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Laramie Movie Scope:
Hammers Over the Anvil

Aussie coming-of-age movie

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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June 11, 2006 -- I ran across this film recently on a videotape I purchased at a flea market. It turns out this is a fairly rare film, at least there are very few reviews of it on the Internet. This film is best-known for its nude scene featuring Russell Crowe before he became a big star, and started throwing telephones at people. There is also a hot sex scene featuring Crowe and Charlotte Rampling, who last appeared nude in “The Swimming Pool.” She is also famous for appearing in a time-lapse nude sequence in the odd science fiction film “Zardoz.”

The story takes place in a rural Australian town shortly before World War I. The main character is a young crippled boy, Alan Marshall (played by Alexander Outhred). It should surprise no one that this young boy eventually becomes an author, who writes a book on which this movie is based. It should also come as no surprise that tragic events are in the making, resulting from an illicit romance between the dashing, reckless young East Driscoll (Russell Crowe) and a beautiful married woman, Grace McAlister (Charlotte Rampling). What is a little surprising is that Alan also has the hots for Grace, and he seems to be living his sexual fantasies by proxy through Driscoll, who is his hero, the man he aspires to be. He even hangs out with these two adults as a sort of co-conspirator.

Despite his inability to get around quickly on his crutches, Alan manages to spy on not one, but two separate sexual encounters, which is two more than I saw as a child. One of these, between a young girl and the local blacksmith was evidently instrumental in the fixing of a local animal judging competition. Animal judging must be held in much higher esteem in Australia than it is here. It also leads to a violent confrontation between the blacksmith and the two boys who saw the deed. This leads to the blacksmith explaining the hammers over the anvil bit. It was hard to understand this due to the fact that the video does not have closed-captioning and the Aussie accents make it hard to understand half the dialogue. I guess the phrase is something like the American expression “between a rock and a hard place.” Defying both the hammers and anvil, there follows an unbelievable scene of Alan beating up the blacksmith with his crutches.

Covering ground faster than Mario Andretti, Alan later sneaks up on Driscoll and Grace having sex in a barn. This just goes to show you that if you want privacy, don't have sex in the barn while leaving the stall door open. So you've got one sex scene in the barn and another in the blacksmith's stable. Perhaps they had not invented beds or bedrooms in Australia prior to 1920. Certainly, there were very few cars in this Australian town in 1910, which meant there was a distinct shortage of back seats. Grace, who is married to a rich man, must make up her mind. Stay with her husband, or go away with the sexier, manly Driscoll. At this time in history, a woman's choices are limited. This lover's triangle leads to tragedy, although not the usual sort of tragedy you often get in this type of situation.

This is a very slow-moving film, and it is pretty downbeat, which is not unusual, especially in foreign films. If you are going to make a film with a pokey pace, why not make it depressing as well? It doubles the fun! Alan's struggle to overcome his handicap in order to ride a horse has a very unusual resolution. It is the sort of thing you seldom see in movies. The resolution to the conflict in the lover's triangle is also pretty unusual. If this was an American fictional film, everything would have turned out differently. It does have one scene that is kind of funny, though, two riders on horseback trying to catch an ostrich. That ends up in futility, as one would expect. There is something about coming-of-age films that filmmakers find irresistible. Unfortunately, it often turns out these kinds of films are less compelling than an episode of “Scooby-Doo.” This is one of those sub-Scooby efforts. It rates a D+.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2006 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)