The Umbilical Brothers-Speedmouse: Live from the Opera House (ACMEC) (2004)
Main Menu Introduction
Menu Animation & Audio
Audio Commentary-The Umbilical Brothers
Featurette-The Roadie's Cut
TV Spots-MTV Stuff
Featurette-Umbies On The Logies
Music Video-Unnecessary Music Video
Additional Footage-Ad For Some Socks, Making The Menu
Additional Footage-The 15 Second Commercial And Making Of..
Additional Footage-Stuff That Didn't Make The DVD
|Year Of Production||2004|
|RSDL / Flipper||RSDL (64:37)||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||1,2,3,4,5,6||Directed By||None Given|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Auto Pan & Scan Encoded||
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.75:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.75:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
David Collins ("the long wavy haired one") and Shane Dundas ("not the long wavy haired one") met in 1988 in their first year of drama school, and started performing together a couple of years later, originally to help pay the rent between acting jobs. In 1991 they created their first 'professional' show, Two Men and a Hatstand from Hell, and have toured together since, staging shows across Europe, the Americas, Asia and South Africa.
Their shows are a combination of structured, physical comedy and a modern version of mime performed against a sound stage largely created by Dundas. Through sound effects and impressions, the Umbilicals counter their spartan (although superbly-lit) stage with a frenetically energetic audioscape that allows them to draw in bizarre, cartoonish concepts and situations without resorting to props or a cast of thousands. There are only four characters present throughout the show - Collins, Dundas, "Tina in the booth" - an unseen, no-nonsense bass baritone who seems to enjoy picking on Dundas - and the roadie - a sullen, mute walk-on, dressed as a serial-killing clown, who takes an immediate dislike to Collins. This limited cast allows the Umbilicals' imagination a freer rein to react to the invisible action going happening around, and frequently to, the two stars.
While the Umbilicals have rarely been shy about breaking stage conventions, this show begins by introducing itself as the Director's cut of a DVD to which the remote has been lost and persons unknown are fiddling with the buttons. While a handy hook on which to hang an act (and one that is quite cleverly used at times), watching the DVD of the show gives a vaguely uncomfortable sense of metareality. From here the show progresses at speed through the Olympics, the mechanical failure of one of the stars, a number of surreal universes, a giant water tank, a number of creative differences that leads to a challenge to find more imaginative ways to flip each other off and a fight between hand puppets that was included as an encore despite being from the Umbilicals' Thwak show. The performance's conclusion appeared to come far quicker than the almost 90 minutes it takes to arrive, and kept the audience involved to the end - no small feat for a live stage show.
The Umbilicals' form of humour isn't quite unique - it's a refinement of a stream of work that leads back through The Three Stooges and The Keystone Kops - but it's particularly idiosyncratic. People tend toward the extremes when viewing this broad form of comedy and although the crowd at the Opera House Drama Theatre (where this show was filmed) were appropriately appreciative, if you've seen the Umbilicals and thought them infantile - in a bad way - then you're not going to change your mind by watching this title. If, however, you've seen pieces of them on TV and liked what you saw, this show adds a level of complexity to their short-form work which you'll certainly appreciate.
Although the staging of the show is quite straightforward - three people on screen, no props, shadows delineating the action - the lighting contrasts appear to have made filming the show more difficult than it should have been.
The performance was recorded in a 1.75:1 ratio and is 16x9 enhanced.
Although edges are quite sharp throughout the recording, the low lighting of the theatre and the black backdrop highlighted the film's grain throughout. This was never excessive, but was noticeable at times. Further, the backdrop exhibited substantial low-level noise in some shots.
Through use of exacting and dynamic lighting, the performance space was subtly altered throughout the performance. Unfortunately, especially in the darkened theatre, this seems to have thrown the white levels out of alignment, as under 'standard', white spotlights, the performers look overexposed and washed out. Further, in the scene at 28:37, when Collins is in the audience under dim lighting, Dundas is only visible in the background as a bright blur on stage.
Although the transfer to video is quite good, and no artefacts from this process were noticed, the brightness of the normal spotlight caused flares off the performers' pale skin and the white of the roadie's mask. This led to comet trails around performers' body parts such as are visible in the scene at 48:41 and some ghosting of the image.
There were no subtitles recorded on this feature.
The RSDL change at 64:37 is poorly placed during dialogue, and is certainly noticeable.
The audio track is Dolby Digital Stereo (192 Kb/s), but is Prologic-encoded for surround listening.
Dialogue, especially the oral effects, is generally good, but does distort at high volume, such as when Collins is yelling at 27:45 and 63:53.
Music is rare during the performance, but is well reproduced.
The surround channels largely contain audience noise, with a soft, duller version of the dialogue. Despite the sparseness of the track, it does add to the sense of the live performance.
The subwoofer is used to add punch to the more percussive sound effects, as well as to add some punch to Tina's interjections.
|Surround Channel Use|
The menu and copyright warning are introduced by video and audio of the Umbilicals.
Introducing each menu, and looped over the front and extras menus, are footage recorded by the Umbilicals for the DVD.
Audio commentary by the Umbilicals doesn't add too much to the enjoyment of the feature, and consists mostly of ad libs of effects and jokes that are fairly weak. It also obscures the stage sounds, and as there is no subtitle track it can quickly become irritating.
A 12:38 film ahowing what the roadie does when he's not on stage, following him through Sydney and New York.
Three outtakes, as well as a rejected opening scene for the disc and an extended version of one scene in the performance.
A series of stills from performances of Speedmouse, as well as some not-quite-so-still segments. Rather than being a standard gallery that you flick through, this is presented as a 4:35 segment of video.
Ever wonder why theatres have signs telling you not to make recordings of a performance? This 2:25 piece is dedicated to the guy in seat E-17 that recorded this video.
Four promotional pieces that the Umbilicals recorded for MTV.
The Umbilicals presenting the Logie for Outstanding Sports Coverage
The video clip for the Umbilical's instrument-free novelty single Don't Dance to This
The advertisement that the Umbilicals made for Bonds Pillow Feet Socks; a 3:30 piece showing the taping of the footage recorded for the menus.
The commercial recorded to advertise live performances of Speedmouse; 4:38 of rejected ads and outakes from recording them on the way to producing the aforementioned commercial.
1:22 of tape of Collins being mauled by a wombat glove puppet in two locations in the USA.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
This disc appears not to have yet been released in any other region.
Speedmouse, although suffering from filming artefacts, is a reasonably well put together representation of an imaginative and high-energy stage show that any fan of The Umbilical Brothers will enjoy immensely.
|DVD||Pioneer DV-535, using S-Video output|
|Display||Panasonic TX-86PW300A. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Pioneer VSX-512.|
|Speakers||Wharfedale Diamond 8.3 fronts, Wharfedale Diamond 8.2 rears, Wharfedale Diamond 8 centre, Wharfedale 12" sub|