The Overlanders (1946) starring Chips Rafferty, John Nugent Hayward, Daphne Campbell, Jean Blue, Helen Grieve, John Fernside, Peter Pagan, Frank Ransome directed by Harry Watt Movie Review

The Overlanders (1946)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Chips Rafferty in The Overlanders (1946)

Ealing Down Under

With the fear that the Japanese will soon invade the Northern territory a scorched earth policy is put into effect where Australian families and businesses would rather destroy their property than allow it to fall into the hands of the enemy. The destruction also extends to livestock which doesn't sit comfortably with Dan McAlpine (Chips Rafferty) when he is ordered to shoot a thousand head of cattle. So instead he gets permission to drive them 1600 miles to Queensland, a treacherous journey across the Australian outback with a mismatched bunch of helpers.

Up until now I had always thought of Ealing Studios as a very British company which turned out some entertaining movies in Post War Britain. But then I came across "The Overlanders" and here is Ealing making a movie in Australia with a storyline which whilst set during the war is very much a western with its cattle drive. Yet there is still something Ealing about it with the small group of people which we follow being representative of an entire nation.

Now I did say that "The Overlanders" is very much a western and as we follow this group of people as they drive cattle we have various dangers which they encounter from a river with crocodiles to dehydrated cattle becoming dangerous. But unlike a western "The Overlanders" is narration heavy as Dan talks us through the journey from how long it took to cross the coastal plain to how a young woman worked out as a drover. It also suffers from some strained acting as some of those in supporting cast recite their lines as if they have just read them off of a card and rush them out in order not to forget their words.

Yet whilst "The Overlanders" has various issues and is basically an Australian western set during WWII it strangely works. The danger of crossing a crocodile infested river has some real tension and whilst Chip Rafferty's narration gets a little annoying he plays his character well.

What this all boils down to is that "The Overlanders" is frankly a flawed movie with various things which really hold it back yet this Australian western based around a true story is still entertaining and much more than the propaganda piece which it was originally intended to be.