Continuum: The Australian Journal of Media & Culture
Vol. 6, No. 1, 1992
Radio - Sound
Edited by Niall Lucy

Cross-cultural reception studies: culturally variant readings of Crocodile Dundee

Stephen Crofts


I. Cross-Cultural Reception Studies: Methodology

As global image markets expand, so it becomes the more important to analyse the foreign receptions accorded to exported films. The cultural knowledges which a given film-viewing community brings to a given text will clearly affect both the readings made of it as well as its popularity. Eric Rentschler has valuably analysed the US construction of New German Cinema in terms of the importer's ignoring the cultural specificities and production processes of the texts concerned, together with a corollary elevation of the author as prime source of meaning. Such dehistoricising moves encourage and reinforce the growing bland internationalism of much art cinema (Boehringer and Crofts).

Test screenings, audience surveys and market research specialists are amongst the divining rods used by producers and distributors to fathom films' likely market acceptabilities. Working post hoc, film historians would appear to be better placed to understand the reasons for success or failure than filmmakers are to predict successes. Yet surprisingly little work on this has been done in reception studies or, more particularly, in cross-cultural reception studies, beyond the sharing of anecdotes about culturally differential readings of given films, and impressionistic gestures about "favourable overseas reception" which usually serve jingoistic ends (see White). Adequately large samples of reviews, however, offer the analyst the most reliable basis for systematic examination of readings of texts. For reviews are both opinion-leaders and responsible to the commonality of their readerships. No other source yields such detailed and condensed responses to texts, nor so readily allows the analyst to make symptomatic readings which sidestep the empiricist pitfalls of mass communications research methodology. A reliable sample needs to be considerably larger than the handful of reviews customarily cited as "evidence" of overseas success of, say, Australian product.

Cross-cultural reception study can focus on different reading groups both within and between given nation-states. That I focus here on the latter is not to buy the nationalist fictions of any 'imagined political community' (Anderson 15) or their homogenisations of class, gender, ethnic, regional and other differences. Theoretically, my inter-national focus assumes the continued effectiveness of the nation as political unit (Williams 192-93) and refuses the miasmic transnational confusions of some of the further reaches of post-modernism. Methodologically, given the centrality of reviews as the major data source, analysis of different national readings yields a sufficiently large sample, whereas "sub-cultural" analyses could be supported only by small samples offering inadequate bases for analytical comparison.

Crocodile Dundee was selected for analysis here because it is the internationally most successful Australian film ever made, the tip of an inglorious iceberg of Australian films of the mid-1 980s which sought to break into the lucrative US market and mostly ended up as cable fodder (Crofts "Shifting"). Three criteria obtained in the selection of the two samples of fourteen reviews representing respectively the US and the UK receptions of Crocodile Dundee: the influence and size of readership of the papers and magazines concerned; their representativeness of the spread of publications in the country concerned, geographically and by assumed literacy/intelligence of readership; and the comparability of such spreads of publications across the two countries. Details are elaborated in Appendix 1 below. Newspapers and weekly magazines were selected as those publications both most likely to frame viewers' opinions of texts and reaching a wider readership than specialist monthly or quarterly publications. This article works from the hypothesis that a properly constructed comparison of two countries' reviews of the same film may yield significant conclusions about national cultural differences, and in particular about foreign constructions of the film's country of origin. The conclusions u ill have both intellectual and policy benefits.

Reviewers' constructions of films are not, of course, necessarily constrained by the text concerned. Publications' assumptions about, and constructions of, their readership can sometimes produce readings surprising to outsiders. The more specialist the publication, the more partisan may be the reading. The New York Christian Science Monitor's reviews often have a religious/moral line, yet those of Women's Wear Daily have no comparable concern with fashion. An extreme is found in a 1965 review of Dr Zhivago by the London Jewish Chronicle where comments on acting and religion converged in an extended diatribe against Omar Sharif as an Arab actor, and thence into a denunciation of the whole film. It is, then, always possible for a reviewer to read a given film in terms of a category which the film's text does not overtly set out. It is thus common for upmarket liberal reviews in the US, UK and Australia to comment on films' sexist representations of women and men, notably the reviews of Judith Williamson during her stint at the UK New Statesman. The small "l" liberal politics of such publications allows a space for feminist politics; liberal and feminist discourses overlap in ways which, say, liberal and fundamentalist religious discourses do not. Conversely, reviews may make no comment on textual features of apparent obviousness. In Crocodile Dundee, for instance, none of the samples' reviews took up the ecological issue of shooting kangaroos - as did several reviews of similar material in Wake in Fright - despite the fact that the film lends itself to such a reading. The closest approach was one review's suggestion that this 'unattractive national characteristic ... is presented as an aberration by drunken city folk on a spree' (Independent, Adam Mars-Jones, 11/12/86).

