This article appeared in Elizabeth Jacka and Susan Dermody eds. The Imaginary Industry: Australian Film in the late '80s (Sydney: Australian, Film Television and Radio School and Media Information Australia, 1988). 155-75.
It is a measure of both the singularity of Crocodile Dundee and Crocodile Dundee II and the downturn of feature production of the Australian industry that this issue of Media Information Australia should carry an article concerned solely with the Crocodile Dundee phenomonen. That it is a phenomenon there can be no doubt. Impossibly popular throughout western film markets Crocodile Dundee was the "world-wide hit" of 1986. Doubly exceptional was the enthusiasm with which it was taken up both in Australia and overseas. Rarely in any review of a film is the audience's reaction to it thought to be worthy of comment. But for Crocodile Dundee it was. The then editor of Cinema Papers Nick Roddick wrote at the time of its release:
The audience response was extraordinary: ecstatic, proud, in tune with every nuance of Hogan's performance and the not inconsiderable talents of cinematographer Russell Boyd and director Peter Faiman.(1)
The film entered into the public record in a way that no Australian film or TV series has (Skippy notwithstanding) before or since.
One measure of this was the keen anticipation for the sequel, Crocodile Dundee II. Both the Channel 9 and 2 evening news bulletins adjudged it such an important up-coming event that they carried scenes from it thereby turning the news bulletin into a cinema review! The Channel 9 news in Perth even treated it as their lead story.
In sheer monetary terms and international recognition value Crocodile Dundee represents a highpoint in Australian cinema output. Within its first week of release in Australia it had made $2million. By its 11th week in Australian release it had surpassed ET as the most successful Australian release ever. By February 1988 Crocodile Dundee had made some $22 million in domestic rentals.(2) On its USA release it quickly became the most successful foreign picture in the USA cinema market easily outstripping the Bond films and such films as Chariots of Fire. It also became the highest grossing fall release. Despite its October release in the USA it still wound up the second highest grosser in the USA in 1986.(3) Further its success was not confined only to Australia and the USA It was also topping box office grosses in Paris, Rome and Stockholm for weeks. And these were as David Stratton notes "places where Australian films had hardly set the world on-fire before". For a while too "you could hardly catch a long-distance flight without having Hoges grinning at you from the in-flight screen."(4)
This success did not end in cinema release. Its video "sell-through" in the USA made it the 3rd most popular sell-through behind Top Gun and Lady and the Tramp selling some 1.8 million units (and earning some $48million US).(5) In both Australia and the UK it easily outstripping previous record sales to video libraries. In the UK it sold some 67,000 units compared to the 40,000 units for Ghostbusters and Rambo.(6) Whilst in Australia the "Now You can Take him Home" video library campaign in Australia for the film saw it move 30,000 units effectively doubling the top sales in video figure (in the 11-15,000 units range).(7)
Whilst Paul Hogan and John Cornell - the main figures involved in Crocodile Dundee - were always confident that their film would make them "millions", they could not have anticipated this kind of success. Crocodile Dundee, for all of its large budget (close to A$8.8 million) for an Australian film, was outside Australia very much a "sleeper" film - a surprise success. That this should have been the case is not surprising. Crocodile Dundee was a somewhat unlikely candidate for such success. It was directed by a TV variety director, and written by a TV comedian and ex-advertiser of cigarettes - all with no previous cinema experience. Scarcely in the main swim of Australian feature film output - even as it had come to be represented by the "genre" output of the 10BA experiment. It was also out of step with prevalent international cinematic norms - neither relying on special effects or on spectacle. Another aspect of its aberration was its "avowed" Australianness. In Paul Hogan, the film showcased the most recognisable and popular of Australian figures both in Australia and overseas. But this was not the preferred Australiana of Bob Ellis, Uri Windt, Breaker Morant, or for that matter Barry Humphries.
So great was Crocodile Dundee's drawing power that its sequel, Crocodile Dundee II, was perhaps the most keenly anticipated international release of 1988. Even before its release the film's producers were making confident predictions of the $496 million it was going to make world-wide. It opened in May 1988 in a record number of cinemas in the USA (2,837) and Australia (119). Thus permitting it to turn over some $7 million in the first thirteen days of release in Australia compared to the $4.5million over a fortnight for the first film.(8) The USA figures were some $29.1 million in the first 6 days - pipping the new Rambo ($21.8 million) film and causing a reorienting of that film's campaign.(9)
Crocodile Dundee II could scarcely be described as the "underdog" film, making it against all the odds. It was presumed to be an "international" blockbuster right from the start and was given an international release that accommodated that fact. It was already set up to "make it" if only it has the legs. Paramount's Barry London described the strategy in terms of wanting to take advantage of what the first one was. Also as the film was held to have such broad audience appeal it made sense to "put it into the marketplace where you get the maximum amount of playing time."(10)
But despite its "blockbuster" status the producers still distanced themselves from accepted film production norms inasmuch as the sequel was co-written by Hogan with son Brett (who had never worked on a feature before) and was directed by first time director (and Hogan's manager and partner) John Cornell.
The Dundee "phenomenon" can be best understood in terms of the films themselves, their production strategies, their reception, their spin-offs. It needs to be borne in mind that the films are as much constructed "outside" in publicity and other media as they are in "the length and breadth" of their strip of celluloid. This implies that filmmakers and audiences alike do not just bring to Crocodile Dundee and Crocodile Dundee II norms and expectations informed by their previous experience of the cinema - the film intertext. They also bring to the films norms and expectations created outside of the cinema in adjacent media and social intercourse. In other words audiences and producers exercise their public (and not just "pro-filmic") "knowledge": their assumptions and their informational archive.
This second, social intertext, aspect of film consumption and production is doubly important for films like Crocodile Dundee and Crocodile Dundee II given their TV star (a star famous for being a personality in TV commercials as much as being a TV performer with his own show). The Crocodile Dundee films then are not just constructed to be viewed aesthetically. Their audiences and producers don't only prefigure the films' in relation to other films they have seen. They also draw the films into and relate them to other non-cinematic texts - TV news, women's magazines, daily newspapers etc as well as personal experiences. Thus the Crocodile Dundee films exist in, and can be seen in relation to, other irises tied up with public discourse, events, and social place. In this way they can be conceived as having a social and not merely a film world intertext.
Of course it's possible for audiences to assess the films solely in relation to either the film intertext or the social intertext (although most audiences habitually combine the two). Indeed Australian film and cultural critics, with the exception of Meaghan Morris(11), tended to construe the Crocodile Dundee phenomenon in relation to either its film or its social intertext (but never both). Film critics, trained to make the films sensible in relation to the 'film' world, had problems confronted with texts that were created to be consumed by audiences for whom the films were sensible in relation to 'the media' in the figure of Hogan as public figure, 'personality', and bare-foot philosopher. Hogan had been defined in and existed most powerfully outside of the cinema - indeed he was lending his personality and 'power' to the cinema itself in these films. For such a critic Crocodile Dundee and Crocodile Dundee II were impoverished films. But their "impoverishment" was the outcome of the application of an inappropriately narrow critical apparatus.
