Burke & Wills Web
The online digital research archive of expedition records
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aka:The Whacky World of Wills & Burke
aka: Wills & Burke: the untold story

Stony Desert Productions, 1985.


They said I'd never do it,
they said don't even try.
They said that I'd be up the creek,
some said I'd even die.

But I kept on pushing on,
I kept on aiming high,
Who's laughing now ?

Didn't I tell you that I would come through it ?
Do you remember how I said I'd do it ?
Well you can kiss my ass, 'cause I know,
who's laughing now ?

While everybody contemplated failure,
and said I had no guts or genitalia.
I went ahead and crossed Australia,
Who's laughing now ?

Who's Laughing Now ?

The Wacky World of Wills & Burke theme tune, sung by Garry McDonald of Norman Gunston and Mother & Son, written by Red Symonds of the band Skyhooks and the TV show Hey Hey It's Saturday.

Quotes from the movie

Macadam; So thats it then, you've been through the whole lot, there's no one left ?
Assistant; Dashing, charismatic expedition leaders don't grow on trees.
Macadam; What's wrong with Tony ?
Assistant; He was worried about his skin drying out in the desert.
Burke [pointing to map]; Surely it can't be that complicated, look, why don't we just follow this road here?
Wills; That's a contour line.
Burke; A what....?
Sir William Stawell [singing]; They thought I'd never get the show together,
I knew it wouldn't miss with guns and leather...

This movie cost $AUD 1.7 million to produce and was released in the same year as the $AUD 10 million Hoyt's Edgely blockbuster production, Burke and Wills. It was filmed entirely in Victoria, with the desert scenes being shot in a Weribee quarry. The movie starred an 18 year-old Nicole Kidman in her seventh film (BMX Bandits in 1983 was her third). It was released as Wills & Burke and then retitled The Wacky World of Wills & Burke for Australian audiences and Wills & Burke: The Untold Story for US audiences.

Generation Films
Greater Union Organization
Monarch Home Video


By Tim Bonyhady, 'Burke & Wills : From Melbourne to Myth,' 1981. page 310;
Wills & Burke not only had its humour to commend it, but revealed a much surer understanding of the Expedition than its much more pretentious rival [Burke & Wills]. Because its makers realised that the Expedition had been one of colonial Melbourne's great entertainments, they presented it as a burlesque which the Exploration Committee had deliberately set about creating.

By Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide;
This Australian lampoon of historical epics stars Kim Gyngell as William John Wills and Garry McDonald as Robert O'Hara Burke, two real-life Australian explorers. Setting out to travel across the Australian continent and back again, Wills and Burke both perish on the return trip. In rehashing this oft-told story, director Bob Weis and screenwriter Philip Dalkin decided to play for laughs. Evidently many domestic viewers missed the point, inasmuch as Weis was compelled to tack the words The Wacky World Of... onto his title. Still, the film was greeted with stony silence by non-Australian audiences, who neither knew nor cared who Wills and Burke were.

By Warren Taylor :-
The trailer at some film in about '85-86 led me to watching this,and I hate to say this this but the trailer was much better than the film. It takes you along the final weeks of William Wills & Robert Burke and the crossing of outback Australia that was never completed by Europeans before. I got very confused and was lost after about 30 minutes, but Gary Mcdonald is one of my favorite Australian comedians and with the help of Kym Gyngell it keeps the film just going.

By Eleanor Mannikka, All Movie Guide :-
Cashing in on the release of Burke and Wills, this undistinguished comedy by Bob Weiss tries to turn the tragic crossing of Australia's desert in 1860 into fodder for humor, but it is tasteless fodder in the end. Robert O'Hara Burke (Gary McDonald) and William John Wills (Kim Gyngell) set out from Melbourne with a large caravan of supplies and people, intending to reach the northern coast and the Gulf of Carpentaria. Out of the 19 men who started the trek, only one returned alive. There are a few good performances delineating minor characters in this ostensibly dark comedy. One notable feature of the film is that a young Nicole Kidman plays Julia Matthews, a Melbourne singer who had a long affair with Burke.

[Burke & Wills Web notes that Eleanor Mannikka of the All Movie Guide has most of her information wrong. Wills & Burke was in production at the same time as Burke & Wills and was therefore not cashing in on its release. Of the 19 men that left Melbourne, only seven died. Julia Matthews was an English actress, not a Melbourne singer and did not have a long affair with Burke, in fact she did not have an affair with him at all.]


  Greater Union 1985
Runtime: 100 minutes
Video released by Monarch Video

Acting credits

  Garry McDonald
Robert O'Hara Burke
  Kym Gyngell William John Wills
  Nicole Kidman Julia Matthews
  Peter Collingwood Sir William Stawell
  Jonathan Hardy John Macadam
  Roderick Williams
George Landells
  Mark Little John King
  Roy Baldwin Charley Gray
  Alex Menglet William Brahe
  Tony Rickards Patton
  Simon Thorpe McDonough
  Wyn Roberts William Wright
  Dalibor Satalic Beckler
  Henry Maas Charles
  Chris Haywood Constable
  Kirk Alexander
Mr Lewis
  Stephen Kearney Ambrose
  Neill Gladwin Godfrey
  Colin Hay Publican
  Mark Mitchell Carpenter
  Jay Mannering Menindee Local
  Andrew Martin Welch
  Paul Kuek
  Bob Burton Pantomime horse
  Peter Seaborn Pantomime horse
  Paul Voermans Pantomime horse

Production credits

  Director Bob Weis
  Writing credits Philip Dalkin
  Producers Margot McDonald & Bob Weis
  Original music Paul Grabowsky & Red Symons
  Cinematography Nino Gaetano Martinetti
  Film editing Edward McQueen-Mason
  Casting Liz Mullinar
  Production design Tracy Watt
  Costume design Rose Chong & Karen Merkel
  Unit manager Murray Boyd
  Production manager Roslyn Tatarka
  Second assistant director Michael McIntyre
  First assistant director John Wild
  Key grip Paul Ammitzboll
  Still photographer Rosie Cass
  Continuity Helen Gaynor
  Clapper loader Leigh Parker
www.burkeandwills.net.au Burke & Wills Web The digital research archive of expedition records
© 2020, Dave Phoenix