Stork (1971)

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Released 6-Oct-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Main Menu Audio
Dolby Digital Trailer-Rain
Interviews-Cast & Crew
Theatrical Trailer
Biographies-Crew-Tim Burstall
Filmographies-Cast & Crew
Gallery-Photo
Short Film-"Three Old Friends"
Featurette-Making Of-"Three Old Friends"
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1971
Running Time 84:48
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (67:36) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Tim Burstall
Studio
Distributor
Hexagon
Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Bruce Spence
Graeme Blundell
Sean McEuan
Helmut Bakaitis
Jacki Weaver
Peter Green
Madeleine Orr
Peter Cummins
Michael Duffield
Alan Finney
Robin Copping
David Bilcock
Larry Stevens
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI Box Music Han Poulsen


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.29:1
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 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

    The 1960s were a barren wasteland for Australian film. There appear to be only two feature films produced between 1959 and 1969, both directed by Michael Powell, an Englishman. The cinemas were dominated by American and (to a lesser extent) British product.

    As the Seventies began, there was a renewed interest in Australian culture, possibly triggered or at least accelerated by the celebrations for the 1970 bicentenary of Captain Cook's 'discovery' of Australia. In the small La Mama café in Melbourne, Betty Burstall started a theatre for Australian plays. One of the works premiered there was The Coming of Stork, the first professional play from a then unknown writer named David Williamson.

    Betty's husband Tim had directed an art-house film, and he, cinematographer Robin Copping and editor David Bilcock managed to raise finance to make a film version of the play. Retitled Stork, it featured only a couple of actors from the stage version. Bruce Spence recreated his role as the title character in his first film. The bulk of the actors were brought in for the film, including several from far away Sydney.

    The film was a financial and critical success and rekindled interest in making films in Australia. This process was fast-tracked by the establishment of the Australian Film Finance Corporation by the Gorton government. Tim Burstall and the producers of this film went on to form Hexagon Productions, which in partnership with Roadshow produced seven further films by the end of the 1970s. These films, all but two directed by Burstall, are now being released on DVD as a box set and separately. Stork is the earliest film in the set.

    Stork is the nickname of Graham Wallace. He is six-foot-seven and thin as a rake. Stork is a daydreaming hypochondriac, who throws up his day job with GM-H and moves in with his mate Westy (Graeme Blundell). Stork is opinionated, sexist and a revolutionary, fond of quoting Marcuse though he never really seems to do anything about it. Westy shares a place with Tony (Sean McEuan) and Clyde (Helmut Bakaitis). Tony's a bit artsy, while Clyde would probably today have risen to an executive position with a big corporation through the old boys network. Then there's Anna (Jacki Weaver), a non-conformist who shares her charms between Tony and Clyde, depending on how she's feeling. Though he's supposed to be there for just the one night, Stork moves in and soon inveigles himself with Anna. Much chaos ensues. Of particular note is the smoked oyster prank, which some viewers may find disgusting. I know I did.

    Stork is a bit of a ramshackle film, borrowing elements from the anarchic British comedies of the 1960s such as I'll Never Forget What's 'Isname and Morgan - A Suitable Case For Treatment as well as The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and The Graduate. However, it is distinctly Australian and a forerunner of the "ocker" comedies of later years. The script is obviously based on a play, with typical Williamson dialogue, though he and Burstall went to some effort to open it up for the cinema. There are still a few laughs to be had, but in the end the film is more of a curiosity, a period piece, though it still has a freshness about it that is appealing. I found Stork to be an unsympathetic character at first, but he does grow on you. Bruce Spence doesn't just play Stork, he IS Stork. It is hard to imagine any other actor playing this tall, gangly character. Jacki Weaver is good as Anna, her diminutive size humorously contrasting with the beanpole Stork. Graeme Blundell shows signs of things to come in the relatively small role of Westy. The rest of the supporting cast includes familiar faces from film and television of a bygone era, including Terry Norris and Max Gillies.

    While this may not be one of the best Australian films ever made, it is certainly worth seeing and the producers of this disc have gone to some trouble to give it the presentation it deserves.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.29:1, close to the original 1.37:1. It is not 16x9 enhanced.

