They're a Weird Mob (1966)

Walter Chiari, Claire Dunne, Chips Rafferty, Alida Chelli,
They're a Weird Mob is a movie starring Walter Chiari, Claire Dunne, and Chips Rafferty. An Italian sports journalist arrives in Australia but finds no work. The only employment he can find is as a builder's labourer. At first, he...
  • 6.5 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2018-09-07 Added:
  • John O'Grady, Emeric Pressburger, Writer:
  • Michael Powell, Director:
  • Producer:
9 / 10

An icon of Aussie culture!

Recently restored and remastered (within a limited budget) for DVD release, this movie was a revelation in Aussie ways and customs, a near-to-totally honest portrayal of what it was like for immigrants arriving here back in the last half of the 20th Century (yes, it seems a long time ago).

The house that Nino built occupied a block in Greenacre, NSW, less than half a mile from where I was living at the time. I must have driven by it thousands of times. Previous prints screened on TV have been abysmal with washed out colour and scratchy images and sound. To see this near-as pristine print (for the most part) was an eye-opener and the scenes of Greenacre, Bankstown and other Sydney locations brought memories flooding back.

The cast of fine supporting actors makes the film worth watching, while the lead actor is simply perfect. One can't imagine anyone else in the part. The film flags towards the end but generally, it's great viewing.

8 / 10

Portrays a different Australia which has long gone

A largely accurate portrayal of typical Australian attitudes, lifestyles and aspirations of the era, this movie was a celebration of the country's easy going and proudly egalitarian spirit. And, even more significantly, as it predates the contrived, heavy handed and deliberately boorish "Ocker" nonsense that came into vogue a bit later, it remains an excellent example of genuine, laid back Aussie humor at its best.

However, looking at it again, all these years later, it now provides a stark reminder of just how much things have changed. Sadly, Australia is no longer quite the same sun drenched "workers paradise" where the average punter could afford a Sydney Harbourside home on little more than a basic wage and buy a crayfish (lobster) for a couple of dollars on a Saturday night. It really was one big endless summer.

7 / 10

More than just a historical curiosity, and better than you think

Whoever you are, you probably have no desire to see this film. I understand. I had no desire to see it either. It was a blockbuster in its day, but only in Australia, and Australians are among the last people on the face of the planet who'd want to see it now. We don't want to be reminded what our country was like in the mid-1960s. Not that "reminded" is the right word, for most of us either weren't born or weren't here in 1966 (I certainly wasn't), and so it's easy for us to suppose that this film is nothing more than (a) a sustained exercise in wog-bashing, and (b) a celebration of everything we've all been earnestly trying to escape ever since the introduction of decimal currency and decent coffee. I'm sure most Australians, like me, will be thinking: If I watch this movie, how much will it make me cringe?

The short answer: okay, it probably WILL make you cringe now and then; but it's more moving, more witty, and more enlightened, than you might think. No wog-bashing. And it's NOT, as I feared, the 1960s equivalent of "Crocodile Dundee". Neither a kangaroo nor a swagman in sight. Powell even resists the temptation to show the Sydney Opera House as he pans over the harbour, probably because it hadn't yet been built.

I wouldn't have seen it if it hadn't been directed by Michael Powell. And here I have grounds for disappointment, since there's none of Powell's usual visual inventiveness or splendour. But fair enough: visual splendour would have been beside the point in this kind of comedy, and it may have been fatal. It's not that there's anything WRONG with the cinematography. To compensate for the fact that it's not another "Black Narcissus" we get a nice, light, and in the end surprisingly touching, comedy. The obvious cultural misunderstandings (Nino thinks, for a while, that there's a region of Sydney called "King's Bloody Cross" - that kind of thing) are neither laboured nor over-stated. Nor are they really the point of the film. Sure, Nino solemnly does what everyone tells him to do as if he were an anthropologist entering a mosque, but the story takes us further than this.

By the way, you'll note that almost every spoken sentence contains either a "bloody" or a "bugger". Powell later said that this was the key to getting past the censors. If he'd been conservative and had his characters swear only once or twice, the censors would have insisted on minor cuts; but since everyone swears constantly, it's impossible to cut one scene without cutting the rest, so the film emerged unscathed - with a G rating!

10 / 10

A "bloody" good movie - along with the book, the film provides a timeless piece of well recommended entertainment and history.

A "bloody" good movie - accurate, very accurate from my perspective as someone with Italian heritage who migrated to Australia in 1964 . The character and experiences of Nino could've been either of my two uncles who migrated in the mid-1950's.

Notwithstanding the story, it's an amazing photo story of what Australia was like for millions or migrants in the'60's - particularly the larger cities of Sydney and Melbourne. The character of the Aussies is spot on - you can meet them any day on any street in any city of Australia right now. The aussie "mateship" unique to the Australian psyche is very well portrayed; the Aussie mentality of always willing to give a bloke a fair go and taking people for what they are - fair dinkum - and not who they are is also well captured. The actors are the creme de la creme of Australian theatre, tv, radio and film - most of them appearing in many Australian dramas of later years such as Homicide, Division 4, Number 96, Prisoner, Skippy(Ed Devereaux & Tony Bonner), and Crocodile Dundee (John Meillon)

It's a refreshing retro to an era of quality storylines, acting and the promotion of individual potential. The language, the 6 o'clock closings of the pubs, the white aussie's prejudice to the 'Eye-tie"(ITalian) and anyone else who wasn't a Smith, Brown, McKenzie, O'Farrell is as accurate as I experienced. And all served up with a laugh.

Along with the book, the film provides a timeless piece of well recommended entertainment and history.

8 / 10

a movie about another time in Australia, immigration theme

I recently watched the DVD of this movie. Way back in the sixties it was a big hit at a time when very few Australian movies were being made. I am delighted to say that the movie holds up remarkably well. It is now a charming curiosity of another time. The plot is by now well known but I wondered if I would cringe over the way Australians were portrayed. I need not have worried as the characters are warm and earthy. It was wonderful to see some of those fine actors of the past, most of whom have passed away. Chips Rafferty is superb in one of his last movies. The only character that does not work is the love interest Clare Dunne who has a very cold screen presence. She sounds like she is taking elocution lessons on screen. The most pleasant surprise is Walter Chiari as Nino. He is delightful. Chiari had a troubled career, especially in his Broadway misadventure in the flop musical "The gay time" opposite Barabara Cook. The musical however sounds wonderful now, perhaps it was ahead of its time. In this film Chiari is enchanting and dam cute too. The real joy for most Aussies is seeing a brief appearance by the undisputed king of Aussie television Graham Kennedy. Graham allows the script and director to send him up. There will sadly never be another Graham but hopefully there will be many more Australian movies as charming as this. It really was a pleasant surprise. Do see it.