Second there was the cultural critic used to understanding popular texts as so many syumptoms of a favoured set of cultural shibboleths. Thus the Dundee films came to be seen as straightforwardly confirming impoverishing cultural and social stereotypes about say masculinity and Australians.(12) In the process the recourcefulness of the textual fabric that was "read" so glibly was missed. Such a critic was unused to coming to grips with: the canny play of 'intermedia' sources, parody, the complex interplay of textual elements, and the necessarily multi-layered audience response these public texts presumed. Indeed there is a purposively contradictory nature inherent in the staging of the Crocodile Dundee films as 'mass' consumption films. This is their assemblage of elements in such a way so as to permit a Sister Veronica Brady to negatively compare Mick Dundee to Rambo on ABC TV whilst simultaneously permitting an American psychologist on a lecture tour of Australia to find in Mick Dundee the 'new' breed of 'liberated man' - the very antithesis of Rambo.(13) The inadequacy of these alternative modes of analysis of the Crocodile Dundee phenomenon indicate just how nuanced the analysis of a 'mass'-ively popular film must be to account for the dimensions of its public reception.
Crocodile Dundee was marketed in Australia as a blockbuster. Before the 10BA Tax Incentives blockbuster production was severely handicapped by lack of funds and publicity infrastructure. 10BA made both possible. Several general points about Crocodile Dundee as a blockbuster film are worth making to begin with. As a product of the tendency for box office revenues to concentrate in a handful of films in any one year, this blockbuster phenomenon (like The Godfather (1974) and Star Wars (1977)) led Hogan and Cornell to try and create a film "event" and to manage it appropriately. They did this in a number of ways.
The managing of Crocodile Dundee entailed a large publicity budget - both pre and post film release - approximating the film's cost. In the larger USA market, its publicity exceeded its modest production costs. It also involved simultaneously releasing the film across the country and in many venues in each metropolitan market. Thus for the first Crocodile Dundee approximately 90 prints were used whilst the second involved some 119.
Both the publicity and the release patterns worked to create the film as an event, as a phenomenon. Talk on Dundee was managed to such an extent that it became not just something to talk about but also a reference point for public discussion. This was achieved through a multi-levelled and simultaneous campaign across the media (TV, magazine, radio, newspapers, and advertising) involving appearances, interviews, features articles, stories, and ads relating to Hogan, the film and its other creative talent (Linda Kozlowski, Faiman etc).
By positioning films as phenomenon, the blockbuster aims to reach a much broader audience than just the regular cinema goer in the 18-25 age groups. Both Hogan and Cornell were explicit in the run-up to the first film that their target was as much the occasional and even non-cinema cinema goers in the rest of the population. The result was Crocodile Dundee's varied audiences. Young, middle-aged, old - a kaleidoscope of dress, class and urban experience: Balcatta next to Nedlands; Inala to Indooroopilly, Blacktown to Paddington. But there are qualifications. Since the blockbuster was special event cinema it was of necessity irregular cinema. Part of the problem facing Hogan and Cornell was the timing of Crocodile Dundee II - it had to be long enough after the first one not to allow 'saturation' and close enough to it to 'piggy back' on the success of the first.
To be able to bear the publicity and extensive release, Dundee needed to be of the appropriate scale and production values. Its comparatively high budgets (for the first close to $9 million for the second $13 million) did sustain this "event" publicity and release. Whilst its selection of appropriate textual forms and its signposting as a social (not just a film) text connected Dundee with its diverse audiences. The textual vehicles of both films were partly generic.
Crocodile Dundee combined recognisably different dramatic forms: "the fish out of water" comedy with a 'populist' address; Crocodile Dundee II - comedy and adventure thriller. Such hybrid, transgeneric forms entailing an acute generic and cinematic awareness through the incorporation of stylistic elements and plot structures from previously discrete genres are a characteristic of American blockbuster cinema in the 1970s. Dundee is not immune from such cine-selfconsciousness. There are for example in Crocodile Dundee references to Jungle Jim, to Tarzan, to I Love Lucy, to Fred Astaire. As Meaghan Morris notes this involves a strategy which systematically 'disadvantages" the original that it quotes.(14) From this generic base the films positioned themselves in the the film and TV world in a way that was commensurate with audience expectations about the conventional norms of audio-visual production.
If this "generic" awareness was the only side to the Dundee phenomenon it would be of limited interest. But they both carefully inscribed their relation to "the social world." The films sought to engage with the general public arena of talk - arguably the "social imaginary" of their period and society. If the filmmakers wanted to inscribe the films into public discourse so too did they want to register public discourse in the films themsevles. Thus we find Crocodile Dundee referencing uranium mining, Aboriginal land rights, the current tourist industry Hogan himself was advertising, nuclear weapons, TV; and Crocodile Dundee II drug-running, Hogan's own popularity, Aboriginality etc.
Given the double edged provisos of audience and social text it is not surprising that Dundee's producers had their origins in commercial TV. Crocodile Dundee was based on the TV comic and ad personality developed as (by) Paul Hogan in conjunction with "Strop" Cornell (a former straight man to Hogan in the Paul Hogan Show). It was directed by Peter Faiman better known for his work with Hogan, for live TV and music specials. Faiman's reputation in this area was such that he was the chosen candidate for the four hour bi-centennial show Australia Live (1988). A show that undoubtedly helped put him out of contention for the direction of Crocodile Dundee II.
In their subject matter, location and social text both films made much of the 'Australian' and the 'Australianness' of their central character, Paul Hogan. At first sight this is incongruous. According to 'industry' thinking by the mid 1980s it should have been harder to retain an Australian lead and an Australian emphasis on higher budgets given the need to amortise the increased costs in international release. But in some ways the opposite was the case inasmuch as both films relied upon their social intertexts to be successful in the Australian and American/UK markets.
Thus Crocodile Dundee could, paradoxically, afford to connect more with its Australian audience than could some lower budgeted 'genre' Australian material (destined as that material was for cable TV and art-cinema markets). All the same, as a blockbuster production by 'first time' producers, directors and leads, Crocodile Dundee carried with it its own risks in the Australian context. To cover its budget it needed to become the highest grossing film in Australia in the year it was made. And because of its high budget it was touch and go whether it could be successful in Australia - the only market where its distribution and exhibition were guaranteed.
Hogan and Cornell's confidence throughout 1985/6 showed no signs of wavering. So confident were they that no arrangements were made to "presell" the film. Nor were any decisions taken to sign any overseas distribution deals until completion. Pre-selling was for Hogan like "having a bet each way"(15) - far better to take a chance on "the top money" in case and I quote producer John Cornell, you hit "a gusher".(16) Certainly some 600 punters went after this main chance. Hogan, Cornell, Kerry Packer, and many of the crew members put up quite alot of the film's budget (with some reports putting the Hogan/Cornell involvement at close to half of the film's budget - they were staking a sizeable proportion of the money that they had made over the years from TV specials and advertising). The rest was made up of assorted others including sports personalities such as Deniis Lillee, Greg Chappell and Rod Marsh. And there was no shortage of punters. The budget was some $2million oversubscribed.(17) To be sure all concerned reckoned on Crocodile Dundee being international in scope but doing so "on their (Hogan and Cornell's) terms". Such confidence was well placed given the estimated 730% return the film made for its investors.(18)
The nature of these 'terms' can be understood with reference to The Man from Snowy River - the previously most successful of Australian blockbusters. Although Snowy River did reasonably well outside Australia its Australian appeal was decidedly related to its social text(19) in a way that its international success was related to its film intertext (in which Kirk Douglas was crucial). Dundee was not only avowedly Australian but also American. Dundee sought to position Australian and American audiences on the same filmic and social text continuum - to manage the film from the start, to manage both places, both sites.
