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The Overlanders (1946) Online

The Overlanders (1946) Online
Original Title :
The Overlanders
Genre :
Movie / Adventure / Western
Year :
Directror :
Harry Watt
Cast :
Chips Rafferty,John Nugent Hayward,Daphne Campbell
Writer :
Harry Watt
Type :
Time :
1h 31min
Rating :
The Overlanders (1946) Online

It's the start of WWII in Northern Australia. The Japanese are getting close. People are evacuating and burning everything in a "scorched earth" policy. Rather than kill all their cattle, a disparate group decides to drive them overland half way across the continent.
Complete credited cast:
Chips Rafferty Chips Rafferty - Dan McAlpine
John Nugent Hayward John Nugent Hayward - Bill Parsons
Daphne Campbell Daphne Campbell - Mary Parsons
Jean Blue Jean Blue - Mrs. Parsons
Helen Grieve Helen Grieve - Helen Parsons
John Fernside John Fernside - Corky
Peter Pagan Peter Pagan - Sailor ("Sinbad")
Frank Ransome Frank Ransome - Charlie
Stan Tolhurst Stan Tolhurst - Manager
Marshall Crosby Marshall Crosby - Minister
John Fegan John Fegan - Police Sergeant
Clyde Combo Clyde Combo - Aborigine Jacky
Henry Murdoch Henry Murdoch - Aborigine Nipper

Chips Rafferty starred alongside Jack Lemmon playing the island watcher Patterson in the 1960 The Wackiest Ship in the Army.

User reviews



The acting is a little awkward (Chips Rafferty excepted) and it doesn't matter a damn. It's a problem-solving picture. There's a large herd of cattle on the coast of the Northern territory and six people must lead it overland to pastures just north of Brisbane; obstacles crop up, and we watch, absorbed, as our characters take the most rational path around them. Our heroes (yes, even the Scottish sailor - well, PERHAPS the Scottish sailor) have enough native charm to make us care about them, and even if they didn't, the vastness of the landscape and the detailed realism of their trek would do the job just as well.

Two bonus, uncalled-for pleasures: the music (John Ireland's first and last film score), and the cinematography - amazingly attractive when you consider that Australian landscapes (rather dull to begin with) tend not to photograph well, certainly not in the harsh bright sunlight that Harry Watt, in the interests of realism, chose to shoot in. Watt was right to choose harsh sunlight. The film is half documentary, half fiction, without feeling like an awkward cross between the two. You'll read that Watt's talents were limited, and I can readily believe they were, but in "The Overlanders" his weaknesses come across as little more than extensions of his strengths. It's exactly the film he wanted, needed and in all likelihood was born to make.


This is an impressive film, crammed with poetic images. The strong story, elegantly told, revolves around a team of cattle-drovers who undertake an epic task: to move a herd of 1,000 cattle from the north coast of Australia 1,600 miles across the outback to Queensland. A late wartime flag-waver, this movie was Ealing Studios' first foray into 'empire' subject matter. With Australia's Northern Territory facing the threat of invasion by the Japanese, a small group of assorted individuals decides to drive a herd overland to keep it from falling into the enemy's hands. Relying on their own inherent grit and resourcefulness, the overlanders cope with crocodiles, drought, desertions and stampedes as they try to bring their cattle safely into Brisbane. Chips Rafferty, as Dan McAlpine, the leader of the team, personifies Australian qualities of toughness and decency. Nicely understated action scenes and a relaxed, naturalistic style of acting make this a very watchable movie. The viewer is skilfully drawn in, and quickly develops genuine concern for the likeable characters. All in all, an excellent film.
The Sphinx of Driz

The Sphinx of Driz

Ealing Studios primarily known for those British comedies of which some of the best starred Alec Guinness went really out of character when they produced The Overlanders which is a modern southwestern and an outdoor film at that. It's a fictionalized account of some Aussie cattle drovers from the north who when faced with a possible invasion from Japan in 1940 drove a thousand head of cattle from the north, southeast to Brisbane to keep them out of enemy hands. Chips Rafferty who was the Australian movie star for three decades stars as the man whose vision and hard work made it possible.

A cattle drive is a cattle drive and those of us who've seen American films like Red River, The Texans, and Cowboy are familiar enough with the job requirements for herding cattle. Of course the casts of those classics. But John Wayne didn't have three women in his crew going to Missouri. Chips did, a mother and two daughters of one of his crew and they certainly held up their end.

It was interesting to see that rather than lariats the stockmen used bullwhips to keep the cattle moving. Not that they whipped the cattle because I think that would have produced some angry beasts. But the sound of the whips snapping is what keeps them moving. Of course ropes are there if needed and in one rather harrowing sequence a rope is what saves a really bad situation.