The reviews were analysed according to the discursive categories in terms of which they constructed the film concerned (see Appendix 2). The category of ethnicity, for instance, concerns the ways in which the given review constructs ethnicity in relation to the film (exceptionally without relation to it). The category of author concerns how the given review mobilises the discourse of film authorship in relation to the film. And so on. Many categories are common in most, if not all, film reviews. Clear instances are descriptions of genre (where applicable) and film reviewing's staple of appraisals of the performances of the principal actors. Any category can be given an evaluative inflection. Thus gender descriptions of Linda Kozlowski in Crocodile Dundee divided, according to the gender politics of the review, into the likes of 'spunky', 'leggy', etcetera or conversely (with irony) 'our lovely heroine ... a pushover for a "real man"'.

Examples of discursive categories in terms of which Crocodile Dundee was not constructed by the sample reviews were religion, history and violence. The relevant categories (derived from the checklist in Appendix 2) were:

a. Textual signifieds
1. Nation
2. Land/cityscape
3. Heroism
5. Class
6. Gender
7. Sexuality
8. Ethnicity
11. Environment, ecology
13. Theme: innocence
2. Textual signifiers
b. Genre
2. Author/creative input
3. Acting
4. Star
5. Characterisation
6. Photography
7. Mise-en-scene, in this case fashion only (landscape at a.2 above)
9. Narrative structure
10. Humour
11. Satire
12. Tone, here charm
13. Art/entertainment
c. Institutional features
1. National cinema
2. Non-Australian film references
4. Distribution and exhibition, here Australian and US
markets
4. Viewing recommendations (positive/negative)

II. Analysis

Across the US and UK reviews there are many convergences, concerning the skill and charm of Hogan's acting, for example, and the film's deadpan, heart-warming humour. Three categories merit further comment. Given the fact that for US reviewers half of the film is set on home turf, it was notable how little readings of landscape differed between the US and UK samples, with roughly equal commentary on the Australian landscape as 'strikingly beautiful' (New York News, 26/9/86) or 'outback travelogue' (Sunday Telegraph, 14/12/86), and only a few more US than UK remarks on New York's urban jungle and two US observations on the film's creative licence with New York's geography.

As regards the category of national cinema, both US and UK samples made fewer references to Australian cinema than do the bulk of those countries' reviews of Australian films. Thus both the Chicago Reader (3/10/86) and What's On? (11/12/86) were pleased to note Crocodile Dundee's marked improvement on the 'vulgar' comedy of the Barry McKenzie films, and the Philadelphia Inquirer (26/9/86) praised Hogan for 'tak[ing] Australian film out of [the] sober Sunday best' of the period film. The paucity of reviews' references to national cinema found one explanation, then, in Crocodile Dundee's profound incompatibility with that genre - the period film - by which Australian cinema was preponderantly represented in US and UK film exhibition. Secondly, whereas national cinema provides reviews' customary orientation point in relation to Australian films shown in overseas markets, Crocodile Dundee successfully targeted the exhibition venues reserved for mainstream entertainment fare, and was thus treated in the US as being (as good as) a Hollywood film, and certainly not needing forms of product differentiation, such as national cinema, operative in arthouse exhibition circuits. Paramount opened the film on 26 September 1986 in 879 cinemas across the US and Canada. The only earlier Australian film to achieve wide entertainment release had been Mad Max 2, released in the US as The Road Warrior. Crocodile Dundee's monstrous success in the North American market rendered the national cinema category yet more irrelevant by the time the film reached Britain. A third reason for the rarity of reviews' references to national cinema was that this was the first Australian film to reach foreign shores heralded by an (albeit unofficial) publicity campaign, in the form of Hogan's "Put another shrimp on the barbie" advertisements for the Australian Tourist Commission in the US and the UK, his Foster's Lager advertisements in the UK, and some screenings of his television shows. All these made Hogan's face, if not his name, very well-known. The official publicity campaign included press and TV ads, sneak previews at 500 cinemas across the country on 20 September, and a 30-day press tour for Hogan accompanying the film's release.