Crucial to this management was the unique place Paul Hogan had come to occupy on American and British TV by 1985. Hogan's TV specials were not only shown in syndication in the USA and on UK's Channel 4; but through his ads for Fosters and the Australian Tourist Commission he had been established as a household figure. The extent of this exposure is gestured to by James Welsch when he wrote in Filmviews that:
Most Americans have limited impressions of Australia - a kind of "tie me kangaroodown sport" level of knowledge. Thanks to TV commercials Americans know about koala bears, Qantas Airlines, Foster's Lager and Paul Hogan.(2O)
Hogan's place was integral to the thinking behind the film. Indeed demand for more TV specials is credited with putting a feature film project on the agenda for Hogan :
The States wanted 26 half hour shows - preferably 52. The first 26 took 4 years to put together. The solution seemed to make a movie.(21)
The quality, extent, and nature of this TV advertising/TV specials exposure cannot be overestimated. As Peter Faiman put it:
He's (Hogan) probably had a greater marketing test than any potential new star in America, with something like $15million to $20million worth of exposure. The response to him has been enormous.(22)
This is on top of - so to speak - his consistent Australian popularity since the early 1970s on TV. The strategy of the Australian appeal the filmmaker's were banking on was one in which the film would act as a limited redisposition of Hogan's publicly constructed persona. This persona's longevity was due to the careful management of Hogan's appearances so as to retain their rarity value and so prevent premature "saturation" and "satiation" with the Hogan persona. Prior to Dundee Hogan was named 1985 Australian of the year. Opinion polls have consistently found him to be the most admired of Australians achiveing an approval rating far in excess of any politician. This approval was of such an extent that Hogan, who had made his initial public profile via the Winfield cigarette campaign, was prevailed upon to no longer appear in cigarette commercials given the legitimacy his profile gave to smoking with the young. Another measure of Hogan's popularity and place as a public figure and 'philosopher' is that at the time when Australia was being spoken of as 'a banana republic' he was being touted as a potential politician and spoke freely of the need for "a benevelont dictatorship".(23)
A measure of his international standing by Crocodile Dundee II (brought about in part by the success of the first film) was that the publicity build-up to that film could include Hogan doing a 6 hour interview with Playboy (USA), interviews with Barbara Walters over two days for her American TV show and the featuring of Hogan on the covers of several national magaizines including People.
Another component of the international filmmaking strategy, particularly of the first (given its lack of precedent), was the care taken to cushion the 'difference' of the Australian setting by the use of familiar formats. Thus the American audience, for example, was encouraged to view Hogan as a "rather more witty variant of the Burt Reynolds type", to see Kakadu's wetlands as a substitute backdrop "for the Florida Everglades" and to understand the rowdy pub in terms of "the cracker taverns of the American South-West".(24)
Integral to the pre-selling of both films and to their publicity and public comment was Hogan's persistent comment on the films as films. The Australian publicity of the first concentrated on escsalating a public fascination for the fact that Paul Hogan, TV personality and adman, his mate and manager John Cornell, and long time TV producer Peter Faiman were making a feature film. Further they were not just making any film - they were making a rather expensive one by Australian standards.
Since Hogan, the public figure in history, was making a film it became important to ask him what he was doing and for him and his partners to evince a fair amount of self-consciousness about what they were doing, and how what they were doing was different from what was being done. Of course, some of this occurred from the production industry and trade's point of view. Theirs was an interest in a first time director/writer controlling such a huge budget for an Australian film. So too having Hogan speak about the film and filmmaking in general terms was part of the film's buildup inasmuch as it served the purpose of generating talk and interest in the film, but not giving too much away about just what was in it.
But it does not stop there. This was part of a careful positioning - initially for investors, distributors/exhibitors and later for audiences who were interested in the "experiment" the film represented. And that was to consider the nature of the cinema and cinema entertainment. Hence Hogan's line was that Crocodile Dundee was:
.an Australian fair dinkum film - not a telemovie for SBS Television on HBO [Home Box Office - An American Cable TV Company] - that should make millions and millions of dollars and a pretty decent reputation for Australians as fair dinkum filmmakers.(25)
Part of its "fair dinkumness" was its careful delineation from the "ocker" films/"ockerism". At first sight "ocker" would appear to be Hogan's bedfellow - with some going so far as to suggest that the "ocker" of Barry Humphries' stereotypes enabled the Hogan persona to come into his own. For them Hogan is arch-ocker. But he is not and Hogan as always was careful to delineate what he was doing from what the "ocker" filmmakers were doing. Hogan announced that Crocodile Dundee "won't be funny derived from 'bare boobs, bodily functions, and poofter jokes'"(26)
And when the film was such a success Hogan insisted that the basis of its success lay in the fact that it was neither ocker nor splatter. "People like the fact it's a nice movie. There is no spurting blood, not much violence at all, and no explicit sex.(27)
The absence of sex, violence and titillation led to a de facto reassertion of the family movie as a preferred textual vehicle. Cornell admitted as much when he was reported to have said that:
They wanted to make a Disney film without the Disney label, a "feel good" movie without excessive sex, violence, or bad language that would appeal to males and females from 6 to 65.(28)
This interest in and public attention accorded to Hogan's intententions and meditations on films is rare outside of film journals (which have something of a fixation about getting close to the apparatus and the relation between the filmmaker and the apparatus). Here these constellations find an unfamiliar space. And the significance of this fact cannot be overestimated.
The move to see Hogan as an author whose intended meaning is important to the public record is a familiar one. But Hogan is decidedly not Peter Weir, Bruce Beresford or David Williamson. Nor are his films art films. Rather Hogan is embracing/ negotiating something like the "public discourse" on the cinema. What he does which is unusual is to make general comments about the cinema's nature, his moral and ethical stance towards it, his program for the kinds of films that ought to be made. And these remarks are given so much time in relation to the film itself - that it comes to be seen as an enactment of the program that they have heard/seen/read Hogan talking about. His views on the cinema and what it is (but should not be), what it ought to be, and his desire to 'to show you what it ought to be' become significant.
Hogan pronounces the cinema in a particular populist way. His unashamed commercialism is almost a parody of Ginnane but this occurs simultaneously with a morality of entertainment (quite foreign to Ginnane). His unabashed support for the "family" movie is often seen to be in opposition with commercialism. Hogan on the cinema is littered with references to the "proper movies" that he grew up with and saw in matinees. Only contemporary films like Romancing the Stone receive his approval. If this is an avowed populism it is certainly not the naive one of Frank Capra. What is being specifically recalled by Hogan is a moment in the cinema not a notion of film realising the social. If Capra claimed to be called on by God to save America, Hogan only wanted to save the cinema and make a bit of money on the side.
It is as if the trajectory of the Hogan persona is what is important about the film which the filmmaking itself exists to serve and further. The contours of this game are evident in the self-consciousness of Hogan's cinema involvement:
I've only got a couple of years left, then my hair will fall out, my chest will have gone grey, my belly will stick out and I'll have varicose veins. I'll revel in that (fame) for a couple of years - let ladies paw me in the street - then I'll go back to (TV) comedy again.(29)
What is important then is the extent to which the film becomes part of a larger discursive web - a component part of the ongoing biographical legend of Hogan - which the films exist to instance and to serve.
The importance of the "persona" of Paul Hogan as a public figure and philosopher to the Dundee filmmaking strategy suggests something of the film's ambience and the broader 'Australiana' cultural definition that it taps into. This is the 'information' bias to Australian cultural production that Hogan clearly has built a career out of from his early 'bit part' appearances in the Mike Willesee hosted program A Current Affair in the early 1970s. Australians are saturated with 'information' rather than 'drama' on themselves and their country. The quasi-informational outlook of 'Australiana' is an important popular component of Australian produced TV (The Big Country 1968, The Australians), magazine and book sales in Australia. Clearly these strands within Australian cultural history provide a direct precurser to the anecdotal redisposition of the public Hogan persona in Dundee. Thus Dundee as a "hybrid" of information (the real Paul Hogan's media personality and identification with Australia and the Australian) and fiction is informed by the peculiarly Australian popular hybrid of quasi-fiction and informational/ documentary fascination working in concert together.
