Anzacs (1985)

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Released 1-Apr-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category War Main Menu Audio
DVD Credits
Featurette-Making Of-History in the Making-The Making of Anzacs
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1985
Running Time 480:27 (Case: 524)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Multi Disc Set (3)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Pino Amenta
John Dixon
George Miller
Studio
Distributor
G Burrowes & J Dixon
Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Andrew Clarke
Paul Hogan
Megan Williams
Mark Hembrow
Jon Blake
Christopher Cummins
Tony Bonner
Shane Briant
Alec Wilson
Patrick Ward
Jonathan Sweet
Peter Finlay
Jim Holt
Case Gatefold
RPI $79.95 Music Bruce Rowland


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (320Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

   

War is something that I despise
For it means destruction of innocent lives
For it means tears in thousands of mothers' eyes
When their sons go out to fight to give their lives
(War - by Strong, Whitfield and Star)

   Looking back with the advantage of hindsight it is easy to see why Australia became involved in WWI. The ties to Great Britain were still exceptionally strong, even though we had become a federation some 14 years previously. England was at this time still the world's only true "super power". Its command of the sea was still absolute and its far flung empire was still the envy of all who saw it. It would be many years before the break-up of the last great colonial empire began, but in 1914 she was still one of the most formidable military powers in the world. Therefore, when the call to arms came after the declaration of war it was with much gusto and fervour that so many young men stepped forward to answer the calling and only at the end of the war, with over 50,000 dead, 200,000 plus wounded and almost 10% of the country in service would the terrible cost be counted.

    The First World War was nothing short of a bloodbath. Many of those who took part in it never really recovered and an entire generation was lost to the stupidity of it all. As one of the characters in the series remarks, "it's like 4 years of our lives simply gone and we can't tell a soul about it", and that tends to be reflected in the historical accounts as well. The military accounts of the day didn't differentiate the different countries involved on the British side and dispatches merely mentioned the victories and not who was involved. It was only the appointment of Sir John Monash as the commander of the Anzac forces that saw any small recognition given to the role of the diggers in the war at all, something that has blurred much of the history created by this relatively small group of men given the vast numbers involved throughout the conflict.

    Anzacs then is an attempt to put into perspective the role of the Australians during the years 1915, when they were first employed at the landings at Gallipoli, all the way through to the end of the war in 1918. The story concerns a fictitious company of men under arms in the 8th Battalion formed and trained in Victoria. The first episode is a primer of how they got together including the friendship between Martin Barrington (Andrew Clarke), Dick Baker (Mark Hembrow) and his sister Kate (Megan Williams). At the train station on the way to the Broadmeadows Army Camp (which is nothing more than a cow paddock when they arrive, indicating the true state of preparedness at the time) is Pat Cleary (Paul Hogan), the typical Aussie larrikin. At the camp they are joined by Roly Collins (Christopher Cummins), Tom McArther (Patrick Ward) and Bill Harris (Jonathan Sweet). From there you follow them through the training camp where they are commanded by Lt Harold Armstrong (Tony Bonner) with whom the men form an instant bond. Alongside this thread is that of Dick Baker's sister, Kate, who joins up as a nurse and provides the romantic slant to the storyline. After basic training the boys are sent off to fight against the Turks and landed at Anzac Cove where they earn their first reputation at Gallipoli. Mounting casualties mean replacements who are brought in to strengthen the company including one Private Flannigan (Jon Blake) who becomes an integral part of the unit. Eventually though, the attempt to force a backdoor into Germany is called off as a dismal failure and the troops are withdrawn leading on to the next episode.

    The episodes in the series follow the various battles that the Aussies fought in. New characters are introduced as members of the company die off or are replaced due to injury including people like 'Kaiser' Schmidt (Shane Briant), 'Dingo' Gordon (Jim Holt), 'Puddin' Parsons (Alec Wilson) and L.C.P.T. Bluey (Peter Finlay) who all have their own storylines. In the end, though, it is only a select few who manage to make it to war's end. But the series isn't simply about the combat. It also offers up a slice of life at home at the time. The parish priest, Reverend George Lonsdale (Robert Coleby), is initially someone who offers comfort, but who becomes a pariah due to the fact that it is he who must deliver the telegrams telling the families of the death of a loved one. Dick Baker's mother (Sheila Kennelly) is another who must bear up to both her children being 12,000 miles away and a swag of other minor subplots which are covered in some detail. It is probably true that the tragedy of war is often most visited on those forgotten and left behind and the series does a reasonably good job of conveying some of that angst.

    All-in-all, this is a very watchable and enjoyable series and deserving of a place in any collection. Given the period when it was made and the budget it was made for, it makes a fair fist of almost all aspects that it covers. This is certainly no Saving Private Ryan for grittiness and raw power but the dedication to detail was evident throughout. The direction and casting were excellent, as was the script in general, and the attempts to accurately portray the conditions of combat were quite exceptional. The whole series carries with it an air of authenticity, right down to the attitude of the men both to each other and their superiors. I guess it was no wonder that General Haig wanted the death penalty reintroduced. How factual this all was is probably for the historians to argue over, and there was a fair amount of jingoism and flag waving, but nothing too untoward. Given the passage of time since this was made though, the series still bears up well and is definitely one of the best mini-series ever made in this country.

