In 1906, nine years before D.W. Griffith's infamous 3 hour epic The Birth of a Nation, was made and released in the United States, the film The Story of the Kelly Gang was made in Australia and according to the Unesco Memory of the World Programme, it is the world's first dramatic feature film. It was said to have originally run about 60 minutes and took up six reels of film, only about 17 minutes of those 60 still exist.
The film focused on the story of the notorious outlaw gang of bushrangers lead by Ned Kelly. Kelly was arrested and executed in 1880, about a quarter-century before the film was made. The film was filmed with a budget of about $2,250 on location in Melbourne and the surrounding area in Victoria, Kelly's home territory. The Victorian Museum loaned Kelly's actual suit of armor to the production, and it was used in the film.
The film had its premiere on December 26, 1906, and presented with live actors on stage providing narration, character voices, and sound effects. Program booklets were also handed out the audience to help them understand the story. It was a regional hit in Australia and New Zealand for almost 20 years and was even banned in some towns including Benalla and Wangaratta, because of fear of copycat crimes and violence.
This movie was filmed on extremely fragile strips of nitrate, which easily deteriorates. One scene features the Glenrowan Inn hotel fire and used red tint which caused even more deterioration to that selected scene.
In 2007, a DVD was released featuring restoration, colorized scenes and commontary of most the remaining fragments