The important role assumed by the general informational culture of "Australiana" as privileged definers of Australia and the Australian is undoubtedly due to the comparative lack of dramatic and fictional forms capable of fulfilling that definitional role in the context of an import culture. This relative absence of Australian materials is marked within fictional forms even at the most opportune of moments such as the government supported film industry of the 1970s and 1980s. Remember that overall Australian content on TV is less than 50% and is very low comparatively speaking in many TV dramatic forms; so too even at the height of the revival Australian film's yearly share of its own box-office never exceeded some twenty odd percent. One of the consequences of this lack of centrality is a comparative specialisation within existing production upon the vernacular and the quotidian as it is is much closer to the political and informational priorities of Australian popular culture. Given this generally vernacular standpoint, there is a related problem of emplotting the Australian as the stuff of epic or indeed tragedy.
What is perhaps most interesting about Crocodile Dundee is the fact that it 'builds' its epic figure of Mick Dundee out of the vernacular (by popular wisdom the most resistant of arenas to do so from). That Hogan and his co-writers were clearly involved in this "epic" reworking is evident from Hogan's oftquoted remarks on his cultural labour of giving Australian a hero. As Hogan told London's Time Out:
The character is an attempt to give Australia a hero. It's a country desperately short of heroes. We haven't got a Daniel Boone or a Robin Hood. All we ever had was Ned Kelly, an Irishman with a bucket over his head who pulled a few unsuccessful robberies a long time ago.(30)
Indeed it's a measure of the priveleged governmental support for feature film output from the early 1970s that this kind of articulation, apart from the "ocker" experiment of the early 1970s, has been so little registered in Australian filmmaking output. This fact can be recognised in the clearly felt separation of Hogan from the film industry as it had come to be known. Certainly Hogan was quite clear about their being a gulf between what he was doing and what the rest of the film industry were doing and were on about.
We are now in a position to examine the films themselves.
Crocodile Dundee is an episodic film which follows Mick Dundee and American reporter Sue Charlton's adventures from her discovery of him in the Northern Territory for a newspaper story to her bringing him to the United States. Eventually they fall in love and come together in the end.
Crocodile Dundee is a film without secrets, without enigmas. It is all surface effect. Not made to convey arcane information. It is made for display, for "entertainment". Nowhere is this better registered than in the narrative image on the movie poster and video cassette dustjacket. The video library patron is advised through a large cardboard cut out of Hogan to "take him home with you". What is at stake, it seems, is an exhibitionism to be gloried in and appropriated by the audience. The spectator constructed by this Hogan exhibitionism is not so much the voyeur-analyst but a voyant. This term, fashioned by Routt and Thompson, indicates the extent to which the spectators position in the film is made purposefully mobile that is is changed by what s/he has seen.(31)
Dundee's play with the materials of cinema is that of a showing off, not that of a "serious" investigation. For example the shot of the helicopter taking the American journalist over the "outback" hangs on just too long, the movement of the helicopter (it does a little sideways movement) too unmotivated for story telling requirements. Both leave the impression that "Hoges", "Strop" and Faiman are having a good time playing around with this helicopter - and of course with that other larger machine that of cinema itself and the control over space that it involves. There is something of the naive, of the ingenue here, the elicitation of the innocent pleasure of the show off.
There is a name for this ideology of the spectacle in Dundee. It is "populism". One of the best ways to engage with its populism is to engage with the Hogan persona. Hogan, like show business personalities and vaudevillians such as George Wallace and Mo of 40 years ago, had developed a well known persona through TV variety (including his own "show"), talk-back shows and ads. Dundee was written for Hogan in part by Hogan in order to feature that persona.
What is that persona? In some ways, like many other comics, Hogan's persona works off him as the "everyman" - as a socially representative type. The most famous contemporary everyman of Hogan's in Australian cinema is Barry Humphries' Barry McKenzie. Some argue that Barry McKenzie paved the way for the more populist Hogan. But if McKenzie is the invention of an expatriate Australian looking to cultivate a middle class Australian and a Private Eye British audience, Hogan is preternaturally Australian with a genuinely popular appeal. If Humphries is prone to laugh at the working class culture and petit-bourgeois aspirations Hogan will laugh with them. Take the reaction of part of Dundee's audience when Dundee and Sue (the female lead) finally kiss in the streets of New York after Dundee has discouraged muggers. In this scene Hogan's hand goes down to the cheeks of her arse. Two women behind me said "typical" with the kind of intonation that pointed to their recognition of the gesture as a specific working class masculine style. In the way they said "typical" was an obvious familiarity with the gesture and an awareness of its shortcomings. Yet it was this precise gesture that they were appreciating. It is through this kind of shock of recognition that the film is able to reduce, to abolish to the limited extent that it is possible in the cinema the psychical distance between screen and audience. Hogan is one of them. And he never for a moment loses them.
Is Hogan a classic hero? He is and he isn't. He was known well before his weak imitation of a Tarzan call in Dundee as a representative of a certain self-deprecating masculinity. So too if classic heroes require an almost Neitzchean and narcissistic drive to believe absolutely in themselves, to take themselves seriously, to keep within the generic conventions, to follow the rules - then Hogan, like all comics, cannot take himself nor those rules, those strategies and conventions, quite seriously enough to qualify as a classic hero. Indeed Hogan's position has been built on him being a trickster who makes the rules of social behavior and filmic and televisual convention explicit and in so doing punctures both the illusion and any Neitzchean pretentions by poking fun at them. As a figure who disrupts, who puts a spanner in the works, Hogan is seen as a natural talent that has vision of social location and the rules of a situation. Hogan's first role was on
New Faces, a TV show in which amateur performers, with the prospect of making it in show business driving them, offered themselves and their acts for inspection by judges who invariably humiliated and denigrated them. Hogan performed at the judges, turning the audience against them, exposing the rules of rank and precedence in the judging process. Here Hogan was playing a role he later produced for Dundee: made to feel ill at ease, he recognises the rules only to disobey them. He breaks the circuit of humiliation at the restaurant by knocking his rival out with a fist. Being a trickster not only implies intelligence but also sophistication - through the very recognition of convention. Complementing Hogan as trickster is his other image as "fish out of water" - or as one reviewer put it "Colonial Candide". This is Hogan as ingenue. Indeed he initially became a household name on Australian TV through a TV commercial which featured the incongruity of having an obviously working class "ocker" dressed in a tux "spruiking" in Australian strine in front of a symphony orchestra. He recommended a new brand of cigarettes (Winfield, which quickly became, and still remains, one of the two most popular cigarette brand names in Australia). This points to the on-going significance within the Hogan persona of the "fish out of water". But he is not just any fish out of water as Crocodile Dundee makes clear. This is a fish with the larrikan confidence that no matter what the hot water - be it an escalator, an aeroplane, attacks from crocodiles or muggers in Dundee - Hoges remains Hoges and will eventually come to terms with it, will win out, and will not be changed. Despite what Mick Dundee is exposed to - the publicity, the new environment - he remains unaffected. Whilst recognising the rules of the social situations he enters after initial mistakes (viz the transvestite) Dundee acts according to his own social etiquette and moral code (that of the residual Australian). In this way he becomes the mirror - the stable point of reference - on which social situations from the outback to New York are drawn together and made identical. As Jim McClelland puts it:
Hogan plays the man from the bush who has never seen a city but who has always been able to cope with a harsh environment which included crocodiles ready to eat even the most beautiful woman. So not only is he not terrified by the Big Apple: he doesn't seem even to notice that the utterly strange envirmonment into which he is suddenly thrust has its own terrors, even without crocodiles.(32)
Criticism of Hogan's inability to play anything other than himself, must perforce, miss the point. Certainly there are certain things that Hogan can and cannot do. If this sustains a level of predictability and so assurance for the audience it also restricts the narrative possibilities available. To deal with this restriction the film had to become an interconnected series of skits, that is, it needed to simultaneously contain not only irony and parody, but also maintain a reasonably strong narrative thrust. The effect of this integration by Hogan and Faiman led to interpretations that on the one hand emphasised the narrative thrust and Hogan as ingenue - Rambo without the pectorals; and on the other focussed on the film's episodic and bit structure - Hogan as trickster in "the funniest film of the year". This led to a narrative levelling: the film proposed being beset by muggers and coming to terms with an aeroplane as being on the same continuum.
