Under the Southern Cross (1929 film)

Under the Southern Cross also known as The Devil’s Pit or Taranga, is a 1929 American drama film set in New Zealand, directed by Lew Collins for Universal Studios, who also wrote the screenplay. Originally titled Taranga by the original director Alexander Markey, but was completed by Collins and released as Under the Southern Cross in 1929, then with the introduction of sound was given a soundtrack and retitled The Devil’s Pit in 1930. The film was shot on White Island, which has an active volcano.

Under the Southern Cross
Directed byLew Collins
Produced byLew Collins
Music byBathie Stuart
Edited byHugh Hoffmann
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • 1929 (1929)
Running time
5579 ft US silent
5606 then 6279 ft UK
6642 ft US sound

It is one of four films (with Down on the Farm, Hei Tiki and On the Friendly Road) which lay claim to be the first "New Zealand talkie", although dubious as the sound was added to the 1930 release in the United States.

Only fragments of out-takes are left. The film probably has no connection with the 1927 British film of the same name, Under the Southern Cross, directed by Gustav Pauli.


In pre-European New Zealand there are two hostile Māori tribes. The chief of one tribe proposes to marry his daughter Miro into the other tribe, the Waiti. But a contest, The Challenge of the Spear, must be held, with the victor to marry Miro. Rangi, a vicious warrior wins by trickery. Miro is by tapu forbidden from seeing her true love Patiti. But Patiti rows across the lake to see her nightly, until the suspicious Rangi finds them. In a deadly struggle on the edge of the volcano, Patiti forces Rangi into the volcano. War resumes, but love brings a compromise and Miro and Patiti marry.


  • Patiti Warbrick as Patiti
  • Witarina Mitchell as Miro


    • New Zealand Film 1912-1996 by Helen Martin & Sam Edwards p42 (1997, Oxford University Press, Auckland) ISBN 019 558336 1

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