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Australia / UK 1949
Directed by
Harry Watt
98 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2 stars

Eureka Stockade

After the success of The Overlanders, Ealing Studios had high hopes for its Australian wing however its follow-up, Eureka Stockade, was not as well received either critically or with the public. This is understandable as despite the considerable efforts that were expended on making the film look historically accurate. including building a complete township and mining camp outside Singleton in New South Wales (the original Ballarat location has long since been built over, Watts’ direction is so generically English history film in style (partly for tax purposes so that the film would not be counted as “foreign”) that the production lacks any real Antipodean character, the quality that made The Overlanders so successful.

Chips Rafferty is miscast as Peter Lalor, the leader of the Victorian gold miners who in 1854 rebelled against extortionate Government licence fees and so wrote themselves into our largely quietist history. Other than the broad strokes there is little real history here, much of the film being pure imagination, not least of which is a fraffly well-spoken school marm (Jane Barrett) who provides the pretext for a romantic sub-plot. The exteriors look authentic enough, much like prints of the period, although in this respect the film suffers from being in black and white (as did The Overlanders) but there is little sense of life on the goldfields with at one point Watts even inserting a Negro spiritual. Peter Finch who at one time Watts considered using in the lead instead of Rafferty has a small support role.

When the film tanked on its considerably over-spent budget of ₤200,000 Ealing wound back its Australian production plans although they did make three more films here: Bitter Springs (1950), The Shiralee (1957) and The Siege of Pinchgut (1959).

Available from: Umbrella Entertainment




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