Sunday, 23 August 2015

Mad Dog Morgan

I heard an item on the radio yesterday morning about Ned Kelly, and it put in mind Philippe Mora's 1976 Australian western Mad Dog Morgan which I watched earlier... It's been a while since I last saw the film and had forgotten the surreal nightmare sequence where a man in flames emerges from the waters at the bottom of a gorge, and scales a huge cliff wall to engulf Dennis Hopper's titular character. It's an extraordinary moment in the film (the still below does it little justice), courtesy of a simple reverse shot, but an incredible Cocteauesque vision all the same. Exploring the supplements on the Umbrella DVD, footage of the filming of the stunt is included in the 23min documentary They Shoot a Mad Dog: The Making of Mad Dog Morgan, and watching stuntman Grant Page being set on fire and back-flipping off a huge cliff into the the rock-strewn waters below remains a jaw-dropping bit of daredevilry. The stunt proved as dangerous as it looked, Page received some serious burns when his crew failed to quench his burning body fast enough, and it must have weighed heavy on the film's 26 year old director - the look of anxiety on his face as Page discusses the logistics of the shot is palpable. Afterwards Page cheerfully shrugs off the injury - "As long as the shot looks good mate, that's all that matters"

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