Crocodile Dundee (1986)
Release Date: September 26th, 1986 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Peter Faiman Actors: Paul Hogan, Linda Kozlowski, John Meillon, David Gulpilil, Ritchie Singer, Mark Blum, Maggie Blinco
riter Sue Charlton (Linda Kozlowski) ventures to Australia, where she hopes to scoop up a big story for her newspaper. A legendary crocodile hunter called Michael J. Dundee is purported to have miraculously escaped the clutches of an 18-foot gargantuan reptile; after being ambushed by the beast in the wild, the man bloodily dragged himself all the way back to civilization, sans a leg. The yarn sounds engaging but proves to be wildly exaggerated as “Mick” Dundee (Paul Hogan) soon makes a showily grandiose appearance, still very much in one piece. Sue pays for a tour of the area where Dundee was attacked, and finds herself enchanted by his gruff and gritty allure, despite initially judging the man as something of a fraud. She convinces Dundee to go back to New York with her (under the ruse of beefing up her assignment), where the two get caught up in a new set of adventures in an entirely different environment.
Dundee is appealing the minute he steps onscreen, donning a boastful swagger and affable wit, paired later with fish-out-of-water innocence and unwavering independence. He comes on strong, at first, with unsubtly smooth moves, animal taming techniques, old Bushman tricks, crocodile battling skills, and his knowledge of Aborigine traditions, but ultimately reveals a degree of gentlemanliness carefully hidden beneath his ungraceful exterior. His calmness and naivety toward all complex matters of technology and sophisticated big city human suffering makes for a grand target of comedic stereotypes – and also genuinely heartfelt drama. Paul Hogan couldn’t possibly be more perfect for the role; he wrote the story (with John Cornell and Ken Shadie), so the character’s tough glamor is largely adapted from Hogan himself, even though Dundee is based on the true-to-life deeds of survivalist Rodney Ansell. Newcomer Kozlowski (who married Hogan in 1990) also does a fine job as the not so distraught lady-in-distress, imparting fitting chemistry with the jaunty outdoorsman.
“Seven million people all wanting to live together – New York must be the friendliest place on earth.” Mick’s elementary, unworried outlook can’t prepare him for the chaos and cruelty of Manhattan’s fast-paced conditions. Like a kid in a candy store, Dundee is shocked and baffled by technology and the many excessive socialite amenities – all of which seem vastly unnecessary. Finding familiar comfort in a local boozer, he is introduced to the oddities of transvestites, prostitutes, and pimps. Later, at a high-class party, he is ironically introduced to cocaine, drugs, and the wonders of psychiatrists; contrasting degrees of wealth still present inescapable patterns of seediness. But everyone from the bellhop to the chauffeur is infected by Dundee’s innocent and effortless poise – save for Sue’s boyfriend Richard Mason (Mark Blum), hilariously portrayed as the typical jealous nemesis.
The final sequence, in which the lively theme music by Peter Best builds as Sue chases after Dundee through a crowded subway, is one of the greatest conclusions ever filmed. It exemplifies the proficient blend of comedy, romance, and thrills that stays consistent from beginning to end. Remaining lighthearted and thoroughly good-natured, while still retaining poignancy, is no easy feat, but “Crocodile Dundee” accomplishes it adroitly. The film demonstrates not only a pleasing attitude and cinematic interpretation of mythical outback heroes, but also a masterful control over music, comedic timing, and a convincing love story. Its sheer entertainment value is enormous. Hogan’s invention was not lost on American audiences, as it raked in huge sales at the box office (finishing in second place for the year), garnered an Oscar nomination for its screenplay, and inspired two theatrical sequels.
– Mike Massie