Rare screening of the 1906 feature film “The Story of the Kelly Gang”
The film was released in Melbourne on Boxing Day 1906 and played to standing crowds, according to National Film and Sound Archive senior curator Gayle Lake.
“It’s believed to be the world’s first narrative feature, so it’s very significant in the history of Australian cinema,” she told AAP.
The film tells the story of escaped killer Ned Kelly as he is chased by the police through the Victorian bush, culminating with the bushranger confronting the officers in his improvised armour.
The silent film is believed to have originally been shown with actors providing dialogue behind the screen as well as sound effects such as gunshots.
However all Kelly The gang prints had disappeared by the end of World War II and the film was considered lost.
Fragments began to resurface in 1976, with remains discovered in old collections and others found on a landfill.
The Film Archive restored the remains for the film’s centenary in 2006.
“We asked our researchers and curators to try to piece together where these actual clips were in the film, in terms of the storytelling…it was a laborious business to put it all together,” Ms. Lake said.
While the film was over an hour long when first released, the restored footage is 17 minutes long.
The quality of the fragment has been improved during the restoration process, the jitters of the old coils have disappeared, and the dirt and scratches have been removed.
A few scenes that were printed upside down, making the armed actors appear left-handed, were flipped the correct way up.
Searching for archives on the Kelly The gang movie also reveals a lot about the mechanics of the early films.
The film’s budget was £1,000 – a substantial investment for its time and worth around $158,000 in today’s money – with profits amounting to 25 times that figure.
The actors were paid one pound a day and the production lasted six months.
The film was shot in a linear timeline with one camera, which was mostly set to a wide frame to match the theatrical productions audiences were then accustomed to.
Much of the film is believed to have been shot on the Charterisville estate, near what is now the Melbourne suburb of Heidelberg.
Records indicate that reports of crime followed initial screenings, with a group of children in Ballarat breaking into a photo studio before bailing out another group of children.
The film was banned in the “Kelly the country towns of Benalla and Wangaratta.
The story of the Kelly Gang screens with the short film Your House and Mine and the feature film The Rise and Fall of Squizzy Taylor on August 14.
AAP with the project