The populist basis of the film is powerfully present in Mick Dundee as ingenue, as colonial candide, who in following a simpler, more rustic set of values - which are initially cynically exploited and mocked - comes to win out not just over the representatives of New York sophistication but also to win New York over to him. This alerts us to the type of filmmaking which Hogan in discussing the film's strategy calls an older cinema, a cinema of his youth, a matinee cinema.
Although Hogan does not cite the work of Frank Capra, Dundee bears comparison to the work of this most populist of filmmakers. Compare the roles of Mick Dundee with that of Mr Smith (Jimmy Stewart) of Mr Smith Goes to Washington (1939). The same "fish out of water", the same good natured "ingenuousness", the same binding of a community of antagonism into a community that can transcend class and sectoral divisions. But of course the stakes are lower in Dundee. This is not a corrupt America that innocence and right-mindedness will miraculously save but a community that just does not get along. Hogan will oil the cogs of social intercourse, introducing friendliness where commercial transaction should occur like when he treats Hookers as nice girls to be chatted up rather than as bodies to be bought. The Jimmy Stewart character in remaining innocent never could quite sustain the role of trickster so integral to the Dundee persona.
Despite these qualifications Crocodile Dundee can be seen as a rewriting into a modern context of that populist project of an out-of-town ingenue confronting the big city. Thus despite its humour, its self-deprecating masculinity, its trickster-like drawing of attention to convention, the Mick Dundee persona can still project a potent and consistent self incapable of being bent, warped, transformed by any occasion, by any success. By being a "personality" rather than a socially important figure his naive innocence mixed with natural confidence, buttresses the image of Hogan as "everyman". Taken together we can speculate on the fantasy of self-coherence and capacity with which Crocodile Dundee can provide its audiences.
Given that for most people different occasions demand the performance of multiple selves where what you are is never quite sufficient, at the fantasy level Dundee is able to provide an ego-ideal of a mobile and coherent self. Such ego-ideals form the basis of the film's Australian and international appeal.
On the one hand Australian audiences are provided with the opportunity to see in Mick's qualities, Mick's perfomance, the enactment of something of a national quality (be it Australian egalitarianism, sense of humour, or convivial good blokeness). The Australian audience is offered an identification of themselves (through the Hogan surrogate). What is on offer is the image of self-deprecating capacity, both personally and nationally framed by "our sense of humour". Here is the ideal Australian, and Dundee suggests a "he" rather than a "she" who might have the wool pulled over his eyes but not for long. Indeed the need in 1986/7 for such satisfactions was framed by Keating's envisaging of another Australia - the Australia of the "banana republic".(33) The Hogan of Crocodile Dundee is a far cry from this image. In a way Hogan's behaviour "over there" becomes, in Meaghan Morris' words, a metaphor for takeover(34) by Australians of American (rather than being taken over); of selfsufficiency rather than subservience, of forthrightness rather than evasiveness. Being a comedy, the film is able to sustain these reversals, to project an Australian fantasy of being equal in an unequal world without the need for it literally to be the case. As Jim McClelland saw it Hogan was still an Ocker:
. but a special sort of Ocker. He lives out his own values, undeflected by the pretensions of the mighty. I have met plenty of Australians like that and I regard them as the best Australians. I have no doubt there are people like that everywhere and that is the secret of Hogan's universal appeal.(35)
On the other hand international audiences see these same qualities and performance in general terms relating the Hogan persona to their respective cultural variants. Dundee thus becomes a kind of "everyman": a "perfectly pure, wholly innocent figure who is found in the epic literature of all the nations which have such sagas."(36) Dundee gets seen as equivalent to "Beowulf and King Arthur, Roland and Oliver, Candide and Bertie Wooster, Prince Charming and Bilbo Baggins and Robin Hood"(37) by Bernard Levin and as a cross between Indiana Jones and Dr Doolittle(38) by the Washington Post.
Of course other grounds related to the film's story telling help account for the film's appeal. Anne Thompson, writing in Film Comment saw Crocodile Dundee's success as being due to its redisposition of a favoured screen story (the fish-out-of-water genre), its relation to TV (a well-liked TV personality), and the affection within Hollywood cinema for "the laconic hero outsider .. who one-ups the city sophisticates."(39)
Finally a recurring feature of the public discussion of the film in Australia and overseas was the at times trenchant, and inevitably "intellectual" criticism of it for the kind of image of Australia and Australians it furthered. This outlook was encapsulated in the question "but is this the kind of thing we should be showing to Americans (and to the world) about us?"
If this criticism at times suggested that we would all be better off if the film had not been made, it also proposed that the film confirmed the general image of Australian backwardness and "outback"-ness rather than affirming the image of a modern urban society. It had done Australia a "disservice". For Geoffrey Barker of the Melbourne Herald Crocodile Dundee reinforced international perceptions that "Australians are gauche, provincial and philistine". And that Hogan "might just be one of the major impediments to serious Australian diplomacy with the US".(40) For Veronica Brady underlying the film was a "colonial servility, violence and a profound confusion of values".(41) Still others argued that it might do some good for tourism but would certainly do nothing for manufacturing and the recognitions of an Australia about ideas and sophistication.
Hogan's response was nothing if not direct:
People are so dumb sometimes in Australia. What are we going to do, put a nice sesnible hard-working accountant in a film and say: "Here's a typical Australian, hard-working, industrious". Everyone would yawn and say "Never go to Australia".(42)
What such criticisms of the film ignored is that if images can be literally read - this is what Australians are like (all yokels) - they can also be ready metaphorically. There is no better example of this than the fact that a buffoon who was incapable of entering a door, an elevator or a car without mishap is used to sell the quality and market dominance of IBM Computers. Charlie Chaplin!! In a literal reading the Chaplin persona's incapacities on screen would be the last thing that IBM would like its customers to think held for their computers. Ditto Dundee. Indeed the Dundee image is not antithetical to everything except outback tourism. It could just as well sell computers, an urban Australia, and high technology manufacturing. That the Dundee persona has been used so far to sell tourist sites does not exhaust the possibilities for its enlistment.
Something of this can be seen in the London Time Out story on Hogan which compared him not so much to the "professional Aussie playing court jester" of a Bazza McKenzie, Edna Everage or Clive James. Instead Hogan was "deadly serious, clever, far-seeing and adept at all the skills of the entrepreneur": "he's more Rupert Murdoch, Alan Bond or Robert Holmes a Court."(43)
It is undoubtedly a measure of a small country concerned about its place in the world particularly its place vis-a-vis "parent" cultures - first Britain then the USA - that this kind of criticism can be mounted. The assumption that one film could irreperably make the Australian image over irreperably neglects the impact of a decade of revival films. After all Picnic at Hanging Rock proposing Australia as a land of quaintly Victorian "feminine" aesthetes involved in odd relations with the landscape is surely just as "offensive" in these terms as Crocodile Dundee.
