The full title of the movie is actually A Faithful Narrative of the Capture, Sufferings and Miraculous Escape of Eliza Fraser, which is supposed to give a warning of the jolly bawdy Tom Jones-style romp which is to follow, but which doesn’t.
Pretty Eliza Fraser (Susannah York) and her elderly, fat husband, Captain Fraser (Noel Ferrier) – a figure of much fun – are leaving for Britain from the penal colony of Sydney, Australia, on board the Stirling Castle.
Before they leave, Eliza is bedded by Captain Rory McBryde (John Castle), a notorious rake, and convict David Bracefell (John Waters) who she helps to escape.
The Frasers are subsequently shipwrecked on a reef and come to shore on a beach, which they believe to be on the mainland.
They are, in fact, on an island and are shortly confronted by aboriginal natives who are fascinated by Eliza.
The Frasers are forced to travel through bush and swamp with the natives as they move camp, eventually to discover Eliza is to be married to an aboriginal.
Fortuitously, the escaped convict Bracefell is now living among the natives and stops the marriage from taking place.
Rescuers, led by the sadistic homosexual prison commander Captain Foster Fyans (played with much relish by Trevor Howard), arrive but Captain Fraser is killed by mistake.
Eliza is rescued, returns to Sydney and goes on to make a fortune recounting her adventures in the Music Hall and sideshows.
Tim Burstall’s direction has no sense of period, and the comedy sequences, in particular, are ponderous. Made at a cost of around $1.5 million, Eliza Fraser was almost universally panned by critics.
Captain Rory McBryde
Captain James Fraser
Captain Foster Fyans
Charles ‘Bud’ Tingwell
Mrs Annie Fraser