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Friday, August 21, 2015

Mad Morgan (1976)

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From: "2,500 Movies Challenge" <>
Date: Aug 21, 2015 4:27 PM
Subject: Dave's 2,500 Movies Challenge
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Dave's 2,500 Movies Challenge

#1,831. Mad Dog Morgan (1976)

Posted: 21 Aug 2015 09:40 AM PDT

Directed By: Philippe Mora

Starring: Dennis Hopper, Jack Thompson, David Gulpilil

Tag line: "Ferociously violent - unexpectedly kind. Ruthless bandit or rebel hero? An outlaw's outlaw with a score to settle"

Trivia: Dennis Hopper drank vast amounts of rum so he could properly portray Daniel Morgan

The rumors that star Dennis Hopper was out of control during the filming of Mad Dog Morgan, a 1976 Philippe Mora movie, have been confirmed time and again by the director himself. In January of 2010, Mora told The Sydney Morning Herald what happened the day shooting on Mad Dog Morgan wrapped:

"He (Hopper) rode off in costume, poured a bottle of O.P. rum into the real Morgan's grave in front of my mother Mirka Mora, drank one himself, got arrested and deported the next day, with a blood-alcohol reading that said he should have been clinically dead, according to the judge studying his alcohol tests"

Whatever the case may be, there's no denying that Dennis Hopper's frenzied performance perfectly fit the character of Dan Morgan, an Australian bushranger and wanted criminal who roamed the countryside of New South Wales in the 1860's, when the Australian Gold Rush was in full swing. After witnessing the massacre of several Chinese immigrants, Morgan turns to a life of crime and is promptly arrested. Prison is cruel to him (he's tortured and even raped), and when he's released years ahead of schedule for good behavior, he seeks revenge on those who put him there. After stealing a horse, Morgan is shot by the owner, and is nursed back to health by the aborigine, Billy (Walkabout's David Gulpilil, who also provided the film's digeridoo music). With Billy in tow, Morgan terrorizes the local authorities, going so far as to shoot and kill one of their own. Though a folk hero to some, Morgan incites the wrath of Superintendent Cobham (Frank Thring), who offers a reward of £1,000 for information that leads to his capture… dead or alive.

From the moment he first appears on-screen, strolling through a small frontier town, to his final scene, you can't take your eyes off of Dennis Hopper. His Irish brogue isn't flawless (it slips from time to time), but he has a screen presence here that's undeniable. True, there are some scenes where it's obvious Hopper was acting under the influence (during one in particular, where Morgan walks into a bar and is cheered by its patrons, you can almost see the haze covering his eyes), but this only works to enhance the character, who, if history is to be believed, was every bit the loose cannon that Hopper was.

Mad Dog Morgan has its share of violence (in the sequence where the Chinese are attacked, Morgan's new friend, Martin, played by Gerry Duggan, is shot in the back of the head, the bullet taking out his eye as it passes through), and there are moments that are difficult to watch (along with being raped by his fellow inmates in prison, Morgan is also tied, spread eagle, to the ground, at which point the guards brand his hand with a hot iron). But scenes such as these capture the chaotic times in which its story is set. This, combined with Hopper's frantic performance, makes for one crazy ass motion picture.

And I'm betting you'll love it as much I do!

#1,830. Thirst (1979)

Posted: 20 Aug 2015 09:36 PM PDT

Directed By: Rod Hardy

Starring: Chantal Contouri, Shirley Cameron, Max Phipps

Tag line: "Surrender to an Unholy, Insatiable Evil"

Trivia: An artists' colony north of Melbourne was used for the cult's headquarters

The day she's scheduled to start her vacation, magazine editor Kate Davis (Chantal Contouri) is kidnapped and taken to a compound at an undisclosed location, where she's introduced to Dr. Fraser (David Hemmings), Dr. Gauss (Henry Silva), and Mrs. Barker (Shirley Cameron), the leaders of a bizarre cult that practices vampirism. The three inform Kate that she's a descendant of Elizabeth Bathory, the Hungarian Countess who, in the 16th century, murdered young girls so that she could bathe in their blood, and as such, she would hold a place of honor in their group should she agree to join them. Repulsed by the very notion of drinking human blood, Kate refuses, forcing the doctors to try different methods to "persuade" her. Dr. Fraser believes that Kate must be free to do as she pleases, while Mrs. Barker pushes for more severe methods of enticement, including the administration of hallucinogens. Planning to introduce Kate to the other members of their group at an upcoming ceremony, the trio works tirelessly to convince her to stay. Will Kate give in, or will she continue to fight the "thirst" in the hopes her captors will eventually release her?

The opening scenes of director Rod Hardy's 1979 film Thirst, where Kate is first brought to the compound, reminded me in a way of the '60's British TV series The Prisoner (like the lead character in that program, Kate is treated well, and the compound itself seems like an idyllic place, yet try as she might, she's unable to escape from it). As for the facility, it operates as a sort of manufacturing plant for vampires, with hundreds of human "donors" whose blood is slowly being drained from their bodies (by way of a "milking" machine that attaches to their necks). The film's best segments, however, occur when Mrs. Barker orders that Kate be given hallucinogenic drugs to make her more cooperative. In a near-catatonic state, Kate, at one point, is convinced she's back at home, but when she steps into the shower to freshen up, the finds herself bathing not in water, but blood (easily the movie's most memorable sequence).

Chantal Contouri, who played a supporting role in Snapshot a year earlier, does a fine job as the frightened and confused Kate, as do David Hemmings and Shirley Cameron as two of the cult's leaders (Henry Silva, who was brought in to help Thirst appeal to an American audience, is wasted in a small role, though he does have a cool scene towards the end of the movie). And keep an eye out for Robert Thompson (he played the title character in Patrick) as a cult member, and Chris Milne (the boyfriend in Felicity) as one of the many "donors". Unfortunately, the first half of the film, which is chock full of backroom meetings and discussions on how to convince Kate to stick around, was a bit too dry for my tastes (at times, it was downright boring). What's more, the movie never explores its basic premise (Vampirism as big business) as deeply as it could have (the actual vampire sequences are few and far between). Though well-acted, Thirst is ultimately a missed opportunity.

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