The third category meriting some comment is authorship, which both samples attributed predominantly to Hogan. The advance publicity combined with Hogan's charismatic charm and humour in the film and with long traditions attributing authorship to greater comedians rather than lesser directors - the Marx Brothers, say, over Edward Buzzell - to promote Hogan as the film's author rather than its novice director, Peter Faiman.

Alongside such convergences of national commentaries on the film, there are three interesting and significant divergences. Given the two countries' different historical and cultural relations to Australia, it is perhaps unsurprising that representations of the Australian nation was the category which most polarised US and UK critical appraisals of the film.

Of the five US reviews discussing Australianness as seen in the film, two described a free and easy Australian lifestyle exemplified by Hogan (Kathleen Carroll in the New York Daily News, 26/9/86, and Desmond Ryan in the Philadelphia Inquirer, 26/9/86, the latter writing of 'the easygoing, extroverted "G'day mate" Aussie image'). Nina Darnton, in the New York Times' first review of the film (26/9/86), having surmised that Dundee's 'larger-than-life character is ... dear to the Australian national self-image', concluded with a comment on the insecurities of Australian national identity: 'The most popular film in Australia? This perhaps tells more about the Australian self-image than it does about the film's value'. After the film's US success, Hogan perhaps, who laughed last, laughed longest ... Andrew Sarris, whose penchant for alliteration seemingly overrode his knowledge of antipodean nation-states, invented a national emblem of 'kangaroos and kiwis' (Village Voice, 18/11/86). Sarris did evidence rather more knowledge of Australian films, however, and is the only reviewer in either the US or UK sample to take any stance on the issue of ethnicity: 'So many [sic] "serious" Australian films have plumbed the depths of racial guilt over what the settlers did to the natives that it is strange to find the biggest Australian grosser indulging in fortune cookie justifications. (The land doesn't belong to them; they belong to the land ... )'. 'Rather more knowledge of Australian films' because films such as The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith are very much the exception that proves the rule of a routine white racism which discourages serious analysis of ethnic prejudice, especially in popular films.

Vincent Canby, chief critic of the New York Times, took up the film after the huge success of its first seven weeks (it had earlier been assigned to Nina Darnton, cited above). Canby took the trouble to describe Hogan as a 'newly proud Australian, the man who doesn't apologise for not being born English, who relishes his own, very pronounced, classless accent and vocabulary, and who celebrates scepticism and the old frontier values, more or less simultaneously' (16/11/86). Yet Canby construed the film in the terms set out elsewhere by Paul Taylor: 'Australian culture ... is the beneficiary of a world-wide loss of confidence and nostalgic yearning for lost utopias' (Taylor). To this is added the salience for Americans of Australia as an ideal set for US frontier myths. In Robert Hughes' gloss: 'Australia has sold itself as this nostalgic picture of a lost frontier, and Americans, yearning after their lost primal innocence, have bought it' (Quoted in Stark). Canby thus celebrated Australia as America refinding itself: 'As I understand it, the Australians would have us believe [that Australia] is the only place left on earth where one might still be able to find the kind of character once popularly identified as "American". They may well be right ... Crocodile Dundee successfully creates the impression that there is something approaching a smogless, egalitarian American heaven on earth, though it's called Australia ... It's possible that we're now importing an ideal we used to think was exclusively American' (16/11/86). The rhetorical somersaults of projected appropriation here served an imperialist discourse which "naturally" assumes that the world exists for America to use at its will - and which in the same review allowed Canby to claim Mel Gibson as 'now [1986] as much of an American star as he is an Australian' without even needing to observe that Gibson was born and raised in New York.

