Meat pie Western

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, relating in both cases to foods are regarded as national dishes.



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]

Pike and Cooper (1998) say that the category is important to differentiate more Americanised films from those with an historical basis, such as those about bushrangers, which are also sometimes called "bushranger films".[7]

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).[8]


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[8]), 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.[8][6][2]

Films in the Western genre continued to be made through the rest of the 20th century, many with Hollywood collaboration (such as Rangle River 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][8]

Some films in the genre, such as Red Hill, The Proposition, and Sweet Country, re-examine the underbelly of colonisation and expose racism in early Australian history,[9][10] with the latter two of these being successful with both critics and box-office.[6]


See also


  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 (November 4, 1981). "Hollywood". The Australian Women's Weekly. p. 157. Retrieved 24 May 2019.
  6. ^ a b c d e Lennon, Troy (21January 2018). "Australian 'meat pie' westerns have been around for more than a century". Daily Telegraph. Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 21 May 2019.
  7. ^ Andrew Pike and Ross Cooper, Australian Film 1900–1977: A Guide to Feature Film Production, Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1998, p 310, ISBN 0195507843 (First ed. 1980)
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ "10 Film Genres You Never Knew Existed: 5. Meat Pie & Bushranger Western". Retrieved 21 May 2019.
  10. ^ Hillis, Eric (22 March 2018). "Review: "Sweet Country"". New Jersey Stage. Retrieved 22 May 2019.
Meat pie (Australia and New Zealand)

An Australian or New Zealand meat pie is a hand-sized meat pie containing diced or minced meat and gravy, sometimes with onion, mushrooms, or cheese and often consumed as a takeaway food snack.

The meat pie is considered iconic in Australia and New Zealand. It was described by former New South Wales Premier Bob Carr in 2003 as Australia's "national dish". New Zealanders regard the meat pie as a part of New Zealand cuisine, and it forms part of the New Zealand national identity.The Victorian pie brand Four'n Twenty produces 50,000 pies per hour and Australians consume an average of 12 meat pies per year. The average consumption of meat pies in New Zealand is 15 per person per year. The meat pie is heavily associated with Australian rules football and rugby league as one of the most popular consumed food items whilst watching a game.

Raw Deal (1977 film)

Raw Deal is a 1977 Australian meat pie western film directed by Russell Hagg made by the company responsible for the TV series Cash and Company and Tandarra.

Robbery Under Arms (1920 film)

Robbery Under Arms is a 1920 Australian film directed by Kenneth Brampton and financed by mining magnate Pearson Tewksbury. It is an early example of the "Meat pie Western".

Sweet Country (2017 film)

Sweet Country is an award-winning 2017 Australian drama and Meat pie Western film, directed by Warwick Thornton. Set in 1929 in the sparsely-populated outback of the Northern Territory and based on a series of true events, it tells a harsh story against the backdrop of a divided society (between the European settlers and Indigenous Australians) in the interwar period in Australia.

It was first screened in the main competition section of the 74th Venice International Film Festival in September 2017 and after winning the Special Jury Prize award there, went on to win several awards internationally.

The Overlanders (film)

The Overlanders is a 1946 British film about drovers driving a large herd of cattle 1,600 miles overland from Wyndham in Western Australia through the Northern Territory outback of Australia to pastures north of Brisbane, Queensland during World War II.

The film was the first of several produced in Australia by Ealing Studios, and featured among the cast Chips Rafferty. It was an early example of the genre later dubbed the "meat pie western".

The Sundowners (1960 film)

The Sundowners is a 1960 Technicolor film that tells the story of an Australian outback family torn between the father's desires to continue his nomadic sheep-herding ways and the wife's and son's desire to settle down in one place. The film stars Deborah Kerr, Robert Mitchum, and Peter Ustinov, with a supporting cast including Glynis Johns, Dina Merrill, Michael Anderson Jr., and Chips Rafferty.

The screenplay was adapted by Isobel Lennart from Jon Cleary's novel of the same name; it was produced and directed by Fred Zinnemann. It falls into the Australian meat pie Western genre.At the 33rd Academy Awards, The Sundowners was nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role (Deborah Kerr), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Glynis Johns), Best Director, Best Picture, and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium.

The Tracker (2002 film)

The Tracker is a 2002 Australian drama film/meat pie Western directed and written by Rolf de Heer and starring David Gulpilil, Gary Sweet and Damon Gameau. It is set in 1922 in outback Australia where a racist white colonial policeman (Sweet) uses the tracking ability of an Indigenous Australian tracker (Gulpilil) to find the murderer of a white woman.

Western (genre)

Western is a genre of various arts which tell stories set primarily in the latter half of the 19th century in the American Old West, often centering on the life of a nomadic cowboy or gunfighter armed with a revolver and a rifle who rides a horse. Cowboys and gunslingers typically wear Stetson hats, neckerchief bandannas, vests, spurs, cowboy boots and buckskins (alternatively dusters). Recurring characters include the aforementioned cowboys, Native Americans, bandits, lawmen, bounty hunters, outlaws, gamblers, soldiers (especially mounted cavalry, such as buffalo soldiers), and settlers (farmers, ranchers, and townsfolk). The ambience is usually punctuated with a Western music score, including American and Mexican folk music such as country, Native American music, New Mexico music, and rancheras.

Westerns often stress the harshness of the wilderness and frequently set the action in an arid, desolate landscape of deserts and mountains. Often, the vast landscape plays an important role, presenting a "...mythic vision of the plains and deserts of the American West". Specific settings include ranches, small frontier towns, saloons, railways, wilderness, and isolated military forts of the Wild West.

Common plots include:

The construction of a railroad or a telegraph line on the wild frontier.

Ranchers protecting their family ranch from rustlers or large landowners or who build a ranch empire.

Revenge stories, which hinge on the chase and pursuit by someone who has been wronged.

Stories about cavalry fighting Native Americans.

Outlaw gang plots.

Stories about a lawman or bounty hunter tracking down his quarry.Many Westerns use a stock plot of depicting a crime, then showing the pursuit of the wrongdoer, ending in revenge and retribution, which is often dispensed through a shootout or quick-draw duel.The Western was the most popular Hollywood genre from the early 20th century to the 1960s.

Western films first became well-attended in the 1930s. John Ford's landmark Western adventure Stagecoach became one of the biggest hits in 1939 and it made John Wayne a mainstream screen star. The popularity of Westerns continued in the 1940s, with the release of classics such as Red River (1948). Westerns were very popular throughout the 1950s and 1960s. Many of the most acclaimed Westerns were released during this time, including High Noon (1952), Shane (1953), The Searchers (1956), Cat Ballou (1965), The Wild Bunch (1969) and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969). Classic Westerns such as these have been the inspiration for various films about Western-type characters in contemporary settings, such as Junior Bonner (1972), set in the 1970s, and The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (2005), set in the 21st century.

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