Petersen (1974)

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Released 6-Oct-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio
Dolby Digital Trailer-Rain
Interviews-Cast & Crew
Theatrical Trailer
Biographies-Crew-Tim Burstall
Filmographies-Cast & Crew
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 1974
Running Time 103:08
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (64:03) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Tim Burstall
Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Jack Thompson
Jacki Weaver
Wendy Hughes
Belinda Giblin
Arthur Dignam
Charles 'Bud' Tingwell
Helen Morse
John Ewart
David Phillips
Christine Amor
Sandra McGregor
Joey Hohenfels
Amanda Hunt
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI Box Music Peter Best

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 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

    This was the second film produced by Hexagon Productions, and is based on a screenplay by David Williamson. Like almost all of the Hexagon films, it was directed by Tim Burstall and features a cast of familiar faces from film and television.

    It tells the story of Tony Petersen (Jack Thompson). He is an electrician who is dissatisfied with his life. A former star footballer (a typical Williamson touch) he finds that working as a tradesman lacks something. His marriage to the pretty but gauche Susie (Jacki Weaver) has produced two young children, but they live in a modest house and have little money to spare. Petersen has saved enough to enrol in an English Literature course at Melbourne University, where his lecturer is the slightly stiff and pompous Kent (Arthur Dignam). Kent's wife Trish (Wendy Hughes, in her film debut) is also a lecturer there, and it transpires that Petersen is sleeping with her.

    The resolution of these relationships and Petersen's feelings about his life are the substance of this engaging film. While the storyline is fairly obvious, it is very well acted by the entire cast and well directed most of the time. The only weak spots are the several scenes of Thompson overacting badly when playing drunk, something he or Burstall should have reined in.

    This was Thompson's first leading role and he carries the film well. Weaver, Hughes and Dignam give fine support. I won't mention the entire supporting cast, as this review would turn into a novel, but apart from the cast list given above there is John Orcsik, Sheila Florence, Sandy Gore and many more, including a cameo by the late George Mallaby.

    This is not a film for the kiddies, with sex, nudity and violence galore. Despite this it is not an exploitative film, and while some may object to the sexual politics, all of these elements are reflective of the era in which the film was made. If you take this into account, Petersen can be seen as one of the best Australian films of the 1970s, and of a type rarely made today. It is being released as part of the Hexagon Tribute Collection, which contains all eight films produced by the company.

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Transfer Quality


    The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, close to the original 1.85:1, and is 16x9 enhanced.

    While this is a good transfer, it is not up to the standard of the Alvin Purple transfer. The video is quite sharp and clear throughout, with as much detail rendered as would have been seen in the original screenings. Shadow detail is lacking somewhat, with a couple of murky night-time scenes. Contrast levels are satisfactory.

    The look of the film is very much like any other Australian film of the 1970s, with slightly muted colours and a film stock that looks not dissimilar to a 16mm blow-up at times. Colour is variable in quality, with flesh tones looking washed out at times and over-saturated at others. This would be due to the lighting and the nature of the film stock, and not introduced in this transfer.

    Grain levels are slightly higher than I would have liked. There is a lot of low level noise visible, rendering black levels anything but solid.

    The print is full of minor film artefacts, such as dirt and white flecks which appear throughout. There are also faint scratches visible at times. Of more concern were the reel change markings, which appear at 17:39, 36:03 and 51:06 for example.

    Optional English for the Hearing Impaired subtitles are provided. As in the other films in this set, the subtitles match the dialogue quite well and are well timed. They are positioned on the screen towards the side of the screen on which the speaker appears, and are in a large white font which is easy to read.

    This RSDL-formatted disc has a layer change at 64:03, which occurs at the end of a scene and is only slightly disruptive. My player negotiated the layer change with just a very brief pause.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There are two audio tracks on this disc. The default track is Dolby Digital 5.1, and there is a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix as an alternative. I listened to the default track and sampled the other.

    Dialogue is very clear apart from a few lines mumbled by Petersen to Trish while, well, they are in flagrante delicto, to use the Latin phrase. I had to use the subtitles for this scene to determine what was being said. Otherwise the audio scrubs up well, with no audible hiss or distortion and no sync issues.

    The surround mix is entirely channelled through the front speakers. There are no low frequency effects apart from a brief instance at about 2:50 and there appear to be no rear channel sounds. That being said, the film is a quiet one that does not really need anything to distract from the narrative.

    The music score is by Peter Best. It is a fairly restrained score in which flutes seem prominent, making it wistful more than anything else. A pretty good score which adds to the mood of the film.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Main Menu Introduction

    A brief animation highlighting the titles in the Hexagon Tribute Collection.

Main Menu Audio

    The static main menu has music from the score as the background.

Dolby Digital Trailer-Rain (0:34)

    This hoary old trailer seems to be on all the releases in this set.

Interviews-Cast & Crew (21:57)

    Lengthy interviews with writer Williamson, actors Thompson, Weaver and Hughes, Robin Copping (cinematographer) and Alan Finney (associate producer).

Theatrical Trailer (3:13)

    The trailer concentrates on the sex and violence aspects of the film, making these seem more concentrated in the story than they really are.

Biographies-Crew-Tim Burstall

    A lengthy text biography and complete filmography of the late director.

Filmographies-Cast & Crew

    Complete filmographies for Thompson, Hughes, Weaver, Williamson, Copping, David Bilcock and Finney.

Gallery-Photo (1:51)

    In the form of a short featurette, we see posters and publicity stills for the film, with music from the score in the background.

R4 vs R1

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

    The Region 4 appears to be the only DVD release of this film.


    A fine Australian film, this gets a reasonable video and audio transfer and some good extras. Recommended.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Wednesday, December 01, 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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