Mostly humorous with occasional farcical moments, the film focuses on the Rudd family and their trials and tribulations living on the land. Murtagh Joseph Rudd, known as Dad, and his son Dave finish a bark hut on their newly established selection. The rest of the family arrive and get to work, clearing the land by hand and planting a first crop of corn. The challenges include wildlife in their beds and no money to buy a horse, but their hard work pays off. In a year or two, the Rudds have a working farm and a more comfortable home, thanks to the domestic labours of Mrs Rudd. A bushfire and several years of drought impoverish them, but they hold on against all adversity. When Kate Rudd returns from her job teaching in the city, she falls for an eligible young farmer, Sandy Taylor. Dave and his sister Sarah also find sweethearts, although Dad tries to shoot one of them. Kate's wedding allows all grudges to be forgotten.
'Much of the humor, and not a little of the pathos, of the outback settlers' life are depicted in the story. Dave and his wife set up housekeeping in a deserted hut, and Dave comes home three or four times a day to borrow' something, until the Rudd homestead is nearly denuded of furniture. There is an uproarious scene when the local band of hope calls on Mrs. Rudd, and Joe half-fills the teapot with rum, and the temperance advocates declare it to be the best tea they have ever tasted. The antics of Joe and the twins kept the audience in a simmer of mirth throughout. Some wonderful bush scenery is shown, and the whole production is a credit to the Australian artists engaged in it.'
'The Rudd's New Selection', Daily Herald, 8 August 1922, p.4 (via Trove Australia).
[Source: Australian Screen]
Dad inherits a Sydney fashion shop from his brother, whom he hadn't seen in more than twenty years. He sends one of his daughters down to run the shop, but it soon becomes apparent that a corrupt manager is in league with a competitor, Pierre. In an attempt to counter the dirty tricks campaign being waged against him, Dad closes the shop for renovations and to prepare for a major fashion show. Pierre still has a trump card up his sleeve, however: a debt of £1,000 left by Dad's brother.
The fourth in the 'Dad and Dave' (On Our Selection) series, Dad Rudd, M.P. sees Dad clash with his neighbour Henry Webster over the need for a higher wall for a dam being constructed in the district. When the local member of the state parliament dies, Dad and Webster stand against each other for the seat. Webster's camp uses every dirty trick to stop Dad Rudd's campaign, but with the help of an old friend Mr Entwhistle, Dad responds with some tricks of his own. On polling day, a major flood threatens the dam wall, while a party of workman on the other side are trapped and certain to die if it collapses. Henry Webster's son Jim (who is in love with Ann Rudd) helps rescue the stranded workers. The emergency sees Dad Rudd vindicated, and he is elected. In his maiden speech to parliament, Dad gives a rousing speech that foreshadows the coming war.
Andrew Pike and Ross Cooper (1980) note that Dad Rudd, M.P. has almost nothing in common with the original Steele Rudd stories, and 'resembles instead the sort of small-town family comedy emphasised by Hollywood's Andy Hardy series. Dad Rudd [becomes] less a naive comic figure than a bastion of middle-class morality, and the story [turns] from the frivolity of the earlier films to an inherently more sober, if rudimentary, allegory on the war in Europe' (p. 249).
The narrative also sees the Rudds attempting to modernise their farm, with unpredictable (and comic) results. Dad Rudd, for example, sets off to buy a new car and returns with an ancient horse-drawn fire-engine. Dave installs a new gas-powered stove for Mum but almost blows the kitchen apart. Among the other comedy interludes scattered through what is essentially a serious plot is a scene in which a team of country fire fighters operate with all the efficiency of the Keystone Kops (Pike and Cooper, p. 249).
Reuniting script-writer Gordon Chater and Ralph Peterson (who had previously successfully worked together on the highly successful sit-com My Name's McGooley - What's Yours?), Snake Gully with Dad and Dave was a modernised and updated version of Steele Rudd's popular characters--albeit a version that, as Don Storey notes in his Classic Australian Television, was based more on the 1930s' radio version than on the original novels.
Just as the radio version had updated the setting to a contemporary 1930s, Peterson's television scripts updated the setting again to the early 1970s, moving Dad and Dave further away from the late nineteenth-century selector culture of Rudd's original narratives. In this version, then, Dad and Dave are farmers on a small, struggling farm.
Despite these alterations, Storey notes that 'ATN-7 held high hopes for the series. The same combination of Ralph Peterson and Gordon Chater that worked on the McGooley series, couple with well-known and liked traditional Australian characters should have guaranteed success.'
It did not. The series was poorly received by both critics and viewers. Storey concludes that 'Budget limitations notwithstanding, the fact remains that a major shortcoming of the series was that the characters did not work well in a modern setting. It can be argued that if the traditional setting could not have been maintained, then the series should not have been made at all.'