Crocodile Dundee (Peter Faiman, 1986) prod. John Cornell for Rimfire Films, wr. Paul Hogan, Ken Shadie, dp Russell Boyd ed. David Stiven, design Graham Walker; Paul Hogan, Linda Kozlowski, John Meillon, David Gulpilil (Neville Bell), Maggie Blinco, Steve Rackman, Gerry Skilton; Eastman colour, 35mm Panavision, 96 min.; at the box office the most successful Australian film ever
Australians have always been profoundly ambivalent about the figure of the ‘bushman’. In some literature (such as Henry Lawson), criticism (Russel Ward’s The Australian Legend, say) and film (The Man From Snowy River, Beaumont Smith, 1920, George Miller, 1982, Geoff Burrowes, 1988) the bushman has been seen as a legendary figure, if not mythic hero. In other writing (Steele Rudd) and in many films, the bushman is a comic figure. In the seven Hayseeds (Beaumont Smith, 1917-34), two Waybacks (Arthur W. Sterry, 1918, 1925) and five On Our Selection (Raymond Longford, 1920, Ken G. Hall, 1932, George Whaley, 1995) and Rudd family (Ken G. Hall, 1938, 1940) films, bush people are mostly seen as figures of fun. In terms of the film tradition, the bushman has usually been a comic character.
Paul Hogan’s character, Mick ‘Crocodile’ Dundee, in Crocodile Dundee (Peter Faiman, 1986), is situated to some extent in this tradition, the comic character from the bush, but there is more to it than that. The comedy does not derive simply from poking fun at the naive character from the bush. Hogan (as film-maker) is able to mobilise this stereotype in relation to others to create a satirised world in which anything can be set up and then undercut. Not only that, but the bushman ‘Crocodile’ Dundee actually also carries what there is of wisdom in the film, as most of the action (once he is introduced) is seen from his point of view. In yet another complexity, Mick Dundee’s character stems from an additional Australian type: the larrikin. So the film is profoundly ambivalent about this complex character. Garry Gillard
A success like the Crocodile Dundee films is something every filmmaker strives for: that is the big pay-off, the crock of gold. But is has happened once only, in the history of the Australian cinema. That is not to say it could not happen again: Yahoo Serious tried with Young Einstein, but did not make it. It takes talent, up to a point, but Paul Hogan's success went beyond talent: it was his supreme, almost brazen, self-confidence that brought him such phenomenal success. Making people laugh can be an astronomically profitable business: more often, as all too many Australian filmmakers can testify, it is not a funny business at all. David Stratton, 1990: 338.
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