Brando’s Pick of the Month
Carrying on with the theme of movies starring or featuring animals in the title leads Brando the Dachshund and myself to this 1952 effort filmed on location “down under” by one time Oscar winner Lewis Milestone featuring lovely Maureen O’Hara scoring top billing over Peter Lawford and Richard Boone.
O’Hara and her father, Finlay Currie, own and operate a cattle farm down under but the lack of rain has all but decimated the land and left the herd in dwindling numbers. Carcasses of both cattle and wildlife including Kangaroos are littered about the dry arid lands. Letting us in on the fact that O’Hara is a rugged outdoors type, she’ll ride like hell across the outback to touch base with the local law enforcement to see if there is any word of her missing father who has gone on to the big city looking to secure a loan to keep the ranch afloat.
Moving along to the ports in Sydney, we’ll be introduced to Lawford who is looking to make a fast score by robbing what he perceives to be a wealthy Richard Boone leaving a gambling establishment. Doesn’t quite work out the way he expects as Boone is broke but the two enter into a partnership to go back in and rob that same underground casino. It doesn’t end well when the volatile Boone kills a man putting them both on the run. All of this leads them to a drunken Currie and the beginnings of con game.
Currie’s been drowning his sorrows in a bottle over his long lost son and Lawford is about to quietly step into the role allowing the old man to believe he’s come back to his homeland. Lawford doesn’t overtly encourage it but at the same time doesn’t dismiss the notion entirely. Boone of course is counting the dollars should the pair get their hands on the ranch which will also serve as a great way to drop out of sight from the Sydney police looking for a pair of killers.
It’s Boone and Lawford who have given $500 if their ill gotten gains to help tide Currie over through the dust bowl of a ranch they find upon arriving. Boone figures to romance O’Hara while Lawford is to go right on encouraging Currie’s belief that he may be the son lost to time. A subject we never really get any background on. It doesn’t take any script writing genius to inject the what if notion into the proceedings that Lawford and O’Hara are going to fall for each other. Thankfully Currie has kept this a secret from O’Hara but when she eventually discovers her Father’s suspicions it will be up to Lawford to come clean as to why he and Boone are hiding out on the ranch. This is sure to drive a spike between the two uneasy partners in crime.
I must admit that for two lowlife thieves both Boone and Lawford earn their keep on the ranch. Between saving cattle dying of thirst and repairing a windmill that is about to come crashing down in a windstorm the boys have done more than put themselves in harm’s way. That will only be compounded when the local constable begins to get a little suspicious of their intentions.
Sticking to the expectations of the viewing audience there will be few surprises at the fadeout when Boone returns to his evil ways and has a falling out with his partner in crime. Can Lawford outgun Boone and still hold on to that warm fuzzy feeling he has for O’Hara and she for him? Maybe but let’s not forget that this is the era of “the code” and a man has to pay for his transgressions.
Now about that title. Sure we’ll see a kangaroo or two in the outback and hopping around the ranch but it’s not as if Maureen has one in the house for a pet. By the look of that poster I’d almost be thinking this had more to do with being an Aussie version of Godzilla or better still 1954’s Them subbing kangaroos for giant ants. Of course Maureen’s film came out before those others but that won’t stop me from making the comparisons. I guess the producers wanted an identifiable title that should clearly state to one and all that this movie was made in Australia where we can expect to find Sylvester the Cat’s largest nemesis.
Consider it this way, if the locale had been changed by the studio to maybe save a few bucks, they could have moved the action to the northern reaches of Ontario, Canada and called it Moose. If not Moose than how about Beaver. Now when it comes to Brando’s opinion on the film which I found to be a time filler starring three well known faces, two of which I’ve done my best to see everything they appeared in (Boone and O’Hara) he was rather indifferent expecting to see a leading character that had a pronounced hop in his step.
After seeing this location shot of Maureen holding on to one of those furry little fellows, I did find Brando daydreaming over the photo admiring Maureen’s warmth and sunny smile. I suspect this is what he was imagining with a look of arrogance in his eye that clearly states, “Hey Dad, look at me. Jealous?” I’m not about to answer that one way or the other …..
A first time viewing, this 20th Century Fox release surprised me by turning up in a bargain bin collection of twenty titles from Mill Creek and aside from one or two of the other movies was my main reason for shelling out the 10 bucks.