, original adverts and reviews. It would be foolish to let such a brilliant resource to go to waste, so much of the notification in this review has been derived from the booklet.There are very several Australians who haven't heard the storyline of Ned Kelly (1855-1880). Kelly and his gang bushrangers were at one mission the most wanted boys in the country, becoming national legends in the process. At dawn on Monday 27 June 1880, after a courageous stand-off at the Glenrowan Inn, Kelly emerged wearing his home-made plate metal armour and helmet, still firing at police, before being shot down and arrested. He was executed for his crimes 11 November 1880, his final words reportedly: "such is life." Throughout the silent era, the topics of bushrangers became of staple of Australia cinema; it presented many of the same components as the American western, which had first come to light in 1903 with Edwin S. Porter's 'The Nice Train Robbery.' Not only was 'The Storyline of the Kelly Gang' one of the first bushranger pictures, but it was also the world's first detail film. There has been some debate, of course, over the definition of a "feature," and, though some recorded boxing matches ran for longer, they did not possess a standard narrative. With much of the movie lost in time, the original running length of the movie is actually uncertain, with some suggesting forty mins and others more than an hour. Few commentators have claimed that the filmmakers deliberately stretched the truth in their adverts to entice larger audiences (indeed, the movie travelled the globe for more than twenty years and achieved phenomenal commercial success).Until recently, it was believed that only ten mins of the storyline had survived. However, in 2006, an extra seven mins was discovered in the British National Movie and Tv Archive, and – thanks to the efforts of the NFSA and the Haghefilm preservation laboratories in Amsterdam – everything has been meticulously restored for our viewing pleasure. On the newly-released DVD, there are two versions of the film: the first is the seventeen-minute "restored version," which basically presents the storyline as it actually survives, with a pleasant piano accompaniment by Mauro Colombis (and an experimental soundtrack by Endorphin that I wasn't minigame enough to try). The second is a "study version," which combines the remaining footage, fresh and original intertitles, advertising materials, posters and the original programme booklet in an attempt to reconstruct the finished narrative of the 1906 film. This one, running for about half an hour, certainly lends the movie a more finished structure, allowing you to appreciate the gravity of the filmmakers' achievement.'The Storyline of the Kelly Gang' was written and directed by Charles Tait, with many members of his family testing key roles in the story. Though different sources have recommended various names, movie historians have generally accepted that the following casting decisions are likely: Ned Kelly (Frank Mills), Dan Kelly (Sam Crew, John Forde, Mr. Marshall), Steve Hart (Jack Ennis, Mr. McKenzie, Norman Campbell) and Joe Byrne (Will Coyne). It is also probable that, at least in some scenes, the role of Kate Kelly is being played by a boy in drag. The film, due to the perceived glorification of criminals, caused much controversy upon release, and it was banned in Benalla and Wangaratta in 1907 and again in Victoria in 1912. The film-making technique is a product of its times, fully devoid of close-ups, and the camera, despite a several primitive panning movements, almost everytime remains static. However, the convincing test of props and costumes, and the somewhat laid-back demeanour of the actors, lends the movie a certain authenticity. Despite the perfect restoration work, many of the remaining scenes have unfortunately decayed beyond repair, and, particularly during Ned Kelly's climactic stand-off, the photo has a tendency to strangely distort. Nevertheless, the historical importance of 'The Storyline of the Kelly Gang' is enough to overlook these technical imperfections, and I relished the occasion to play a real landmark of Australian cinema.



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