Eliza Fraser (1976)

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Released 6-Oct-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Adventure Main Menu Audio
Dolby Digital Trailer-Rain
Interviews-Cast & Crew
Theatrical Trailer
Biographies-Crew-Tim Burstall
Filmographies-Cast & Crew
Gallery-Photo
Short Film-AFTRS Film: The Drip
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1976
Running Time 112:39 (Case: 110)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (72:42) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Tim Burstall
Studio
Distributor
Hexagon
Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Susannah York
Trevor Howard
Noel Ferrier
John Castle
John Waters
Abigail
Gerard Kennedy
Arna-Maria Winchester
Charles 'Bud' Tingwell
Gus Mercurio
Lindsey Roughsey
George Mallaby
Carole Skinner
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI Box Music Bruce Smeaton


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

    The penal colony of New South Wales, 1836. Captain James Fraser (Noel Ferrier) is to return to England with his wife Eliza (Susannah York). On board the ship is Rory McBryde (John Castle), a philanderer who is escaping from the husbands of the women he has compromised. After an argument over Fraser's abilities as a navigator, McBryde is put ashore at the gaol at Moreton Bay.

    The prison is run by Captain Fyans (Trevor Howard). A new group of convicts includes David Bracefell (John Waters), whom Fyans earmarks as his "bedboy". Not surprisingly this prompts Bracefell to want to leave. He meets Eliza when serving at dinner, and during the night with her help he escapes. Setting off on the long voyage to England, the Frasers are shipwrecked. Savagery and cannibalism ensue.

    Beginning as a bawdy romp in the tradition of Tom Jones, this film written by David Williamson veers from slapstick comedy to drama and back again. The tone of the film is a bit uneven as a result, and while there are dull periods it is still an enjoyable bit of hokum. The story is inspired by real characters and events but is completely fictional otherwise.

    The performances are very good, especially York and Ferrier as the unlikely husband and wife. John Waters is likeable as the convict Bracefell, but Trevor Howard seems a little disinterested at times. There is a fine supporting cast of familiar actors, including Abigail, Bill Hunter, Gus Mercurio, Dennis Miller, Serge Lazareff and many others. Cop shows of the era are represented by George Mallaby (Homicide) and Gerard Kennedy (Division 4).

    This was the first Australian film to cost more than a million dollars, which shows in the casting of three British actors in leading roles as well as in the fine production design and location filming. While not our cinema's finest hour, it is still pretty good and well worth a look.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The film is transferred in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. The original aspect ratio would have been slightly wider at 1.85:1.

    The transfer is variable. It is reasonably sharp and clear, certainly better than VHS, but I have seen other films on DVD from the same era that show more detail. Shadow detail is quite poor, with some murky shadows particularly in the night-time scenes. Contrast levels are satisfactory.

    I'm not sure if the colour is quite right, not having seen this film in the cinemas. It seems to me that reds and greens are too bright. For example, the uniform worn by Trevor Howard is bright red with green cuffs, and neither colour looks completely realistic. Flesh tones generally are realistic, as are the other colours seen during the film, so I will give the transfer the benefit of the doubt.

    Black levels are poor, with a lot of low level noise present. There is not a solid black image in any part of the film as far as I could see.

    There seems to be a lot of grain visible, and I believe that some of this might have been created in the transfer. The film has the appearance of being telecined off a projection onto a painted white backdrop, with a sort of mottled appearance. This effect is most noticeable on expanses of consistent colour, such as the sky at 46:03 for example.

    Film artefacts are present in the form of debris and dirt, and while these are noticeable they are not unusually distracting.

    The usual English for the hearing impaired subtitles are provided. These are in large and clear white font, are well-timed and are very close to the dialogue. They are positioned on the screen in relation to the location of the speaker.

    The disc is RSDL-formatted, and the layer change occurs at 72:42, in the middle of a speech by Fyans and is quite disruptive.

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

Audio

    As is the case with all of these Hexagon DVD releases, there are two audio tracks. The default is Dolby Digital 5.1, with a 2.0 version as well. I listened to the default track only.

    Dialogue is clear throughout, with no noticeable problems or audio sync issues. As usual, the audio mix is very much geared towards the front speakers, dialogue of course coming from the centre channel and effects and music from the mains. Unlike the previous releases in this series that I have reviewed, there are some rear channel effects, for example during the opening credits. The rear channel sounds are at a very low level, and can barely be heard. As a result the surround effect achieved is very minimal. I did not notice any low frequency effects.

    The music score by Bruce Smeaton is an attempt at a period score with comedic overtones, and is quite successful.

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

Extras

Main Menu Audio

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

Dolby Digital Trailer-Rain (0:34)

    Yet again this veteran trailer is included prior to the feature.

Interviews-Cast & Crew (16:20)

    Some enjoyable interviews with Waters, Williamson, Robin Copping, assistant director Dan Burstall and Bruce Spence. Waters has some amusing tales to tell about the production, and mentions that his father was the character actor Russell Waters, who had a long career in British films and through whom he had met Howard many years before this film. Bruce Spence's memories of his brief appearance in the film are quite amusing.

    The menu and case mistakenly indicate that the interviewees include Alan Finney, but he is nowhere to be seen.

Theatrical Trailer (3:50)

    This trailer feels almost as long as the film, mainly because of a deadly dull narration. It is in good condition and is 16x9 enhanced.

Biographies-Crew-Tim Burstall

    Biography and filmography of the director.

Filmographies-Cast & Crew

    Lengthy and seemingly complete credits for Waters, York, Howard, Castle, Ferrier, Martin Harris, Alan Finney, Edward McQueen-Mason, Dan Burstall, Copping and Williamson.

Gallery-Photo (2:10)

    A running display of publicity and production stills.

Short Film-AFTRS Film: The Drip (7:17)

    A 1996 student film from the AFTRS. This is a dialogue-free two-hander which is quite inventive and and fitfully amusing. Sensitive viewers should be aware that it includes the wearing of lederhosen.

R4 vs R1

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

    As far as I can tell this DVD release is unique to Region 4.

Summary

    Not a bad Aussie film.

    The video quality is a bit problematic.

    The audio quality is good.

    A useful set of extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Wednesday, December 08, 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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