Perhaps this criticism is really using the "overseas" gaze to talk about something else, something disquieting about this film in a context of intellectual multi-culturalism in which the "residual Australian" is an obstacle to be overcome, something of an unwelcome throwback. The film is a throwback in that it calls upon the old fantasy of the "country-man" at the heart of the Australian experience; it uses the metaphor of the country, the person from the centre - to stand in for and summon up what is an urban national experience. In this the film is at odds with the image of multi-cultural Australia - which is a cosmopolitan, urban image. This multi-cultural image is a far cry from that of the residual Australian "bushy" which recalls the tradition against which this multi-culturalism has so resolutely set itself against and sought to displace.
The first film and its above reception context framed the release of Dundee II - its expectations and its reading.
"This is real Hollywood stuff" (John-Michael Howson).
If the first film lacked a strong narrative drive, lacked clearly defined goals of the protagonist (such that many could wonder at whether it was appropriate for Dundee to get the girl) the sequel is organised along classical storytelling lines. Quite clearly the criticism of the first film for its anecdotal quality and the taking of 7 minutes out of the orginal for American release has been taken to heart by Hogan et al. The film is more conventional than the first. It has a narrative logic whereas the first with its set piece tableaux did not (and was all the more charming for that). The protagonist Mick Dundee, rather like a Bond figure, is restless, unemployed, looking for a job, thinking about going back, but is called upon to act and utilise his talents. Dundee has been transformed from the humorous figure of before to a kind of "ironic" Captain Blood (or Rambo). Or as Paul Hogan put it "Dundee is confronted by Rambo like situations, with Dundee-like solutions."
Jungle Jim is now taken quite seriously. Hogan is no longer the colonial candide. So too by the second film the relationship between Dundee and Sue (and that between Paul Hogan and Linda Kozlowski) is firmly established. Sue has a career. Dundee has none. In fact he is looking for a job. Dundee at the start is a kind of 'housewife'. He makes and gets the breakfast, he goes out and plays with the kids, he watches mid-day TV soaps and gets caught up in them. He does not go out and look for a job because he wanted to see the mysterious twin brother of one of the major characters in Days of our Lives turns out to be. His notion about going out to see about a job is a parody of the house-wife returning to the workforce.
What motors Dundee to action is the kidnapping of his 'girl' by South American drug-runners and a desire to avoid being killed by them for unmasking and humiliating them. The introduction of drugs and South America registers a contemporary American social text. This serves to cement Hogan into the role of the 'gallant' coming to the rescue - a role he played with such small risks in the first film. The South Americans are necessary in more ways than one.
First the film starts with New York, including its metropolitan police force, knowing Dundee only too well. From the beginning the Dundee persona/ Hogan personality is already established for all in the diegetic world of the narration except - the drug-runners, the contract killers and the street gang (presumably too cut off from the outside world to know of Dundee). This structures a sort of knowingness between certain diegetic characters and the audience on the one hand and a radical lack of such knowledge from other characters in the fiction (who are, incidentally, the baddies) on the other.
The strategy here seems to be not so much to forward the action, but to set up a continuum with the off-screen persona. There is thus something of an attempt to abolish the gulf between Hogan and his audience. In this it is rather like some musicals which start off with realised achievement - a sort of reprise of the performers off-screen reputation (which has been in part responsible for bringing the audience to the film). Audiences are thus invited to abolish the gulf, by playing with the boundaries of Hogan/Dundee and in the working out of both create an integral identity.
This has the effect of calling on viewers to enact, replay a set of extrinsic norms (powerfully formed outside of the film) which necessarily refract the film's viewing and consumption (as a variation on Hogan the funny man, the adventurer). By Crocodile Dundee II the need for translation of his taciturnity and language is gone. Crocodile Mick and his gestures are now only too well known, his phrases have entered into folk language. What occurs then is a structure in which Wally (John Mellion), Sue and the film's international audience are "in the know" but not the South Americans who were presumably too busy being evil drug runners to have become exposed to the Dundee legend.
This structure of "being in the know" permits Wally to continue in his role of tall tale teller, but this time in a good cause. Whereas Wally is gradually discovered to be a teller of tall tales in the first film; by the second the audience knows in advance that this is Wally's forte and he is expected to lie a lot. Wally also functions to bring the criminals into a consciousness (false and true) of the Dundee persona's attributes that are already taken for granted by the audience. The audience is invited to appreciate the effort Wally puts into his tall tales whereas in the first film his lying seemed to be a natural part of him. Wally is forced to exaggerate to save his life. In the first film it's just good for business. Wally's vulnerability is particularly sigposted in the second film where he is a sad and vulnerable figure. Interestingly though the tall tales he tells are not simply "untrue" but are in fact the stuff of the Dundee legend. Wally has a peculiar situation in both the bush and urban worlds. He has a half knowledge of both but is not partricularly competent in either of them. He is always interested in protocol in a way that permits a continuous juxtaposition with the "unselfconscious natural Dundee/Hogan".
Dundee is endowed with special capacities. Yet these capacities enter the fiction for display of those capacities to others. They are not used for "unfair" advantage. Thus Dundee does not kill anyone - he just knocks them out cold, lassoes them, or threatens them into silence. Whereas the Phantom leaves a skull mark on the jaw of his opponents, Dundee leaves a goanna with a red scarf. Further he uses bush skills to get onto them rather than guns. The people pursuing become the opportunity for the excercise and display of the Dundee bush skills. Each one of the men is taken out differently (one through a waterbuffalo with the help of a bra), one in his sleep, one in an inferred crocodile attack another in a mock crocodile attack staged in front of people and another two by aborigines and by the character Donk.
Crocodile Dundee II works a transformation of the Hogan as "trickster" role. The Australian/American opposition which was so crucial to the humour of the first is elided into a commonality of purpose. It's Dundee and Sue versus the South Americans (Australia/USA versus the Nasties). With this Hogan becomes less the mobile "trickster" than a "star" in his own right invested with particular capacities (including having a few "tricks" up his sleeve).
Dundee's performance, for all of the second film's conformity to classical narrative norms, still takes specific points of departure from the classic lone hero or "rugged individualist". The Hogan performance/personality is from the start imbued with sociality. Each time he can call on the help of friends. In terms of the plot's compositional motivation this is perhaps the film's weakest moment. Neither the New York "cool set" that Leroy Brown leads him to - nor the Aborigines led by Ernie Dingo are at all mentioned prior to their appearance. They are both called on as an available resource to get Hogan out of a jam, to provide diversions, to help him out by minding the men he has caught - and to provide a diegetic audience for his performance. Hogan solicits and in so doing declares the community - enacts the community.
The importance of "community" in Dundee II is also achieved by the way that the camera lingers on the reaction shots which serve to stitch him into the community more. The film curiously registers the popularity of the Hogan persona. Often one finds the Hogan persona not simply acting but having a crowd of people watch him in action. Two of the principle scenes of the film turn on this: the initial action in New York where the "toughest" street gang looks on in appreciation as the more street wise Hogan defeats the technology that guards the entries and exits. And in the scene in Kakadu where the Aborigines instead of actively entering into the fiction serve as a kind of support/viewer for it. This is perhaps most evident with the Ernie Dingo character who, like the American negro Leroy Brown, is a conspiratorial presence helping to stitch the film's audience into the film.