American cultural ethnocentrism contrasted with British cultural familiarity with its ex-colony. The forms of representation of Australia barely even overlapped across the two samples. The exhibition of numerous post-1970 Australian movies in the UK may explain why only one of the ten UK reviews touching on Australianness recycled early 1970s stereotypes of Australians. That of ocker vulgarity died hard in the pages of the London Evening Standard (11/12/86), where Milton Shulman opened his review with the resounding declaration: 'The Australians have cultivated vulgarity as a national art form. The image of the broad-hatted, square-jawed, hard-drinking lout called Barry or Wally has become an antipodean version of John Bull or Uncle Sam ... '. The review evinced no knowledge of any Australian film shown in the UK more recently than the second Barry McKenzie outing, Barry McKenzie Holds His Own. Compare Adam Mars-Jones' more measured consideration of kangaroo shooting and male chauvinism as 'unattractive national characteristics' which the film naturalises (Independent 11/12/86). A second anti-Australian discourse dying a slow death was that of British (post-)colonial condescension towards Australia. This was exploited in its aesthetic-imperialist mode by Nigel Floyd in the New Musical Express (13/12/86), whose negative review concluded: 'The only conceivable explanation for Crocodile Dundee's huge success at the Australian and American box-office is the fact that the inhabitants of these two former colonies have had their brains irreparably damaged by the consumption of too much icy-cold Foster's or Budweiser "beer"'. In the Sunday Times (14/12/86), Iain Johnstone provided an historical corrective to such superciliousness: 'Hogan is the antithesis of Barry Humphries, whose humour essentially derides his homeland. Twenty-five years ago Humphries created Dame Edna Everage ... '. Johnstone's history suggested not just the substantial reduction of Australian cultural cringe in that quarter-century, but noted also the marketing success of Hogan's positive thinking in the US. UK cultural familiarity with positive representations of Australia enabled three reviews to adopt "Strine" accents in affectionate, if mocking, recognition. Witness the opening of Victoria Mather's Daily Telegraph review (12/12/86): 'G'day. I'll bet a bottle of champagne to a tube of Foster's that Australian comedian Paul Hogan is as big a hit with the Poms as he was with the Septic Tanks' . A more nuanced world view than the American allowed one UK review to note how, 'alternating between unnoticed gaffes and underplayed exploits, Dundee combines two styles of cinema heroism, the modest British and the swaggering American' (Independent 11/12/86, Adam Mars-Jones). Three further UK reviews clearly appreciated Australian equivocations about outright heroism (as Australian film industry doyen, Philip Adams, put it, 'Australian heroes ... tend to undercut their own self-importance with irony' (Quoted in Hamilton and Matthews).) Shaun Usher, in the Daily Mail (12/12/86), for example, described Dundee as 'the ultimate Aussie, a wild colonial boy and great company ... cashing in on the bronzed Aussie stereotype while sending it up'. And in the New Musical Express (13/12/86), Nigel Floyd regretted that 'the intriguing "hero-or-charlatan ambiguity" so carefully built in the Australian scenes is simply thrown away as if the mere contrast between Dundee's naive and charming social ease and the cynical sophistication of the New Yorkers is enough to verify his authentic heroic status once and for all' . Similarly, three of the British reviews were culturally aware enough to recognise how the film flatters or idealises both the countries in which it is set. Mars-Jones for instance: 'Audiences in two continents can have their tastes for the familiar and the exotic equally supplied ... Hogan takes care to idealise America as well as Australia' (Independent, 11/12/86).

Such perspective and even-handedness contrasted markedly with American uninterest in the Australian half and impatience to see the couple reach JFK Airport: Canby, for instance, could unashamedly write: 'Mick in-New York is what Crocodile Dundee is all about' (New York Times, 16/11/86). It is significant that the non-Australian version of the film, as I have noted elsewhere, is already some five minutes shorter than the Australian print, and that the majority of the cuts serve to streamline the meandering narrative of the film's first half ("Re-Imaging"). The US critical response cited above goes to confirm the views of Paramount, US distributor for the film, which required the cuts. The UK reviews gave equal attention to both the Australian and the American halves, whereas another five of the American sample took the same line as Canby, often presented/sublimated as aesthetic criticism of the "slowness" of the first half.

