The Umbilical Brothers-Speedmouse: Live from the Opera House (ACMEC) (2004)

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Released 5-Nov-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Main Menu Introduction
Menu Animation & Audio
Audio Commentary-The Umbilical Brothers
Featurette-The Roadie's Cut
Outtakes
Gallery-Stills
Featurette-Unofficial Bootleg
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
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2004
Running Time 89:41
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (64:37) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By None Given
Studio
Distributor
ACMEC Starring David Collins
Shane Dundas
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI ? Music None Given


Video Audio
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
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.75:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    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.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    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.

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

Audio

    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.

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

Extras

Main Menu Introduction

    The menu and copyright warning are introduced by video and audio of the Umbilicals.

Menu Animation & Audio

    Introducing each menu, and looped over the front and extras menus, are footage recorded by the Umbilicals for the DVD.

Audio Commentary

    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.

Featurette - The Roadie's Cut

    A 12:38 film ahowing what the roadie does when he's not on stage, following him through Sydney and New York.

Outtakes

    Three outtakes, as well as a rejected opening scene for the disc and an extended version of one scene in the performance.

Gallery

    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.

Featurette - Unofficial Bootleg

     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.

TV Spots - mTV Stuff

    Four promotional pieces that the Umbilicals recorded for MTV.

Featurette - Umbies on the Logies

     The Umbilicals presenting the Logie for Outstanding Sports Coverage

Music Video

     The video clip for the Umbilical's instrument-free novelty single Don't Dance to This

Additional Footage - Ad for Some Socks; Making the Menu

     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.

Additional Footage - The 15 Second Commercial and Making of...

     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.

Additional Footage - Stuff that Didn't Make the DVD

    1:22 of tape of Collins being mauled by a wombat glove puppet in two locations in the USA.

R4 vs R1

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.

Summary

    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.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Nick Gaut (A bio? Have I no privacy?)
Sunday, March 06, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-535, using S-Video output
DisplayPanasonic TX-86PW300A. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderPioneer VSX-512.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-512
SpeakersWharfedale Diamond 8.3 fronts, Wharfedale Diamond 8.2 rears, Wharfedale Diamond 8 centre, Wharfedale 12" sub

Other Reviews NONE
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