Overland Adventure: The Story of the 1954 Redex Reliability Trial (1954)
This is a Cinesound documentary about the Round Australia 1954 Redex Reliability Trial – a 15,450 kilometre motor endurance rally over rough terrain and unsealed roads. Overland Adventure follows the changing fortunes of some of the 246 entrants during the 18-day journey.
Directed by Ken G Hall and filmed by four Cinesound camera operators travelling in two film units, Overland Adventure documents one of the most well-known sporting events of the 1950s. The Redex Reliability Trials were held annually from 1953 to 1955. These marathons tested standard cars driven at high velocity over some of the roughest terrain in the world.
The inaugural event in 1953 (co-organised by Redex and the Australian Sporting Car Club) attracted 50,000 people to witness the cars leaving Sydney. Even before the end of the 1953 trial, the 1954 event was being planned. Both Cinesound and Movietone covered the trial in their newsreels. While this trial was being run, news about the Petrov Affair broke and the two events competed for headlines. The trial provided a lot of content for the Cinesound newsreels and the popularity of the event encouraged Cinesound Productions to make this film. Phillip Noyce fictionalised the competitive newsreel era in his classic film Newsfront (1978) and even recreated the scandal and adventure of covering the Redex trials (see Newsfront, clip two).
The documentary captures the excitement and adrenalin of a great sporting race (aided by some fantastic camerawork shot from inside vehicles and close to the action), combined with a commentary which frames the narrative within the context of the Australian outback and the country’s harsh conditions. As the rally continues and the motorists leave the sealed roads for those of dirt and mud, the challenging terrain provides the enthusiastic commentator with many of his best lines. The Australian fauna and livestock often provide moments of humour as well.
Overland Adventure was filmed the same year that the Shell Film Unit released its feature-length documentary The Back of Beyond (1954) and it is interesting to compare how the Australian landscape is presented in both films.