The second respect in which US and UK reviews of Crocodile Dundee substantially diverged was their constructions of political issues, of gender, class and ethnicity. Readings of gender in the film were strikingly different in the two countries' review samples, notably with regard to the sexism of the comments made about the two principals. On the one hand, critiques of Hogan/Dundee and Kozlowski/Charlton as macho and bimbo respectively could be distinguished from, on the other, those reviews which were either complicit in the sexism of these filmic representations or neutral/ambivalent towards them (if journalistic rhetorics, concerned to maximise readership, readily deploy ambivalence, in these particular instances its political effect was retrogressive rather than progressive). By these criteria, the tally for the US reviews divided near enough equally: of the film's gender construction of Hogan/Dundee, five reviews were critical and five non-critical, and on Kozlowski/Charlton four were critical and six non-critical. Yet the UK's seven comments on Kozlowski/Charlton were all sexist ('leggy' twice, 'pretty', 'blonde', 'delicious', 'spunkily attractive', 'gorgeous'). If reviews of Crocodile Dundee are representative of UK film reviews' gender politics, it is easy to appreciate London feminists' praise of Philip French's Observer reviews, which have long raised gender issues. Two US reviews viewed the film's gender politics in terms of certain Australian stereotypes. Newsweek saw Crocodile Dundee as 'a pre-Alan Alda hero who comes from a place where men are men and women are all called Sheila' (13/10/86), and the Philadelphia Inquirer read the film as 'a spoof of entrenched machismo Down Under' (26/9/86). The national differences are definitely not reducible to the sex of the reviewers. In each sample of fourteen, there was the same number of identifiable female reviewers: four or five. If we look for reasons for the disparity, differential familiarity with Hogan barely applies: his image was only a little better known in the UK than the US at the time. The simplest explanation would be the wider circulation of feminist discourses obtaining in the US than in the UK. Further analysis might consider the trainings and occupational discourses of film reviewers, a topic which lies beyond the scope of the present article and would take into account the literary and atheoretical assumptions of British critics noted by Colin McArthur.

Class analysis is rarely found in film reviews outside those of specialist left publications. Crocodile Dundee's particular textual operations make it relatively impervious to ready political criticism: the political is defused or glossed over by humour, by the romantic coupling, and by the populist tale of upward mobility: Australian outback noble savage wins daughter of media magnate from the world's media capital - and, in the sequel, installs her in his outback. Class was touched on occasionally in the reviews under examination. That such references featured more often (four times) in the US reviews than in the UK ones (once only) perhaps testifies to class being rarely on public agendas in the highly stratified realms of Britain, and to stronger left populist traditions in the US. Most references, including the UK one, concerned what Jay Carr in the Boston Globe called Kozlowski/Charlton's 'inordinately outsized expense account' (26/9/86), and focus aesthetic issues of narrative plausibility more often than political ones of unequal distribution of wealth. Witness Stephen Silverman in the New York Post (26/11/86): 'By the look of her wardrobe she's got a steamer trunk or two stashed away'. The one direct reference to class was Canby quoting Hogan being 'glad that Australia has avoided "the overactive union movement that almost killed Great Britain"' (New York Times, 16/11/86). Canby went on to endorse the film's individualist populism, distinguishing Hogan/Dundee from Rambo in being 'at one with his society'. This is, after all, a film extolling populist notions of upward mobility. Marie Mahoney's Austin Chronicle review (7/11/86) did not address class politics specifically, but roundly critiqued the film's gender politics and its construction of other political issues:

He shows her how a real man handles himself in the wild, subduing a bull, cracking a snake in half, and knifing a crocodile who's fixing to eat our lovely heroine; she lamely defends political involvement against rugged individualism and displays the under-garments sported by hip New York women....

The film doesn't distinguish between aspects of modern American culture, implicitly lumping political activism and freedom of sexual expression together with fatuous conversations at cocktail parties, drug abuse, and the nastiness of pimps as symbols of a society that's entirely missed the point ... For all Hogan's charm, this is really a trifling film - not to mention sexually and politically reactionary.

The US reviews' construction of ethnic politics in relation to the film was, again, more open than that of their UK counterparts. The tally here was five to two. Most of the references were less directly political than to do with narrative exposition of the film, for instance citing Gulpilil/Nev encountered on safari. The one exception was Sarris' Village Voice review (discussed above).