Episode Synopsis:
Disk 1: Episode 1 - 96:43 - Covers the pre-war, recruiting, training, Gallipoli and withdrawal
Disk 1: Episode 2 - 96:36 - Arriving in France, the battles of the Somme and Poziers
Disk 2: Episode 3 - 97:08 - The Somme winter offensive, the battle for the Hindenburg line, Blighty leave, Ypres, Menin Road and Broodseinde Ridge.
Disk 2: Episode 4 - 94:52 - The third battle of Ypres, the German Offensive of 1918, Amiens and Hazebrouck
Disk 3: Episode 5 - 95:08 - The coming of the Yanks, the appointment of Monash, the big push, Armistice and home.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     If you already own the VHS version of this series, unless you have some urgent desire to replace it with a DVD there is little point since this is basically a rehash of the VHS version; a poor quality transfer from what looks like an obviously inferior print.

    This transfer is offered in the aspect ratio of its original TV screening, 1.33:1, and is not 16x9 enhanced.

    Grain is evident from the opening scenes all the way through each of the discs. At no time does it disappear, but occasionally it becomes almost overpowering (Episode 3 - 44:32), spoiling the picture to the point of annoyance. The general presentation looks slightly out of focus with edge enhancement actually contributing to any sharpness in the picture (eg: Ep4: - 31:35). The thick black lines actually give a boundary for the characters in many scenes which would have otherwise been missing. Shadow detail is fair to medium with the occasional moment of good depth and the odd spot of fine detail being visible, but the grain... the grain... No low level noise was noted

    A washed out presentation at best, this certainly has lost much of the vibrancy it once had. Most colours suffer from desaturation. Chroma noise and colour bleed were not in evidence at any stage. Skin tones fare a lot better with a good level throughout. In all honesty though, the lack of colour isn't a huge detriment to the picture since it actually looks more realistic (much in the way Saving Private Ryan looked).

    Generally, any artefacts were covered over by the poor presentation and the grain, but occasionally one or two blemishes stood out. Some large flecks began to be noticed from 90:23 in Ep1, with other minor marks being noticed on occasion in the other episodes (27:01 - Ep3, 7:40 and 12:23 Ep4). For the most part, though, film artefacts were fairly minimal. Pixelization is noticeable if you really look for it, but the edge enhancement cuts a lot of it out. A couple of more noticeable examples were at 23:09 in Ep4 and 27:17 in Ep5. Ep2 has a jump in the picture at 70:40 (missing frames) and there is the odd moment of telecine wobble (eg: Ep5 15:25). Apart from this though, artefacts were fairly minimal.

    The subtitles are clean and accurate to the spoken word. They are placed a little higher in the frame than normal and therefore are more noticeable and disrupt the flow of the movie somewhat. They are very readable in a good font with the usual black border around white.

    No layer changes were noted. It seems that an episode was placed on each layer and no pauses were discernable.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    A reasonably robust 2 channel Dolby Digital presentation is available on these discs. This is a lot better than the video presentation with no major problems and some nice separation across the fronts from time to time.

    There were no discernable problems with the dialogue or the syncing that could be detected.

    The music is by Bruce Rowland who blended a nice mixture of WWI songs into an easy paced and very well balanced soundtrack. Machine-gun like effects and the sounds of exploding bombs mingled in with contemporary songs from the time made for an excellent audio experience with a sense of timelessness to it all. Although many of the songs are now dated, the mix is just right so it never becomes boring or trite.

    My system did make use of the surround speakers to add some immersion to proceedings. Although nothing major, it made for a much more active soundtrack and a much fuller experience than previously offered on VHS or when shown on Television.

    There was no noticeable subwoofer activity on this disc.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu Audio

    Music from the series overlays a static menu picture.

DVD Credits

Featurette-Making Of

    Not a bad 'making of..' at a reasonable 44:39 running time. With enough time to document many of the aspects of the series you get a bird's eye perspective on some of the art of making a TV mini-series. From details on how they spent the budget of $8.5m over the 3 years of production to the basic outline of the story, this is told by short interviews from the cast and crew including the director, George Miller, the producers, Burrowes and Dixon, and actors and other crew members. Narrated by Charles Tingwell, it is a reasonable diversion, but nothing spectacular.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    There is no other release of this series in any other Region than Region 4 at this time, so we have the definitive version.

Summary

    World War I was a watershed for Australia and its military. Stemming from the actions of so few (in terms of the numbers that actually fought in the war) we gained so much which has been with us ever since those fateful days at Gallipoli. As the last remaining diggers die off and become no more than memories it is good that at least some record will remain, regardless of how flawed it may be. The series itself is as good as any produced in this country over the past 25 years and deserves a place in any collection. The video is no better than the VHS tapes that still sit on the shelves at local outlets so unless you have a pressing need to replace an aging tape then you aren't in for any better quality picture, which is a shame given the ability of DVD to produce such a fine image. The audio is presentable but nothing spectacular in only a Dolby Digital 2.0 format, but it does the job. The extras are confined to one 'making of...' but at approx 45 minutes it is good value.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Carl Berry (read my bio)
Sunday, November 30, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDSony NS-305, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Xelos (81cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderRotel RSP-976. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationRotel RB 985 MkII
SpeakersJBL TLX16s Front Speakers, Polk Audio LS fx di/bipole Rear Speakers, Polk Audio CS350-LS Centre Speaker, M&KV-75 Subwoofer

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MovieHole - Clint M
The DVD Bits - Dean B
region4dvd.net - Darren R (read my bio (fun for the whole family))
DVD Net - Terry K
Jeff K's Australian DVD Info Site - Christine H
Web Wombat - James A
impulsegamer.com - Tory Favro

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