Mad Dog Morgan (Umbrella) (1976)

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Released 12-Jan-2009

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Audio Commentary-With Director, Philippe Mora
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-To Shoot A Mad Dog
Interviews-Cast-That's Our Mad Dog - A Conversation with Dennis Hopper
Interviews-Crew-Radio Interview with Philippe Mora
Additional Footage-Mad Dog Morgan Film Excerpts
DVD-ROM Extras-DVD-Rom - Mad Dog Morgan Screenplay
DVD-ROM Extras-Mad Dog Morgan Original Program
Gallery-Photo-63 Images
Teaser Trailer-Umbrella Trailers
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1976
Running Time 98:43
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Philippe Mora

Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Dennis Hopper
Jack Thompson
David Gulpilil
Frank Thring
Michael Pate
Wallas Eaton
Bill Hunter
John Hargreaves
Martin Harris
Robin Ramsay
Graeme Blundell
Gregory Apps
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $24.95 Music Patrick Flynn

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Unknown English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.30:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    "By all means, off with his head...and don't forget the scrotum"...Superintendent Cobham   

    The legend of Ned Kelly and the Kelly gang is firmly grounded in Australian folklore. The story of his rebellion from a repressive establishment has made him a national hero. But years before Ned Kelly roamed the Victorian countryside, there lived another young man from Irish stock who started on the road to ruin through similar circumstances.

    Mad Dog Morgan is an accurate portrayal of the life of Daniel Morgan, a bushranger of great notoriety in Australia during the mid 1800's. The screenplay was written by director, Philippe Mora, based on the book, Morgan the Bold Bushranger, by Margaret Carnegie. Philippe's background in documentary filmmaking fueled his quest for authenticity in the film. Although there was some artistic licence taken, most of the film is historically accurate, even to the point of filming at the actual locations.

    The cast of Mad Dog Morgan includes scores of well known faces from Australian stage, screen and television - many of them in very small roles. The film is blessed with excellent performances from some of our most respected actors. Worthy of special mention are, Bill Hunter, Jack Thompson, David GulpililJohn Hargreaves and the perfectly cast Frank Thring in the role of Superintendent Cobham.

    The most interesting and controversial piece of casting though was that of American actor, Dennis Hopper in the lead role of Daniel Morgan. Hopper wasn't the first choice to play the role. Stacy Keach and Martin Sheen were both considered, but their involvement fell through for various reasons. Mora and producer, Jeremy Thomas both met with Hopper at his home in New Mexico and thought instantly, he would be right for the role.

    Rumors that Dennis Hopper and his style of method acting were difficult to deal with had many truths. But as Philippe Mora discusses in his commentary, generally Dennis was professional and great to work with throughout the entire production. (Some of Hopper's eccentric behavior can been witnessed on the featurette, To Shoot A Mad Dog, which is included as an extra on this DVD).

    Certainly, another of the great assets of Mad Dog Morgan is Mike Molloy's superb use of the cinemascope ratio. Previously working as a camera operator on such films as Kubrick's, A Clockwork Orange and Barry Lyndon, Mad Dog Morgan was Molloy's first feature film as a director of photography. The serene and often surreal beauty of the Australian landscape is placed in juxtaposition with acts of harsh brutality.

     A young  Daniel Morgan moved from his home in New South Wales to try his luck on the goldfields of Castlemaine in Victoria. But, like most prospectors, he found nothing and was soon living desperately. Daniel's desperation turned him towards serious crime and he committed an ill conceived highway robbery. He was quickly captured and sentenced to 12 years hard labour. His time spent in prison was torturous and degrading, but with good behavior and hard work, Morgan was granted a ticket of leave after serving just 6 years.

    On his release Dan Morgan returned to NSW and to a life of bushranging. He began a series of daring hold ups, stealing anything of value. Over time Morgan's crimes became increasingly violent. When Morgan shot and killed  Sergeant David Maginnity on 24 July 1864, the NSW government placed a bounty of £1000 on his head. Some months later another policeman, Senior Sergeant Thomas Smyth was shot by Morgan. He survived the initial impact, but died soon after.

    With great bushcraft skills and with the assistance of the bush telegraph, Daniel Morgan remained at large for many months. In April 1865 he crossed the Murray River and moved into Victoria. On the 8th April he held up the McPherson family at Peechalba Station near Wangaratta. When Morgan allowed a nursemaid to attend to a child's crying, she actually went for help. The following morning the property was surrounded by police and armed volunteers - all of them seeking to make a name for themselves and bring an end to Daniel Morgan's reign of terror.

    Mad Dog Morgan was generally well received by critics, but it didn't achieve great sales at the box office. One possible reason could have been some of the violence in the film. Most of the scenes seem quite moderate by today's standards, but they were very confronting in the mid-seventies. There were also other issues, including inadequate promotion of the film by the distributor, which probably contributed to the lack of audience support. All in all, Mad Dog Morgan suffered a similar fate to many other excellent Australian films of the era. Fortunately though, the passage of time allows us to view these films in retrospect, revaluating there worth and importance to the history of Australian cinema.

