Marvellous Melbourne 1915

An early documentary film about the City of Melbourne, then the interim capital city of Australia. Made in 1910.

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The director Charles Cozens Spencer was famous for his bushranger films: “Captain Starlight” (Robbery Under Arms), “Captain Midgnight – The Bush King”, “The Life and Adventures of John Vane, The Notorious Australian Bushranger”, “Dan Morgan, The Terror of the Australian Bush” (Mad Dog Morgan). He also made the 1915 Film “The Shepherd of the Southern Cross.” He introduced Australia’s greatest silent film-maker, Raymond Longford, to the business. He died in September 1930 (he shot himself after going on a killing spree in Canada).

Special contents of this edition copyright 2010 Shane I Sullivan. Permission to use these items is granted under creative commons licence.

For the Term of His Natural Life 1927

for the term of his natural life

Based on the Australian classic by Marcus Clarke, the story of convict Rufus Dawe was based on fact and reflects that of many convicts of Australia’s early days. Rufus Dawe has been wrongfully accused of a crime he did not commit, and sent to the harsh penal colony of Van Diemen’s Land, Australia – for the term of his natural life. In his attempts to escape the colony forever, he falls in love with a warden’s daughter, Sylvia, confronts his sinister lookalike John Rex, and the evil convict Gabbet. American director Norman Dawn’s movie adaptation strays from the original book but retains a strong visual style, especially in climactic crowd scenes. It is notorious as the movie that was meant to launch Australia into the world movie market, but instead cost investors thousands after the coming of sound stymied its potential for overseas success. Written by Camille Scaysbrook <>

Director: Norman Dawn
Box office: 40,000 GBP (by 1928)
Story by: Marcus Clarke
Screenplay: Norman Dawn, Gayne Dexter

Stars: George Fisher, Eva Novak, Dunstan Webb

Robbery Under Arms 1920


This 1920 silent film was made by Kenneth Brampton, who wrote, produced, directed and starred in it.

The story concerns a real life bushranger (outlaw) named Captain Starlight, who became a national hero (like Ned Kelly). It is based on a classic Australian novel by Rolf Boldrewood (the pen name of Thomas Browne).

This was the third film of the novel. The first, directed by Charles McMahon, was an early feature film made shortly after “The Story of the Kely Gang”. The second was made in 1911. The 1957 Rank Organisation production starring Peter Finch was one of the most popular Australian films of the 1950s. It was again remade as a TV mini-series in 1985 starring Sam Neill.

The 1920 version is one of the few surviving independently produced Australian silent films.

This version comes from a video tape released by the New South Wales Department of Education, Sydney in 1984. This is from a multi-generational VHS copy. I have put the video through as much video noise reduction as I could without effecting the image. Its not very good quality but this is a decent movie and a valuable artifact. There is no musical soundtrack. This video is completely silent.


Director: Kenneth Brampton
Screenplay: Kenneth Brampton
Story by: Thomas Alexander Browne
Producer: Pearson Tewksbury
Cast: Kenneth Brampton, Charles Chauvel, Roy Redgrave