In the 1970s, two of the most popular actors in Australia were Gerard Kennedy and Gus Mercurio who starred in the television series Tandarra (1976), which was a period piece set in colonial Australia. I remember thinking it was the best show on television as a kid – I couldn’t have been more than eight or nine years old. It seems strange now, to realise that there were only 13 episodes made. I must have watched a lot of repeats – or get it confused with Cash and Company, which was made a year earlier, and starred Mercurio as the same character.
The chemistry on screen between Gus and Kennedy was a key ingredient to the show, and it was not so surprising that they were teamed up once again for Raw Deal, a kangaroo western. I saw Raw Deal in the mid 1980s, when it was released on VHS, and thought it was pretty damn good. But it is one of those movies that has all but disappeared off the face of the earth. I have spent the last fifteen years hunting high and low for a copy.
At last a copy has landed in my lap. Is the film as good as I remember? Short answer: Yes!
The story starts in an un-named rural settlement. A gang of marauders, known as the Tyrones ride into town, assemble the town folk, and then begin to steal their money and jewelery. However two men refuse to acquiesce to the Tyrone’s wishes. They are Palmer (Gerard Kennedy) – a man with a reputation as a mercenary; and Ben (Gus Mercurio) – an American gun salesman, who just so happens to have a supply of the latest Winchester repeater rifles.
Naturally enough, a gunfight ensues – with Palmer and Ben, despite being outnumbered, proving their gun-fighting prowess.
Palmer and Ben’s fighting prowess bring them to the attention of an English powerbroker named Sir Charles (John Cousins). Sir Charles is worried about the Tyrone’s increasing numbers. They are almost like a small army, and it is feared they may start a rebellion (remembering that when this movie is set, Australia was still an English colony). He attributes their strength to their charismatic and daring leader, an Irishman named, O’Neil (Norman Yemm). Sir Charles figures if O’Neil was assassinated, the threat would be contained.
But he needs assassins, and Palmer and Ben appear to be perfect for the job. For a hefty fee, they agree to do Sir Charles’ dirty work.
However, as brave and undoubtedly talented with a gun they may be, two men against an army is sheer folly. So they recruit some men to assist with their daring raid. They include: womanising ‘dandy’, Alex (Rod Mullinar), seasoned soldier, Ned (Hu Pryce), and young con-man, Dick (Christopher Pate).
The five men, armed with a hearse full of dynamite, set off across the desert to take on the Tyrones. And of course, the odds are stacked against them, but never for a moment does it appear like they are outmatched.
However, as the movie is called ‘Raw Deal’, there is some treachery involved at the climax – and once again Palmer and Ben’s gun fighting skills are put to the test.
As Raw Deal has no nudity, or ultra violence, it flew under the radar when Ozploitation became popular due to the documentary, Not Quite Hollywood. The film still remains MIA, but I hope someone like Madman or Umbrella choose to seek it out, and get it out there on DVD or Bluray. It’s a good solid western, that should have a better reputation, and deserves to be seen.
Thanks to ST, for helping me acquire a copy of this gem of a movie.