“It’s your money or your life and it’s in that order!”
“Stand and deliver sir!”
Mad Dog Morgan’s famous lines still enliven me nearly 20 years after my first viewing of Phillippe Mora’s (The Beast Within, Howling II-III) scalding film of the same name. Morgan is one of Dennis Hopper’s most esoteric and surreal characters he’s ever done. The brilliance and rich cultural elements (which include real shot-on locations of the original bushranger, the casting of the aborigine actor David Gulpilil as Billy, and the hauntingly beautiful aborigine score) of the film craft one of the most venerated and unforgettable Ozploitation classics ever filmed.
Mad Dog Morgan (1976) follows the real-life exploits of John Fuller a.k.a. Daniel “Mad Dog” Morgan. The film’s truthful elements are skewered by critics and the citizens of the South Wales/Victoria Australian districts that Morgan once roamed. The police districts still acknowledge his crimes to this day, commemorating their fallen police officers with plaques and memorials at the locations of where the crimes occurred. The film gives great insight on the crimes and exploits of Morgan but ultimately go for a more dramatic appeal when closing the film with a staged rendition of Morgan’s death.
As mentioned, the film follows Morgan from gold rush miner to bushranger criminal. The opening scene of the mining camp and the subsequent Chinese camp slaughter convey the sense of unlawful and racial scorn. And because Morgan is purveyor of fairness and racial integration, he is deemed a lawless instigator and left to fend for himself in the wilds of Australia’s outback. Morgan does what he has to in order to survive, but he never kills unless his life is threatened. Morgan’s thievery and criminal antics land him in prison where he is literally (as the tag line suggests) beaten, branded, and brutalized. Morgan is beaten randomly for insubordination, suffers a painful “M” (malefactor) branding on his palm, and is brutally raped by the other prisoners in his cell. After 6 years served of a 12 year sentence, Morgan embarks on a vengeful journey which brings him to a path of righteousness amongst his peers and ultimately his death. Morgan also battles sorrow for having to become a notorious man on the run (spine-tingling scenes that Dennis Hopper portrays flawlessly).
In the character of Mad Dog Morgan, Hopper portrays some of his finest work ever put to celluloid. The impact of Mad Dog Morgan on the film world and Australian society in general is unparalleled. To this day, the film still stings with the razored-edge bite that history has unveiled through times of peril and hate.
The film has many different releases with the Troma distributions being superior. You can find the DVDs HERE. You can also watch Mad Dog Morgan online free via Youtube but I do recommend you purchase a copy and keep it in your collection forever.
RIP Dennis Hopper…and thank you.