The third major divergence between the US and UK reviews of Crocodile Dundee concerned their viewing recommendations. The US sample made five positive and seven negative recommendations, with two undecided or indeterminate. The UK reviews, on the other hand, were far more supportive: eleven for, two uncertain and only one against. This marked difference drew less on differential cultural assumptions than on the film's world release schedule. After its April 1986 opening in Australia, it was released in the world's major English-language film market, the US, on 26 September 1986. It then became a classic word-of-mouth popular success; it would not go away; it topped the Variety charts for eight successive weeks and went on to become the US' greatest Fall success ever and its highest-grossing foreign film. In Varietyspeak, after ten days 'Crocodile Dundee snapped up $8,207,503 at 971 swamps ($8,452 per)'; by 19 November was still running at 225 screens nationwide; and in March 1987 was still in the top ten grossing films in the US (Variety, 8/10/86 and 26/11/86; Hollywood Reporter, 10/3/87). This is why both the New York Times and the Village Voice had a second bite of the cherry, with their senior critics, Canby and Sarris, seeking to explain the film's phenomenal success. In Sarris' words: 'I kept waiting for the movie to disappear. Instead, it clobbered everything in sight ... Finally, I had to see it for myself' (18/11/86). What for Dieckman at the Village Voice had been a 'dumb, messy movie' became for Sarris 'a textbook word-of-mouth triumph' (30/9/86, 18/11/86). At the New York Times what for Darnton had been 'a nice little comedy' became for Canby, America's principal film-critical taste-broker, 'the movie phenomenon of the year' (26/9/86, 16/11/86). Just as Sarris' and Canby's reviews constituted revisionist accounts of the film, so the film's American success "softened" the UK market, where it was released on 11 December 1986. If the film's huge Australian success mattered little to US critics, both the Australian and US successes mattered to UK critics, who frequently referred to its track record thus far.

III. Conclusions

This article has aimed to investigate culturally divergent readings of the same text. Substantively significant differences emerge in the two countries' respective constructions of Australia, and of gender, class and ethnic politics. These constructions refer back to wider cultural differences. As regards historical and cultural familiarity or otherwise with Australia, the differences might be pinpointed by comparing the UK Private Eye's decades of Barry McKenzie comic strips and the status of his creator, Barry Humphries, as major London West End theatrical institution, with the limits of Humphries' US circulation marked by his non-appearance on the US stage, the non-distribution of the first Barry McKenzie film and the unanimous critical drubbing of the second in a fugitive New York run in 1985, Kathleen Carroll describing it as 'embarrassingly awful' and Vincent Canby as 'extremely, utterly, aggressively, parochially Australian' (Daily News, 24/1/85; New York Times, 24/1/85). As regards the issue of more and less progressive politics, the differences refer back to such general conditions as greater press freedoms and less repressed discourses of sexuality obtaining in (at least major portions of) the US than are found in the UK. Intermediate questions such as the trainings and occupational discourses of film reviewers are beyond the scope of this article. What it does illustrate, however, is that cultural differences do obtain in the reading of a widely popular film, and a film unlike Breaker Morant, which fortuitously elicited sharply distinct critical responses in the US and the UK: in the former, its consideration of the rights of civilians in war was read, on its release in 1980, in terms of the My Lai massacre; while in the latter, its criticism of Lord Kitchener was read in terms of the cheek of uppity colonials (Crofts "Breaker").

Methodologically, this article has elaborated a means of reception analysis which combines qualitative with quantitative criteria. It may thus help dismantle the Berlin Wall long separating content analysis from discourse analysis in media studies, a divide built more by disciplinary territoriality than by intellectual needs.

IV. Coda: bringing it all back home

While the Australian popularity of the film has been well explained by Tom O'Regan, Australian responses to the American success of Crocodile Dundee warrant some final comment. They are symptomatic of the unequal cultural exchange operative between the two countries. Australian press accounts suggest that the film's success enacts the fantasy which its fiction proposes: in Meaghan Morris' words, 'the takeover fantasy of breaking into the circuit of media power, to invade the place of control ... Symbolic nationalist victory is declared, but on internationalist (American) grounds' (47).

