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Film / The Man from Kangaroo

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By Snowy Baker - National Film and Sound Archive, PD-US,

The Man from Kangaroo is a 1920 Australian Silent Movie starring renowned Australian sportsman Snowy Baker.

John Harland is a former boxer turned reverend posted to the town of Kangaroo. He falls in love with Muriel, an orphaned heiress, and discovers that her guardian Martin Giles is embezzling her inheritance. Harland earns the ire of parishioners by teaching young boys to box, and Giles manipulates local opinion to have the bishop remove him.

Harland rescues a gentleman from a mugging in Sydney who suggests that he go to Kalmaroo where a criminal gang has driven the church out of the area. Harland preaches, and unexpectedly sees Muriel in the congregation; her property is near Kalmaroo.

But her overseer is Red Jack Braggan who leads the gang which violently breaks up Harland's mission – much to the distress of Muriel who regards Harland as too timid – and is in cahoots with Giles. Harland goes to work as a station hand at a property neighbouring Muriel's.

Giles arranges for Red Jack to kidnap Muriel so that he might marry the girl and thus prevent her giving evidence against him. Harland rescues Muriel: they leap from the stage coach as it thunders across Hampden Bridge into the Kangaroo River.

The Man from Kangaroo contains examples of:

  • All of the Other Reindeer: The townsfolk of Kangaroo seem willing to drive John Harland out of the parish for what seems like no reason at all (as far as a modern viewer is concerned). Of the various charges, only 'teaching their children to fight' (he has been giving the boys boxing lessons) seems to have any validity, and that ignores the fact that the boys enjoy it. Nevertheless, John accepts their judgment and leaves town.
  • And Now You Must Marry Me: Giles plans to marry Muriel in order to gain total control of her fortune (and to prevent her from ever testifying against him). By the end of the film, he is willing to resort to abduction to accomplish this.
  • Badass Preacher: John Harland is a former middleweight boxing champion turned pastor who can still lay down the law with his fists when he needs to.
  • Boxing Battler: Badass Preacher John Harland is a former middleweight boxing champion and uses his boxing skill to lay down the law at several points, taking on a variety of criminals.
  • The Cavalry: Greythorn, Mike and the stockmen from Greythorn's station arrive in time to save John and Muriel from Braggan and his gang. It is Mike who fires the shot that kills Braggan as he is about to shoot John.
  • Gone Swimming, Clothes Stolen: A variation. When Muriel comes across her suitor' John's clothes hanging out to dry while he goes swimming, she doesn't steal them, but instead ties them into knots as a prank.
  • Hanging Our Clothes to Dry: John Harland dives into the river fully clothed to save a drowning boy. He takes his clothes off and hangs them out to dry on a branch. The local boys persuade him to give them swimming lessons while his clothes dry. While he is doing so, his girlfriend comes along, finds his clothes, and ties them into knots as a practical joke.
  • Illegal Guardian: Muriel's guardian Martin Giles has been embezzling from her. Now she is almost of age, he plans to marry her to gain complete control of her fortune and to prevent her from ever testifying against him.
  • Land in the Saddle: When John and Muriel escape from the station house, John jumps of the verandah and lands in the saddle of his horse, taking off at a gallop.
  • No Escape but Down: John and Muriel leap from the stage coach as it thunders across Hampden Bridge into the Kangaroo River.
  • Le Parkour: In what must be one of the earliest cinematic examples, the film contains a scene where John Harland chases after a mugger, and the two of them hurdle fences, climb up sheer walls, climb up lampposts and pipes, drop off a bridge, etc.
  • Off Bridge, onto Vehicle: During the Le Parkour chase, the mugger attempts to escape John by dropping off a bridge on to the roof of a tram that is passing underneath. John follows by jumping into a much lower cart that is following the tram.
  • The Place
  • Preacher Man: John Harland. After being forced to back down on delivering his first service in Kalmaroo when Braggan and his gang threaten to harm his congregants, he suffers a crisis of faith and abandons the cloth to become a station hand.
  • Rancher: Greythorn owns a large cattle station near Kalmaroo. He initially invites John to become The Vicar in Kalmaroo, and then gives him a job as a jackaroo when John has a crisis of faith and quits the ministry.
  • The Rustler: 'Red Jack' Braggan is rustling cattle from the surrounding stations and driving them on to the station where he is overseer, where they are rebranded.
  • Shout-Out: A police black tracker who is looking for the lost cattle gets called "Sherlock Holmes" by Jack Braggan.
  • Spousal Privilege: One of the reasons why Illegal Guardian Martin Giles wants to marry his charge Muriel is so she cannot testify against him for embezzling from her family fortune. Note that this would have been true at the time the movie was made.
  • Tap on the Head: A mugger whacks Greythorn over the head with a length of lead pipe. This drops him, but he is shown as being up and about by the time John returns with his wallet. Realistically, this sort of blow should have left him with at least a concussion.
  • Worst Aid: In a scene that is boggling to modern viewers, John rescues a boy drowning and then holds him upside down and shakes him to get the water out of his lungs.
  • Wretched Hive: Braggan and his gang have declared Kalmaroo a 'no preaching' zone and driven out every churchman who has attempted to establish a church there for two years.