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Australia 1998
Directed by
Stephan Elliott
97 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
1.5 stars

Welcome To Woop Woop

After his surprise mega-hit with The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, 1994, wunderkind Stephan Elliott plummeted to earth with what is in effect yet another variant on the Barry Mackenzie style of Australian vulgaririty (its originator Barry Humphries appears early in the film as a blind petrol station attendant) in the story of American con man (Jonathon Schaech) who finds himself in the Outback settlement that gives the film its name.

Whilst the title of the novel, 'The Dead Heart', by Douglas Kennedy, on which the film was based, gives some indication of the core of the Wake In Fright (1971)-style story, Elliott so buries it beneath a hyperbolic delivery of the stereotypical Australiana that had reached its apogee with Crocodile Dundee (1986) and Young Einstein (1988) but were well and truly past their use-by-date by the time of this film’s release.

There are some nice elements here – in particular, the casting of one-time matinee star Rod Taylor as Daddy-O, the demented overlord of Woop-Woop (which is, for anyone not familiar with Strine, a general signifier for an isolated place beyond the pale of civilization) and the use of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s songs to counterpoint the over-the-top narrative  but Elliott fails to bring off the surreal black comedy he obviously intended . After its initial screening at Cannes and Edinburgh in 1997, the film underwent extensive editing prior to its theatrical release in Australia but nothing could save it and it received a critical lambasting and tanked at the box office.

FYI: The film was shot in the natural basin of Mount Ooramina, located 35km out of Alice Springs.




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