Two representative examples of reports of the film's initial US popularity: even the staid Melbourne Age was moved to excitement: 'Crocodile Dundee is taking America by storm.... Things Australian are becoming the "in" topic of conversation. The critics here love this film' and quoted only two reviews (The Age, 1/10/86). And the tabloid Sydney Mirror openly enthused with the takeover fantasy: 'Aussie hero Paul Hogan has done in real life what Crocodile Dundee did in his movie ... and taken New York by storm.... The film ... had already KO'd the critics [sic]'. To these military and pugilist metaphors an editorial - few Mirror editorials could ever have been devoted to a film - added an ambassadorial one: 'Australia has a new roving ambassador - the tough, laconic and phenomenally successful Crocodile Dundee, otherwise known as Paul Hogan ... And every one [of his interviews] is a plug for Australia - a positive, bright, breezy Australia bristling with energy and talent, not the whingeing, negative world-owes-me-a-living Australia some people seem to prefer' (The Mirror, 29/10/86).

The film's overseas successes made ready copy long after its disappearance from Australian screens, authorising some quite bizarre celebrations of Hogan's worldwide success: a report of an actor suing Hogan for $1 for using her dubbed voice without permission; a feature on the pub Dundee visits in New York; on the bidet apparently in the Plaza Hotel but actually in a film studio; and on the sale, for $16,500, of the dilapidated Valiant utility truck appearing at the opening of the film (Melbourne Truth, 7/2/87; Daily Sun (Queensland), 24/1/87; Canberra Times, 19/1/87; Sydney Morning Herald, 17/3/87). In short, Hogan's film was a surefire Australian journalistic money-spinner right through to mid-1987. As is typical in an import economy, the film's overseas successes were vital to these many narratives of glowing national pride.

Appendix 1

The sample reviews selected consists of 14 US and 14 UK reviews.

US: Boston Globe, 15/9/86 rewritten and expanded 26/9/86, Jay Carr (the first review was for one of the many preview screenings held across the USA, this one as part of the Boston Film Festival, before the film's official opening on 26/9/86); Los Angeles Times, 25/9/86, Michael Wilmington; New York Times, 26/9/86, Nina Darnton; New York Daily News, 26/9/86, Kathleen Carroll; New York Post, 26/9/86, Stephen M Silverman; USA Today, 26/9/86, Mike Clark; Philadelphia Inquirer, 26/9/86, Desmond Ryan; Village Voice, 30/9/86, Katherine Dieckmann; Chicago Reader, 3/10/86, Pat Graham; Time, 13/10/86; Newsweek, 13/10/86; Austin Chronicle, 7/11/86, Marie Mahoney; New York Times, 16/11/86, Vincent Canby; Village Voice, 18/11/86, Andrew Sarris.

UK: What's On, 11/12/86, P.B.; Guardian, 11/12/86, Derek Malcolm; London Evening Standard, 11/12/86, Milton Shulman; Independent, 11/12/86, Adam Mars-Jones; Financial Times, 12/12/86, Nigel Andrews; Daily Mail, 12/12/86, Shaun Usher; Morning Star, 12/12/86, Virginia Dignam; Daily Mirror, 12/12/86, Pauline McLeod; Times, 12/12/86, David Robinson; Daily Express, 12/12/86, Ian Christie; New Musical Express, 13/12/86, Nigel Floyd; Sunday Telegraph, 14/12/86, Gabriele Annan; Sunday Times, 14/12/86, lain Johnstone.

Three criteria obtained in the selection of these reviews:

First criterion: the reviews were selected as those most likely to influence modes of reading the film; and to exemplify a spread of views on the film. Factors involved here include:

-Timing of publication: the earlier published the more influential the review is likely to be, both with lay readers and with other reviewers. Thus the New York Times, inter alia, prides itself on publishing its film reviews on the day of the film's opening. Conversely, Pauline Kael writing in the New Yorker, who is much cited in film-cultural circles as a major reviewer, benefits from reviewing films some two weeks after most of her New York film reviewing colleagues.

-Influence of reviewer. Canby at the New York Times, for example, is the major film reviewing taste-broker in the English-speaking world. In the UK, reviews in The Guardian, The Independent, The Financial Times and The Times are much on a par with each other in this respect.

-Place of publication. New York is critically central to US film reviewing and Los Angeles secondary. In the UK, London alone counts.

-Circulation of newspaper. Circulation figures are sometimes less important than the significance accorded to the reviews in, say, the Village Voice, despite its small circulation.

