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The Story of the Kelly Gang


An attempt to create a coherent narrative out of all surviving fragments of Australia's first feature length film. Sections from the final reel are heavily decomposed. Running at just over 20 minutes, this is possibly the longest available version. What the posters said: "A thrilling moving picture from start to finish" "The Most Sensational, The Most Thrilling and Interesting LIVING PICTURES EVER TAKEN." Written and Directed by Charles Tait 1868-1933 Released: December 1906 (Australia) January 1908 (Britain) 1910 (USA)

The Story of the Kelly Gang is a 1906 Australian film that traces the life of the legendary infamous outlaw and bushranger Ned Kelly (1854–1880). It was written and directed by Charles Tait (film director). The film ran for more than an hour, and at that time was the longest narrative film yet seen in the world. Its approximate reel length was 4,000 feet (1,200 m).</>


Film historian Ina Bertrand suggests that the tone of The Story of the Kelly Gang' is "one of sorrow, depicting Ned Kelly and his gang as the Last of the Bushrangers." Bertrand identifies several scenes that suggest "considerable sophistication" as filmmakers on the part of the Taits. One is the composition of a scene of police shooting parrots in the bush. The second is the capture of Ned, shot from the viewpoint of the police, as he advances.</>
In later years, William Gibson claimed that while touring through New Zealand showing the bio-pic "Living London", he noticed the large audiences attracted to Charles McMahon (playwright)'s stage play The Kelly Gang. Film historian Eric Reade claims the Taits themselves owned the stage rights to a Kelly play,</> In November 2006, the National Film and Sound Archive released a new digital restoration which incorporated 11 minutes of material newly discovered in the United Kingdom. The restoration now is 17 minutes long and includes the key scene of Kelly's last stand. However, a copy of the programme booklet has also survived, containing both extracts from contemporary newspaper reports of the capture of the gang, and a synopsis of the film, in six 'scenes'. The latter provided audiences with the sort of information later provided by intertitles, and can help historians imagine what the film may have been like.


The film was given a week of trial screenings in country towns in late 1906. This proved enormously successful and the movie already recouped its budget for these screenings alone.
Many groups at the time, including some politicians and the police interpreted the film as glorifying criminals and in Benalla and Wangaratta the film was banned in 1907, and then again in Victoria in 1912.
The film toured Australia for over 20 years and was also shown in New Zealand, Ireland and Britain. The backers and exhibitors made "a fortune" from the film, perhaps in excess of £25,000.< name=Reade />


  • One of the gang's actual suits (probably Joe Byrnes') was supposedly used in the film.
  • The trains shown in the film were filmed with permission from the Victorian Railways Commission.
  • In 1906, the producers claimed authenticity, but apologised to the public for dressing the police in uniforms which they would not have worn while out in the bush. This was explained as necessary to enable the audience to distinguish between the outlaws and the police, in a time before colour film and when close-ups (allowing distinctions among characters) were rare.< name=Tait />

Other Ned Kelly films

  • The Kelly Gang (1920)
  • When the Kellys Were Out (1923)
  • When the Kellys Rode (1934)
  • A Message to Kelly (1947)
  • The Glenrowan Affair (1951)
  • Stringybark Massacre (1967)
  • Ned Kelly (1970 movie) (1970)
  • Reckless Kelly (1993) (satire)
  • Ned Kelly (2003 movie) (2003)
  • Ned (movie) (2003) (satire)

See also

  • Cinema of Australia
  • List of Australian films before 1910
  • List of incomplete or partially lost films

Category:1906 films
Category:Australian Western (genre) films
Category:Films set in colonial Australia
Category:Australian drama films
Category:Biographical films
Category:Australian silent films
Category:Lost films
Category:Black-and-white films
Category:Memory of the World Register
Category:Films shot in Melbourne
Johnson and Gibson

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