Another interesting sequence is when their train of horses gets into some poisonous weed and they lose several, a herd of wild horses called in Australia 'brumbies' are captured and broken for use. Now that can be found in a lot of American westerns.

The cattle drive of 1940 is but part of the story of Australia's greatest hour of danger and how their people came through. Darwin was bombed by the Japanese and until the Australian army was retrieved from North Africa the continent was in its greatest peril. You can see that in Nicole Kidman's Australia.

This film didn't quite have the budget Australia did, but it's a fine film from down under and a tribute to some brave and resolute people.


Somewhat dated at the turn of the century but a wonderful look back at outback life at the end of WWII. There is no pretence in this movie... it is an honest insight into the life of the drovers who, before road trains, faced the outback with their vast herds of cattle and drove them for months through all conditions. Rafferty is of course the perfect image of the young drover of those days. There is even some dialogue relevant to the changing country and things that we would understand 50 years later. A must see for all Aussies.


"The Overlanders" is a depiction of Australia and Australians that could perhaps be regarded today as more mythical than real but the film is a worthy one as a semi-documentary look at droving as it was prior to the advent of rail and road trains.

Chips Rafferty, the Crocodile Dundee of his day, plays the part of what was seen as the typical Australian. He was frank, laconic, tough, dedicated to the task, resourceful and, above all, a friendly sort of bloke. His understated, matter-of-fact narration is a highlight."When a bore goes dry on you like that, you're in a mess." Helen, the young teen daughter, played by Helen Grieve is another highlight. There is an authenticity to her even though by today's standards her delivery sounds a bit awkward. Her physique and movement give the impression that she could really rough it in the outback. She portrayed a bush girl who could ride a horse or run with a natural ease or take a fall without fear. Grieve was used to good effect in "Bush Christmas" a year later.

Best of all, "The Overlanders" did not demonise nor patronise the Aborigines (blacks). Yes, they are depicted as workers/drovers who are there only to help and are socially separate from the whites but this is how it was. They are never used as the butt of jokes nor is their culture gratuitously questioned or ridiculed. The "wild blacks" who passively observe the cattle drive from a rock formation are given a sense of dignity without being patronised as being "noble savages".

There are far worse ways to spend an afternoon than by watching this film. You learn of some things about droving and there are a few cultural and historical bits and pieces along the way. And the stark, ragged beauty and terror of Australia's north is always worth a look.


I haven't seen this film for many years, but I still fondly remember it. I probably saw it last on television around 1990 or so, but the film was good enough to leave a fond recollection of it.

POTENTIAL PLOT SPOILER FOLLOWS? In theme, it's very much like American cattle drive movies, in that a large heard of cattle must be driven across a long distance against adversity, but its set against a WWII backdrop. The cast, containing some familiar Australian actors, interacts well. The Australian bush makes for an interesting character, in a way, all of its own, although the movie is filmed in black and white, so the dynamic of color is not at work here. A female character adds an element not generally present, at least in the drover characters, in an American cattle drive movie.

A good, entertaining, movie. I wish I could find it on DVD.


This is a simple story well told, although some allowance has to be made for the limited acting skills of the principals, and for the obvious budgetary constraints (let's not forget the world was recovering from a major upheaval in 1946 when the film was made).

The characters are believable, as are their motivations and reactions to obstacles. The women are as sure-footed as the men (unusually for the time), and the same can be said for the aboriginals with respect to the white characters.

It doesn't quite qualify to be classified with (the original) "Flight of the Phoenix" but watching it is a far better way to spend a couple of hours on a wet afternoon than watching the remake of THAT excellent film.

In summary - believable (and tight) story line, above average script, acceptable acting but let down by some minimalist cinematography which doesn't make the best use of the available landscape.


THE OVERLANDERS is an Australian drama that was produced by Ealing Studios, of all places. Needless to say that it's completely unlike the affectionate British comedies that Ealing are best known for. Instead this is a hard-bidden story of cattle drovers working during WW2 to save thousands of their cattle from falling into the hands of the Japanese, who may well invade the north of the country.

History, of course, tells us that the Japanese never did get around to invading Australia, but nonetheless this story has a drive and momentum that sees it through. The story is told dispassionately with the central characters just as tough as the environment they're travelling through. THE OVERLANDERS works well by adopting a semi-documentary feel that enhances the realism and the drama of the various obstacles that the drovers face; cliffs and crocodiles are just but two of them. As the laconic hero, Chips Rafferty fills the screen perfectly, and Daphne Campbell proves her worth as the feisty young girl just as skilled as the older men.