Ned Kelly (1970)

"Bad"

Ned Kelly (1970) Review


Don't quote me, but I'm reasonably sure this is the only Australian musical western ever made.

Next week it becomes the only Australian musical western ever remade, with Heath Ledger and Naomi Watts starring.

Why remake Ned Kelly, a widely razzed flop from 1970 about an Aussie criminal no one has ever heard of? You got me. The original Kelly is a disaster in just about every way. But two aspects of this production come to the forefront that make it a particularly big disaster.

First is the star: Mick Jagger. Jagger is about as far from a scrappy Aussie bandit as you can get. With a six-inch-long beard and a silly accent, he doesn't carry us very far. He's stumbling his way through the movie, way out of place and clearly hating himself for ever agreeing to star in this debacle.

Then there's the music. Stones castoffs would've been great. No, what we've got here is a collection of awful tunes penned by Where the Sidewalk Ends scribe Shel Silverstein. Shel's songs are simply atrocious -- endless funeral dirges that repeat the same line over and over, with simplistic tunes and no particular themes to explore aside from telling us what's happening in the movie. One tune in particular, "Blame It on the Kellys," consists primarily of Waylong Jennings intoning the title line over and over again in a folksy manner, for about eight minutes. (Jennings sings most of the tracks, with Kris Kristofferson covering a couple of others; I can't imagine even big fans of these two artists springing for the soundtrack to this.)

Ton Richardson paces this film like an encyclopedia entry on Kelly, dutifully recounting his run from the law, the tragic apprehension of his mother (brought in as a sort of hostage for Kelly's capture), and his selling of moonshine in order to raise money to support his family. The lone point of interest comes at the end, when Kelly and his gang fashion armor that can stop bullets, which they then don to make a stand against the coppers.

Mick Jagger in an iron hat? Sorry, not even that makes Kelly worth the price of admission.



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