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Sam Neal and Meryl Streep in ‘A Cry in the Dark’ from 1988.

Mr. Movie: Movies Down Under the radar

Here’s another handful of really good films from Down Under, none of which had much of an impact here.        


Among her many talents, Meryl Streep does accents better than anyone. So this very American lady seems right at home as the mysterious mom in A Cry In The Dark (1988). Her baby may or may not have been carried off by dingoes (wild dogs), but she stands trial for murder. Did she or didn’t she? Sam Neill (an Aussie) is quite good as her husband, and we find out that trial by sensation goes on somewhere besides the U.S.


Another very American actor, Kirk Douglas, is the grizzled old rancher in The Man From Snowy River (1982). This fun movie is as classic a western as John Ford ever made, and features the best horse action ever captured on film. And without computer tricks!


In The Getting of Wisdom (1997), a young girl from the outback is determined to get an education and rise above her somewhat rustic background. Most of the story takes place at a snooty girls school, and you will pull hard for this spunky young lady. The American frontier would have been just as good a setting for this story, and we identify with it wholeheartedly. 


Innocence (2000), with a largely unknown Australian cast, is about a widowed man and married woman, both well into middle age, who rediscover each other after many years of going their separate ways. Both tender and sensuous, it approaches the subject of love among the not-so-young about as well as anything since Queen of the Stardust Ballroom (1975) or Brief Encounter (1945).


Mel Gibson was not always a household word, either on these shores or in his native Australia. What put him on their map, and ours, is a series of outlandish films about the world in the distant future. In these exciting films, gasoline and goodness are in equally short supply. The new world order consists of a few daring policemen and crazed androidal bikers. Doesn’t sound like much, does it? But Mel is a decent, resourceful cop whose family is killed by crazies. He vows revenge. The stunts are amazing, and the look is like nothing ever seen before or since. Mad Max (1979) is the best, followed closely by The Road Warrior (1981) and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985). The last one is a bit of a stretch but does feature as a dominatrix Tina Turner (of all people!).


All of the movies in this column are available in DVD. All are for mature audiences.