Meat pie Western

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Meat pie Western, also known as Australian Western or kangaroo Western, is a broad genre of Western-style films or TV series set in the Australian outback or "the bush". Films about bushrangers (sometimes called bushranger films) are included in this genre. Some films categorised as meat-pie or Australian Westerns also fulfil the criteria for other genres, such as drama, revisionist Western, crime or thriller.

The term "meat pie Western" is a play on the term Spaghetti Western, used for Italian-made Westerns. Since Westerns are a genre associated with the United States, the food qualifiers indicate the origin of other cultures that play with the characteristics of the genre.



The term "kangaroo Western" is used in an article about The Man from Snowy River (1982) in that year,[1] and Stuart Cunningham refers to Charles Chauvel’s Greenhide (1926) as a “kangaroo Western” in 1989.[2][3]

Grayson Cooke attributes the first use of the term "meat-pie Western" to Eric Reade in his History and Heartburn (1979),[4] referring to Russell Hagg's Raw Deal (1977).[2] This term is again used in 1981 in an Australian Women's Weekly column by John-Michael Howson (about a film planned to be made in Australia by James Komack, but apparently never made). Howson compares the term to the "Spaghetti Western".[5] Historian Troy Lennon (2018) says that meat pie Westerns have been around for more than a century.[6]

Cooke (2014) posits that the Australian Western genre never developed a "classic" or mature phase. He lists the following as broad categories: "the early bushranger and bush adventure films; Westerns shot in Australia by foreign production studios; contemporary re-makes of bushranger films; and contemporary revisionist Westerns, noting that most fall into the bushranger category (with only The Tracker and The Proposition falling into the latter category at that time). Other recent films, such as Ivan Sen's Mystery Road (2013), a crime film, also uses some of the Western themes.[2]

Emma Hamilton, of the University of Newcastle, refers to the Australian Western, kangaroo Western and meat-pie Western as alternative terms, in her exploration of the development of the Western genre in Australia comparing film representations of Ned Kelly. She refers to the work of Cooke and other writers, paraphrasing Peter Limbrick's view that the Western is basically "about societies making sense of imperial-colonial relationships", and considers the parallels between American and Australian histories. Hamilton lists a number of films which can be termed Australian Westerns by virtue of being set in Australia but maintaining elements of American Western conventions. The list includes, amongst many others, Robbery Under Arms (1920), Captain Fury (1939), Eureka Stockade (1949) and The Shiralee (1957).[7]


The Story of the Kelly Gang (1906) could be said to be the first in the genre (and possibly the world's first feature film[7]), with "good guys, bad guys, gunfights [and] horseback chases". In 1911 and 1912, the state governments of South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria all banned depictions of bushrangers in films, which lasted for about 30 years and at first had a significantly deleterious effect on the Australian film industry.[2][6][7]

Films in the Western genre continued to be made through the rest of the 20th century, many with Hollywood collaboration (such as Rangle River based on a Zane Grey novel in 1936), and some British (such as the Ealing Studios' The Overlanders in 1946).[6] Ned Kelly (1970) and The Man from Snowy River (1982) were the most notable examples of the genre in the second half of the century.[6][7]

Some films in the genre, such as Red Hill, The Proposition, and Sweet Country, re-examine the treatment of Aboriginal Australians and focus in racism and sexism in Australian history,[8][9] with the latter two of these being successful with both critics and box-office.[6]


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  1. ^ "Ride the high country". Filmnews (Sydney, NSW : 1975-1995). Sydney, NSW: National Library of Australia. 1 September 1982. p. 8. Retrieved 24 December 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d Cooke, Grayson (2014). "Whither the Australian Western? Performing genre and the archive in outback and beyond" (pdf). Transformations: Journal of Media and Culture (24): 3. ISSN 1444-3775. Retrieved 23 May 2019.
  3. ^ Note: This refers to a citation in Peter Limbrick's Making Settler Cinemas: Film and Colonial Encounters in the United States, Australia, and New Zealand (2010), which in turn refers to an article by Stuart Cunningham entitled "The decades of survival: Australian film 1930-1970", in The Australian Screen (ed. Albert Moran and Tom o'Regan, 1989), as per this citation.
  4. ^ Eric Reade, History and heartburn: the saga of Australian film, 1896-1978, Fairleigh Dickinson Univ Press, 1979 p 294
  5. ^ Howson, John-Michael (4 November 1981). "Hollywood". The Australian Women's Weekly. p. 157. Retrieved 24 May 2019.
  6. ^ a b c d e Lennon, Troy (21 January 2018). "Australian 'meat pie' westerns have been around for more than a century". Daily Telegraph. Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 21 May 2019.
  7. ^ a b c d Hamilton, Emma (2017). "Such Is Western: An Overview of the Australian Western via Ned Kelly Films". Contemporary Transnational Westerns: Themes and Variations. Studia Filmoznawcze ("Film Studies") (38): 31–44. doi:10.19195/0860-116X.38.3. ISSN 0860-116X. Retrieved 24 May 2019.
  8. ^ "10 Film Genres You Never Knew Existed: 5. Meat Pie & Bushranger Western". Retrieved 21 May 2019.
  9. ^ Hillis, Eric (22 March 2018). "Review: "Sweet Country"". New Jersey Stage. Retrieved 22 May 2019.

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