Dingo's role recalls, in an odd way, another filmmaking project - that of the Lee Robinson/Chips Rafferty partnership in the 1950s. Like the Hogan/Cornell partnership their's counted Australia as only one, and a relatively unimportant audience for their Australian based filmmaking projects. The Robinson/Rafferty film that Crocodile Dundee II most closely resembles is The Phantom Stockman (1952) directed by Robinson and starring Chips Rafferty. Both films were the vehicles for their 'stars' who had well developed personas in their own right which overshadow any particular role they might play; in both cases the 'stars' were involved in film scripting and were rather better known than the inexperienced directors (Cornell, Robinson) of each were.
The similarities don't end there. Both negotiate an intrinsically American format - the Western - which is updated into a contemporary context in a specifically Australian locale. In both large claims are made for the "power" of their lead - the Sundowner (Rafferty)/ Dundee (Hogan). This power is enhanced in Dundee by the dual "tribal" looks of the New York street gang and the Central Australian Aborigines and in Stockman it's enhanced by the Aborigines of Central Australia. Both of these "indigenous" groups are removed crucially from the sphere of action. The disarmed looks of the indigenous confer power to the Hogan and Rafferty personae. The indigenous people can only 'help out' a bit they certainly cannot render material assistance of the kind that could arrest and redirect the narrative flow. The final shoot out, besides bearing an uncanny resemblance to each other both in locale and setting, provides a good instance of this. The Sundowner's Aboriginal off-sider in The Phantom Stockman's functions much as Ernie Dingo does in Dundee II. Both are 'helpers' - the Sundowner's offsider brings help and throws him a gun (curiously not using it himself) whilst Dundee's off-sider Ernie Dingo minds the captives and is incapable of preventing Sue or Wally from going off to help or later preventing Wally from shooting Dundee by mistake. Unable to affect the regime of 'unmediated' looks directed at the heroes, the indigenous - particularly the Aboriginal - cannot effectively enter into the mainstream (white) world. For them to do so would be to deny Hogan and Rafferty the kind of "social" and "transcendental" power that the films ascribe to them.
These structures of looking secure Hogan/Rafferty as versed in the bush landscape and creates both as white Aboriginals: the mythical Crocodile Mick and the Sundowner respectively. Aboriginality - its skills and bush lore - is lent to the white leads enabling them to be 'super' men intimate and at one with the landscape. They are so 'Aboriginal' that the Aborigines themselves yield to Mick's and the Sundowner's superior bush authority, and in Dundee's case refuse to be involved in 'black tracking' him.
If this is a familiar trope in late 19th and 20th century adventure story-telling recalling stories as diverse as Tarzan (amongst his jungle apes) and the Phantom (amongst his pygmies), this should not blind us to the colonizing imperialist (and rascist) imaginary driving such story telling. Mick, the de facto Kakadu king, controls the natural landscape and the Aborigines who willingly do his bidding. Mick's white Aboriginality, like the Sundowner's before him, is one which cannibalises Aboriginal competences to create a white hero. That cannibalisation creates a white man with special attributes of a white head (mind) with black competences but systematically disadvantages the indigenous black who is stripped of any superior knowledge of and competence in the natural environment. Both the Sundowner and Mick Dundee are white Aborigines in name only. Culturally they are pre-eminently modern and white - scarcely acculturalised into Aboriginality. Dundee, for example, has a holiday shack in the hills and owns a useless cattle station. What appears initially as a welcome accommodation of the Aboriginal presence turns into a belittling of it as that presence gets mobilised as a back-drop resource for a story-telling which aims not to tell of the white man's burden but to spin a fairy story adventure yarn with a quasi-magical hero.
Such a story telling is undoubtedly characteristic to transplanted settler cultures which have displaced indigenous peoples. That it is produced so easily under the guise of 'harmless' entertainment shows the hold such tropes of white Aboriginality hold in the Australian imagination.
A sequel, by its nature, relies upon the story world and ambience created in and by the first film. This means that Dundee II relied rather less on its "social intertexts" than the first did. Dundee II is thus a film whose principle intertextual reference is its predecessor and its massive public consumption. Because of its positioning in relation to the original the sequel invited more of an aesthetic reading than the first had. Audiences could thus be expected to judge it as a film in the film world rather more than as the hybrid cross-media text of the first. The Australian setting and Hogan's Australianness did not enter into the story-line in the active way that both did in the first. It was more the case of the Australian setting for the second half of the film being a backdrop for the foregrounded action of Hogan's traversal of it. As a consequence Hogan, by now an international celebrity and by plot design a legitimate hero was very much less 'our' Hogan.
The film's dimunition of the cultural argument and Australian/American dichotomies of the first in favour of the telling of a more or less coherent story with relatively tight chains of cause and effect indicates the extent to which its makers opted to position the film in 'the film world'. This always entailed the risk that critical reaction could gain more of a purchase than it had with the first film. Despite Hogan's public statement that the sequel would be bigger and better than the first the sequel with its wooden direction and old fashioned plot line was a significant retreat from the playful and surprising panache of the first.
Within Australia attention was focussed on celebrating the fact of the sequel's privileged international blockbuster status that was making "us the centre of attention of the film world". The film seemed to have become important simply for the fact that it had become so important internationally, that it was being released in so many theatres, that it was expected to make so much money. Discussion of the film as a film seemed stilled in the face of such wonderment of Hollywood here and now: the Ritz of its launch, the size of its international ambition. The film had become Australian export allegory, Australian success symbol. If there was more than the usual grumblings about the sequel not being as good as the first, these seemed stilled by the obligation of the public record - the need to find "it fantastic, and you'll love it".
Let's now turn to the final component of this discussion of the Dundee phenomenon the films' circulation as a point of reference in public discussion, the design of resorts and expo pavilions and so on.
Films do not achieve the kind of popularity as Crocodile Dundee and its sequel looks like doing without entering into the public life and discussions of wherever it is screened. In Australia, a Crocodile mania developed which shows no signs of ebbing. Cartoonists drew on the public valence of the film to depict political issues.
The West Australian cartoonist Alston drew on the film to depict Paul Keating as Dundee standing over a slain budget deficit (a small crocodile) whilst a much larger one labelled "trade figures" was about to gobble Keating up.(44) All sorts of people became drawn in. A retired boxer, Joe Bugner, making an ill-fated comeback called himself "Crocodile Bugsey". As a cover paragraph on the sports page of a metropolitan daily put it - tongue in cheek:
Aussie Joe Bugner, bush lad and all, has hitched on to the Crocodile wagon in an effort to ensure that his forthcoming bout with British boxer Frank Bruno will be a big hit.(45)
Some "rip offs" occurred. The shoe group, Crosby, were taken to court by Hogan over their "look" alike Dundee. Even the Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, could address the Economic Club, in the USA by suggesting that they had come to see "whether the Prime Minister of Crocodile Dundee country has a knife in his belt or not". He went on to say that "like Mick Dundee" he "was producing a weapon of enlightened self-interest.(46) Not all of it was positive. At the Calgary Winter Olympics in 1988 an Australian journalist contingent were allegedly coming to hate "Crocodile Dundee" after a number of incidents. Customs Officials asked journalists "if they had their knives with them and, if so, they should surrender them". At the Games Media Village the woman at the counter asked them "if all Australians were like Mick Dundee"; they were later told that the village had laundry facilities "so you won't have to wash your clothes in the bath like Crocodile Dundee".(47) ¨USIX
Spin-offs from the film were located everywhere. Everything it seemed from hotel occupancy rates to Australian film laboratories benefited. As a result of Crocodile Dundee "the big US film companies are increasingly allowing Australian laboratories to make prints of their films for release in Australia".(48) Tourism though, reaped the most benefit. It rose faster in Australian than in any other nation in the developed world in 1987. And much of this rise was slated home to Paul Hogan and Crocodile Dundee's impact. As a Tourism Australia official was quoted as saying:
There's no doubt that Crocodile Dundee has had an influence because there's been a great demand by Americans to visit settings in the film such as Kakadu country.(49)
Indeed by early 1988 the Northern Territory had the highest occupancy rate as tourists went to look for the scenes featured in the movie. The Northern Territory government, assured of the role Crocodile Dundee had played in putting the Territory on the international tourist map turned to the crocodile as its concept for its Expo pavillion in Brisbane in 1988. As the Official Souvenir Program for Expo described it: "at Expo visitors see eye-to-eye with a crocodile and taste the meat from this ferocious creature".(50) At the heart of Kakadu National Park, the scene of the original Dundee, an international hotel "in the shape of a 250 metre crocodile is to open its jaws" for business in September 1988.
