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Bitter Springs (1950)

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clip Rescue and recriminations

Original classification rating: G. This clip chosen to be PG

Clip description

The Kings have run out of water. They are holed up in the only room left standing after the Aborigines have burned down the house. They wait anxiously for the impending attack, which they won’t be able to withstand. When it finally comes, they stand ready to fight but the Aborigines themselves are under attack. Trooper Ransom (Michael Pate) and his men round them up, and the King family are safe. Ransom and Wally King (Chips Rafferty) talk about the justice of what has happened. Wally wonders if he could ever get the Aborigines to work with him to raise sheep. A closing shot shows this happening in the future.

Curator’s notes

The ending that Ralph Smart wrote would have been quite different: the whites were to massacre the blacks in a final showdown, but this was overruled at Ealing’s London headquarters. The new ending is certainly fairly arbitrary: the cavalry arrives in the nick of time. Perhaps the only concession to Smart’s more hardline attitude is in the speech by Michael Pate’s Trooper Ransom, to the effect that there is little justice in this outcome. The scenes of the troopers chasing fleeing Aborigines now have an eerie resonance, too, in the light of the number of actual massacres that are believed to have taken place in the settlement of Australia. The final shot of the black men on the wagon, and under guard on the ground, is reminiscent of actual photographs of police actions to remove Aborigines from their lands in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The images are powerful, even with the forced optimism of the final sheep-shearing shot.

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