The Story of the Kelly Gang

From Academic Kids

Template:Infobox Movie

The Story of the Kelly Gang is widely regarded as the world's first feature length film. Its 70 minute length was certainly unprecedented when it was released in 1906. The movie traces the life of the legendary Australian "bushranger", Ned Kelly (1855-1880). It was written and directed by Charles Tait. Also screened as Ned Kelly and His Gang.

The film's actual reel length is 1219.2 metres. It was released in Australia on the 26th December 1906 and in the UK in January 1908. The film costed an estimated $2,250 and was filmed in the following locations, Eltham, Greensborough, Heidelberg, Melbourne, Mitcham and Rosanna which are all located in Victoria, Australia.

Only about 9 minutes have survived the almost 100 years since its filming. 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

The Story of the Kelly Gang tone is of sorrow depicting Ned Kelly as 'the Last of the Bushrangers', presenting the police hiding under the bed when Aaron Sherritt is shot ('This is the Only Blot on the Police'), and portraying Curnow's action of warning the train as heroic ('Thank God, he Saved the Train').

Among the surviving images are two scenes that suggest considerable sophistication for that time. The scene of the police shooting parrots in the bush skilfully positions the shooter in the middle ground to the left of the image, firing upwards toward the far right, with the gang watching him from close foreground. The capture of Ned is shot from the viewpoint of the police, as Ned advances, an impressive figure weaving towards them under the weight of his armour and the shock of the bullets.


Missing image
Still image of film.

The first showing was in Melbourne at the Athaneum Hall on 26 December 1906 to much controversy. 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 Adelaide in 1911. The film toured Australia for over 20 years and also showed in New Zealand and Britain. The backers and exhibitors made "a fortune" from the film.


  • Ned Kelly's actual suit of armour was borrowed from the Victorian Museum and worn in the film.
  • First film to run for more than 60 minutes and thus considered the first full-length feature film ever made.
  • Only fragments of this film are known to survive and are being restored by Screen Sound Australia, the Australian Screen and Sound Archive.
  • 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.


Missing image
Still image of film.

Actor Role
Godfrey Cass Ned Kelly
Nicholas Brierley Joe Byrne
Elizabeth Tait Kate Kelly
John Tait School Master
Bella Cola
Vera Linden
Frank Mills
Ollie Wilson
E.J. Tait Extra
Frank Tait Extra

Other Ned Kelly films

Since Ned Kelly premiered the full length feature format, one could argue that it is fitting the Australian icon returns to the same format for each generation.

External links


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