The 110 room resort is right inside the reptile, parking areas will be the crocodile's eggs, guests will enter through a jaw-shaped portico featuring shuttered eyes, the reception area will be the head, the rooms in the belly and the stairways in the legs.. Off the beast's spine is the swimming pool.(51)
The "Crocodile" concept became the basis for other equally exploitationist turns within the tourist industry. Plans for a "Club Crocodile" at Queensland's Airlie Beach on the Great Barrier Reef were brought to fruition. At Club Crocodile guests could "share" a pool with real crocodiles. The Club was opened to coincide with the release of Crocodile Dundee II. Guests would swim in a pool separated from live crocodiles by a solid glass wall. "The ideas is for swimmers to get the impression they are actually swimming in a crocodile-infested pond." But this was not all:
The pool itself will be disguised as a large billabong with waterfalls and surrounded by mango trees (real ones) and a host of Australiana designed to make guests feel that they are slap bang in the dangerous Aussie outback.(52)
Certainly a crocodile in the guise of the stock market crash killed off for the time being similar Club Crocodile's up and down the northern coastline. That such a concept should have been seriously mounted and backed, that a desire to farm and eat crocodile steaks should have proceeded apace, and that crocodile attack insurance has been launched as a tourist gimmick is a tribute to the powerful circulation of the two films and their not insignificant hold over the public imagination. This is a hold that no Australian film has achieved before or since.(53)
Nick Roddick, "Crocs Away", Cinema Papers, Issue 58 (July 1986), p. 40.
Liz Jacka from Tony Malone, General Manager, Hoyts Distribution.
Anne Thompson, "Industry: the 12 Annual Grosses Gloss", Film Comment, April 1987, p. 64.
David Stratten, "Australia" in International Film Guide 1988
Sun-Herald (Sydney), 17/4/1988 re 1.8million units.
Paul Parisi, "'Crocodile' Eats up UK Vid Market", Hollywood Reporter, 22/11/1987, p.4.
This was in the context of some 2,800 video libraries in Australia and a figure of somewhere between 46% and 53% of Australian households with video.
Daily News (Perth), 27/5/1988.
Daily News (Perth), 27/5/1988. Crocodile Dundee II and Rambo III were both released at the same time. Dundee II came in ahead of Rambo which was a cause of media comment. This led the film's distributor Tri-Star to come up with an add to counter the perceived "failings' of the film. The ad featured a New York Grandmother with a T-shirt caption "you don't have to be macho to love Rambo".
Barry London quoted in David Hay, "Mick Dundee beats Rambo at his own game", Herald, 3/6/1988.
Meaghan Morris, "Tooth and Claw - Tales of Survival, and Crocodile Dundee", Art & Text, no. 25 (1987), pp.36-68.
See Ruth Abbey & Jo Crawford, "Crocodile Dundee or Davy Crockett?", Meanjin, 2/1987, pp. 145-153.
Dr Ken Druck quoted in Tracy Maurer, "Dundee, model of a liberated man", Weekend Australian, 2-3/7/1988, p. 1.
Morris, "Tooth and Claw", p.46.
Quoted in Gary Maddox, "Hogan's Feature Film Debut as Dundee", Encore, 20/6-3/7/1985, p. 7.
Quoted in Gary Maddox, "Having an Ace up your Sleeve", Encore, 29/8-11/9/1988, p.21.
Ibid, p. 22.
Alan Attwood & Kate Helley, "Taking Mick out of an Aussie Myth", Time (Aust.) 30/5/1988, p.72.
A measure of this is the extent to which many reviewers cited Kirk Douglas's appearance as being unnecessary to the shape of the film.
James M.Welsch, "Americans at Home, Australians Abroad", Filmviews, v.32, n.131 (1987), p.14.
Quoted in Maddox, "Hogan's Feature film debut as Dundee", p.7.
Quoted in Maddox, "Having an ace up your sleeve", p.22.
Hogan quoted in Andrew Fisher, "Hogan", Time Out (London), 3-10/12/1986.
Welsch, "Americans at Home, Australians Abroad", p.14.
Hogan quoted in Maddox, "Hogan's Feature Film Debut as Dundee", p.7.
Variety, 5/11/1986, p.20.
Quoted in Fisher, "Hogan".
Quoted in Patrice Fidgeon, "Hurricane Hoges Storms the Box Office", TV Week, 7/6/1988, p.4.
Fisher, "Hogan", Time Out, 3-10/12/1988.
William Routt & Richard Thompson, "Keep Young and Beautiful - Surplus and Subversion in Roman Scandals", in History in/on/and Film eds T. O'Regan & B. Shoesmith (Perth: History and Film Association of Australia, 1987), p.34.
James McClelland, "Time to Confess - Paul Hogan", Sydney Morning Herald, 10/12/1987.
That Hogan was positioning himself in relation to this can be seen in his public criticism that "politicians" were ruining the country.
Morris, "Tooth and Claw", p.47.
McClelland, "Time to Confess - Paul Hogan".
Quoted in Attward & Helly, "Taking Mick out of an Aussie Myth", p. 73. Taken from a London Times article by Bernard Levin.
Quoted in Ibid, p. 73. Taken from a London Times article by Bernard Levin.
Paul Attansio quoted in Welsch, "Americans at Home, Australians Abroad", p.14.
Thompson, "Industry: the 12 Annual Grosses Gloss", p.64.
Quoted in Attwood & Helly, "Taking the Mick out of an Aussie Myth", p. 73.
Veronica Brady, quoted in Attward & Helly, "Taking Mick out of an Aussie Myth", p. 73. The quote was taken from an Australian Society article.
Peter Wilmoth, "Croc of Gold", The Age, 2/5/1986, p. 10.
The West Australian 17/10/1987, p. 10.
The West Australian, 10/10/1987, p.206.
ABC News, 21/6/1988.
"Taking the Mick out of Olympic Aussies", The West Australian, 15/2/1988.
Dundee's prints for the US market were made in Australia and "gretly impressed American film studios by their quality and competitive pricing". In the past four years Australian labs have gained a major slice of the print business. The rise from 500,000 metres of film to 3 million in the first 9 months of 1987."Boost for film laboratories: Dundee prints a hit in US", Sunday Mail, 27/12/1987.
World Expo 88 - Official Souvenir Program (Sydney, Australian Consolidated Press, 1988), p. 67.
Rod Reader, "In the Know", The Weekend Australian, 23-24 April, 1988, p.46.
Rod Reader, "Crocodiles for Airlie Beach holiday Resort", Weekend Australian, 10-11 Oct. 1987, p. 34.
Just perhaps the Rudd cycle of films in the 1930s forms an equivalent case - particularly the first one Ken Hall's version of On Our Selection (1932) which had few equals at the Australian box office.
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