Captain Thunderbolt (film)

Captain Thunderbolt is a 1953 Australian action film from director Cecil Holmes about the bushranger Captain Thunderbolt. It was one of the few all-Australian films of the 1950s.[3]

Captain Thunderbolt
Directed byCecil Holmes
Produced byJohn Wiltshire
Written byCreswick Jenkinson
StarringGrant Taylor
Charles Tingwell
Music bySydney John Kay
CinematographyRoss Wood
Edited byMargaret Cardin
Associated TV
Distributed byRay Films
Release date
1953 (overseas)
June 1955 (Australia)
Running time
69 min. (53 min. TV version)
Box office£30,000[1]


Fred Ward is imprisoned for horse stealing. He escapes from Cockatoo Island and under the name of Captain Thunderbolt becomes a bushranger, working with his friend and fellow escapee Alan Blake.

Thunderbolt is tracked by the evil Sergeant Mannix who undertakes gunfights with the bushranger at a dance, then at a rocky outcrop, only to discover that he has killed Alan Blake instead. Mannix passes off Blake's body as Thunderbolt, enabling the bushranger to escape. The legend grows that Thunderbolt did not die.


  • Grant Taylor as Captain Thunderbolt
  • Charles Tingwell as Alan Blake
  • Rosemary Miller as Joan
  • Harp McGuire as Sgt Mannix
  • John Fegan as Dalton
  • Jean Blue as Mrs Ward
  • John Fernside as Colonel
  • Loretta Boutmy as Maggie
  • Ronald Whelan as Hogstone
  • Charles Tasman as Colonial Secretary
  • Harvey Adams as parliamentarian
  • Patricia Hill as Belle
  • John Brunskill as Judge


The budget was provided entirely by theatrical entrepreneur Sir Benjamin Fuller.[4][5]

It was a return to leading man roles for Grant Taylor.[6]

The movie was shot in early 1951 on location in New England, New South Wales, and at the Royal National Park in Sydney, with studio work done in Supreme Sound System in North Sydney. The woolshed dance sequence was shot at a Pyrmont woolstore. One of Thunderbolt's robbery victims was played by Kathleen Drummond, daughter of the then-local MP David Drummond.

British censorship requirements meant that the real-life romantic relationship between Thunderbolt and his aboriginal girlfriend Mary, who helped him escape from Cockatoo Island, was not featured in the film when released in Britain.[7] According to Filmink "Holmes was a bit of a lefty in real life, and he fashions the story so poor old Thunderbolt is a victim of the upper classes. Holmes was conservative enough, however, to remove Thunderbolt’s aboriginal wife from the story entirely."[8]

Captain Thunderbolt was allowed to live at the end of the film because the producers hoped to spin it off into a TV series.[9] This did not happen.


The film did not receive a wide release in Australia – it did not play in Melbourne cinemas until late 1955, and Sydney until 1956. However it sold well overseas, including to American television.[10][11]

The only copy of the film in possession of the Australian National Film and Sound Archive is a 53-minute TV edition. The archive is looking for a copy of the full 69-minute version.[12]


  1. Andrew Pike and Ross Cooper, Australian Film 1900–1977: A Guide to Feature Film Production, Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1998, 216.
  2. The bulletin, John Haynes and J.F. Archibald, 1880, retrieved 24 March 2019
  3. "What Happens To Our Films?". The Sunday Herald. Sydney. 3 February 1952. p. 12. Retrieved 25 August 2012 via National Library of Australia.
  4. Sir Benjamin Fuller at Australian Dictionary of Biography
  5. "Sydney TV inquiry told: SACKED 'BECAUSE HE DEFIED MINISTER'." The Argus (Melbourne) 16 Feb 1955: 10, accessed 27 November 2011
  6. Vagg, Stephen (29 July 2019). "Unsung Aussie Filmmakers – Grant Taylor: A Top Ten". Filmink.
  7. "Australia Makes Debut In T.V. Films." The Sunday Herald (Sydney) 8 Apr 1951: 1 Supplement, accessed 27 November 2011
  8. Vagg, Stephen (24 July 2019). "50 Meat Pie Westerns". Filmink.
  9. "Melbourne audiences might soon see... 'JEDDA' IN PERSON". The Argus. Melbourne. 20 August 1955. p. 41. Retrieved 25 August 2012 via National Library of Australia.
  10. "Local movie on television." The Australian Women's Weekly 28 Nov 1951: 57, accessed 27 November 2011
  11. The bulletin, John Haynes and J.F. Archibald, 1880, retrieved 24 March 2019
  12. "Australia's 'Lost' Films". National Film and Sound Archive.
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