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Transfer Quality


     The precise aspect ratio for this edition of Mad Dog Morgan measured in at 2:29.1. This is extremely close to the original aspect ratio of 2:35.1. The transfer is also 16x9 enhanced.

    If you own, or have seen any previous DVD version of this film, you'll be blow away by this Umbrella edition. The restored print from the National Film & Sound Archive delivers excellent results in colour and clarity. Blacks are bold and clean. Shadow detail was equally impressive.

    The rich colours in Mike Molloy's stunning cinematography are lively and beautifully balanced.

    There were no MPEG artefacts in the transfer. Film-to-video artefacts were also kept in check. The occasional small film artefact was evident, but these were infrequent and negligible.

    There are no subtitles available on this DVD.

    This is a DVD 9, dual layer disc. The layer change was easily noticed at 78:14.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     There are two audio tracks available on the DVD, English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s) and English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s).

    Dialogue quality was clear throughout and there were no obvious issues with audio sync. A couple of audible pops were heard during the film, but these weren't problematic.

    The original score by Patrick Flynn is a mix of traditional and classical. This contrasts well with the Aboriginal songs and didgeridoo playing of David Gulpilil. Patrick also uses some moody choral arrangements to great effect in the score.

    The surround channels and the subwoofer were not used.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use




    The main menu is animated, 16x9 enhanced and features a traditional song used in the film.


Director's Audio Commentary - Philippe Mora

    A very informative commentary from Philippe Mora, which gives great insight into all aspects of the production. Philippe relays a steady stream of anecdotes throughout the film. Of particular interest are those relating to the joys and the problems of working with Dennis Hopper. He also discusses with enthusiasm the strong contributions made by the cast and crew.Recommended.

Featurette: To Shoot A Mad Dog (23:36)

    This fascinating behind-the-scenes documentary is narrated by Philippe Mora and was shot during the actual filming of Mad Dog Morgan. It features on-set interviews with Dennis Hopper  and plenty of candid footage from the making of the film. Of particular interest is the preparation and filming of the "man-on-fire" stunt by legendary Australian stuntman, Grant Page. This scene appears late in the film as a dream sequence.

That's Our Mad Dog - A Conversation with Dennis Hopper & Philippe Mora (27:47)

    This conversation between Philippe and Dennis was produced in 2008 by Umbrella Entertainment, for this DVD edition. Philippe talks to Dennis about aspects of his life, as well as his memories of Mad Dog Morgan. Both men have a genuine respect for each other, which certainly comes across in their conversation. Their discussion is also quite humorous at times.

Radio Interview with Philippe Mora (14:22)

    This is an audio only interview, which was recorded just before the US release of the film. Philippe discusses aspects of the film with an unknown presenter. The interview was produced by the Australian Information Service in New York.

Mad Dog Morgan Film Excerpts (7:04)

    A non-descript collection of un-restored clips from the film.

Photo Gallery

    A collection of 63 images, both from the film and behind-the-scenes.

Mad Dog Morgan Script (DVD-Rom)

    This is a scanned copy of the original 152 page screenplay. It's interesting to note that the final line of dialogue spoken in the film has been altered slightly from the original screenplay.

Mad Dog Morgan Program (DVD-Rom)

    This is a scanned copy of the 15 page program that was issued for the premiere of the film. It contains text and photos with historical information about Daniel Morgan and background information about the film.

Umbrella Trailers

  • The Chant Of Jimmie Blacksmith (2:24)
  • Picnic At Hanging Rock  (4:40)
  • Robbery Under Arms  (1:31)
  • Jessica  (2:38)

    R4 vs R1

    NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

        As any fan of  Mad Dog Morgan would know, there are quite a few poor quality DVD editions of the film floating about. A few years ago, there was even a free copy included with the sale of a particular Australian DVD magazine. I can say that all of these editions are inferior to this Umbrella release.

        I'll compare the Umbrella edition with the R1, Troma edition of the film, which was released back in March 2005. The Troma release is a very poor quality, cropped transfer in a ratio of 1.66:1. The extras consist of brief interviews with Philippe Mora and Dennis Hopper.

        There is no doubt that the best DVD version of Mad Dog Morgan currently available is this region free, Umbrella edition.


          Although it's never had a high profile, Mad Dog Morgan  played a role in the rebirth of the Australian film industry during in the seventies. Apart from minor artistic licence, Philippe Mora's screenplay has stayed faithful to Margaret Carnegie's book and to the story of Daniel Morgan. The passage of time has certainly diminished the shock value of the film, but nothing has been lost from its dramatic intensity.

        Finally, Mad Dog Morgan has been given the respect of a high quality video and audio transfer.

        A comprehensive selection of informative and relevant extras caps off an excellent DVD presentation.



  • Ratings (out of 5)


    © Steve Crawford (Tip toe through my bio)
    Thursday, January 29, 2009
    Review Equipment
    DVDJVC XV-N412, using Component output
    DisplayHitachi 106cm Plasma Display 42PD5000MA (1024x1024). Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
    Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
    AmplificationPanasonic SA-HE70 80W Dolby Digital and DTS
    SpeakersFronts: Jensen SPX7 Rears: Jensen SPX4 Centre: Jensen SPX13 Subwoofer: Jensen SPX17

    Other Reviews NONE
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