The second criterion was the newspapers' representativeness of the spread of publications in the country concerned: geographically and by assumed literacy/intelligence of readership. Geographic spread: the US sample represents 4 New York (2 twice) publications, 3 national, 1 Los Angeles, 1 Boston, 1 Philadelphia, 1 Chicago and 1 Austin (no San Francisco reviews were available). The UK sample consists of 12 national and 2 London publications. On assumed literacy/intelligence of readership: the US sample consists, roughly, of 6 highbrow publications (2 twice), 3 middlebrow and 3 lowbrow; and the UK sample of 8 highbrow, 2 middlebrow and 4 lowbrow.

The third criterion was comparability of such spreads of publications across the two countries. This was achieved in line with the above criteria insofar as available materials allowed.

Appendix 2: Checklist of Categories

Non-aesthetic categories (Categories of the signified constructed/read from the film text): 1. Nation - including identity, imperialism, ockerism; 2. Land/cityscape; 3. Heroism; 4. History; 5. Class; 6. Gender-masculinity and femininity; 7. Sexuality; 8. Ethnicity; 9. Religion; 10. Youth; 11. Environment-ecology; 12. Violence; 13. (Other) ideas/themes.

Aesthetic categories (Categories of the signified constructed/read from the film text): 1. Genre; 2. Author-usually director; 3. Acting; 4. Star; 5. Characterisation; 6. Photography; 7. Mise-en-scene - eg. costume; 8. Editing; 9. Narrative structure including organicist assumptions; 10. Humour; 11. Satire; 12. Tone - eg. charm; 13. Art/entertainment; 14. Realist assumptions.

Extra-textual, Institutional categories: 1. National cinema-e. g. film as representative of ...; 2. Non-national cinema film references; 3. Production - including censorship; 4. Distribution and exhibition - including marketing in Australia and the US.

Works Cited

Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities. London: Verso, 1983.

Beresford, Bruce. Barry McKenzie Holds His Own (1974 Australia)

Beresford, Bruce. Breaker Morant (1980 Australia).

Boehringer, Kathe and Stephen Crofts. "The Triumph of Taste." Australian Journal of Screen Theory 8 (1980): 69-79.

Cornell, John. Crocodile Dundee 11(1988 Australia).

Crofts, Stephen. "Breaker Morant Rethought." Cinema Papers 30 (1981): 420-21.

Crofts, Stephen. "Re-Imaging Australia: Crocodile Dundee Overseas." Continuum 2 (1989): 129-42.

Crofts, Stephen. "Shifting Paradigms in the Australian Historical Film." East-West Film Journal 5 (1991): 1-15.

Faiman, Peter. Crocodile Dundee (1986 Australia).

Hamilton, Peter and Sue Matthews. American Dreams: Australian Movies. Sydney: Currency Press, 1986.

Kotcheff, Ted. Wake in Fright aka Outback (1971 Australia).

Lean, David. Doctor Zhivago (1965 US).

McArthur, Colin. "British Film Reviewing, A Complaint." Screen 26 (1985): 79-84.

Miller, George. Mad Max 2 aka The Road Warrior (1981 Australia).

Morris, Meaghan. "Tooth and Claw: Tales of Survival and Crocodile Dundee." Art and Text 25 (1987): 36-68.

O'Regan, Tom. "'Fair Dinkum Fillums': the Crocodile Dundee Phenomenon." The Imaginary Industry: Australian Film in the Late 80s. Ed. Susan Dermody and Elizabeth Jacka. Sydney: Australian Film, Television and Radio School 1988.155-75.

Rentschler, Eric. "American Friends and the New German Cinema: A Study in Reception." New German Critique 24-25 (1981-2): 7-35.

Schepisi, Fred. The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith (1978 Australia).

Stark, Steven. "Going Mad for Things Australian." New York Times 25 March 1987.

Taylor, Paul. "A Culture of Temporary Culture." Art and Text 16 (1984): 94-106.

White, David. Australian Movies to the World: The International Success of Australian Films Since 1970. Sydney and Melbourne: Fontana Australia and Cinema Papers, 1983.

Williams, Raymond. Towards 2000. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1983.


New: 7 March, 1996 | Now: 21 March, 2015