    The film was shot on 16mm film as the producers could not afford 35mm equipment, so the video quality suffers slightly from a lack of detail. Funding for the DVD obviously did not extend to a full restoration of the original footage, so there are a lot of film artefacts.

    That being said, a very good job has been done with this transfer. The video is very sharp and clear, with a reasonable level of detail visible. Contrast levels are very good. There are some murky scenes (for example the party scene) where shadow detail is a minor issue, but otherwise there are no problems with the transfer.

    Colour is pretty good too. Flesh tones are accurate most of the time, though occasionally I thought that they were a little too dark.

    There is very little in the way of issues with the transfer to video. There is occasional slight evidence of aliasing, though I doubt whether anyone would be disturbed by it. There is also visible grain, but again not to a distracting level.

    There are plenty of film artefacts, with dirt and debris visible, the occasional scratch and white flecks throughout.

    Optional English subtitles are provided. These are designed to assist the hearing impaired, and this means that they are not always centred on the screen, being positioned towards the side of the screen that the character who speaks them is on. They seem to match the dialogue in general terms, though occasional words are left out.

    The layer change on this RSDL disc is well placed on a scene change at 67:36 and is barely noticeable.

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

Audio

    There are two audio tracks provided, Dolby Digital 2.0 and 5.1. The 5.1 mix is the default. I listened to the 2.0 mix and sampled the 5.1 mix.

    There is not much difference between the two tracks. The 5.1 mix uses mainly the centre channel, and the rear channels are barely used, if at all. I did not find any low frequency effects. The 2.0 soundstage sounds a bit wider.

    Dialogue is always clear and distinct. I had no trouble understanding any of the dialogue. Given that the original audio would have been mono, the audio sounds pretty good, with no noticeable problems.

    The music score is by Han Poulson and the Captain Matchbox Whoopee Band. The latter portray the band during the party scene. The music is very much of its era, a cross between traditional Australian styles and folk music. It suits the film very well.

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

Extras

    A good selection of extras, most of which were made especially for this release.

Main Menu Audio

    The static main menu has music from the score played as accompaniment.

Dolby Digital Trailer - Rain (0:34)

    Choosing to play the film from the menu gives you this seemingly ancient Dolby Digital trailer.

Interviews - Cast & Crew (30:34)

    Lengthy interviews with surviving cast and crew members, including the director and his wife, the writer, Rob Copping and several of the actors (Spence, Blundell, Weaver, Finney). These interviews must have been made during the last months of Burstall's life, but he seems quite lively and recalls the film clearly. He died suddenly in April 2004. The interviews were shot on video in 1.33:1.

    The interview material goes into detail about the genesis of the play as well as the production and reception of the film, and is very interesting.

Theatrical Trailer (1:16)

    I found this trailer, typical of its era, quite funny, especially the closing title card for The Classic at Mosman.

Biographies - Crew - Tim Burstall

    A detailed biography of the director.

Filmographies - Cast & Crew

    Complete film listings for the director, writer, cinematographer and stars. It is interesting to note that both Blundell and Spence appear in the upcoming Star Wars film.

Gallery - Photo (2:05)

    Rather than being a series of stills that you can navigate through at your own pace, this is a sequence of mostly monochrome behind the scenes photographs and promotional material.

Short Film - Three Old Friends (11:28)

    This is a 1974 black and white short starring Spence, Blundell and Finney and directed by Burstall, apparently made to be screened prior to one of their features. It was based on a play from the La Mama theatre. Quite interesting and a little disturbing, it is well transferred to DVD.

Featurette - Making Of-Three Old Friends (5:10)

    Burstall, Blundell and Finney talk about the origin of the short and the negative reaction of the critics.

R4 vs R1

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

    This Region 4 release seems to be the only release in any region.

Summary

    A very Australian film, still fresh today, though perhaps the social satire is no longer relevant.

    The video quality is very good despite the lack of restoration.

    The audio quality is good.

    An excellent extras package is included.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Monday, November 22, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

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pre-1969 Australian films - Gary Couzens REPLY POSTED