Summerfield (1977)

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Released 16-Mar-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Mystery Main Menu Audio
Featurette-Secrets Of Summerfield
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-A Shattered Silence
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Road Games, Picnic At Hanging Rock, Long Weekend
Trailer-The Cars That Ate Paris/The Plumber
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1977
Running Time 91:42 (Case: 95)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Ken Hannam
Clare Beach Films
Madman Entertainment
Starring Nick Tate
John Waters
Elizabeth Alexander
Michelle Jarman
Charles 'Bud' Tingwell
Geraldine Turner
Max Cullen
Barry Donnelly
Sheila Florance
Isobel Harley
Joy Westmore
Adrian Wright
Max Fairchild
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music Bruce Smeaton

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.66:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.66:1 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

   The seventies was an era of discovery for the Australian film industry. With one hundred and twenty films made in this decade compared to just thirteen made in the sixties. This large and diverse range of films was part of that discovery process and also helped launch the distinguished careers of many Australian filmmakers. So many of these films have been long forgotten and are rarely seen these days in any medium, so it's wonderful when some of these films finally receive decent transfers on DVD. One of these forgotten gems is the 1977 atmospheric mystery, Summerfield.

   Writer Cliff Green and producer Pat Lovell combined their talents again after the success of Picnic At Hanging Rock to again produce a mystery that relies heavily on its location. Summerfield was beautifully shot by Mike Molloy on Churchill Island in Victoria with a quality cast and a director of reputation, Ken Hannam (Sunday Too Far Away). Ironically, it was the unintentional actions of the director that set about the film's initial demise.

   Teacher Simon Robinson (Nick Tate) arrives at the secluded seaside town of Bannings Beach to take over the teaching role. The school's previous teacher, Peter Flynn has simply vanished and nobody, not even the local police appear particularly concerned about his disappearance.

   Simon takes a room at a local guesthouse run by Jim and Betty Tate (Max Cullen and Geraldine Turner). He is given the room of the previous boarder, the missing teacher Peter Flynn. Betty begins flirting with Simon, seemingly oblivious to the watchful eye of husband Jim.

   One of the young students at the school, Sally Abbott (Michelle Jarman), takes a particular interest in Simon and invites him to her family's remote property, Summerfield. Sally lives with her mother Jenny (Elizabeth Alexander), who as it seems has separated from Sally's father and lives with her reclusive brother, David (John Waters).

   While exploring his new surroundings by car, Simon accidentally knocks Sally from her bike, breaking her leg. He takes her to Dr Miller (Charles 'Bud' Tingwell) for medical advice and subsequently learns of Sally's hereditary blood condition. This condition forms one important element of the two mysteries that will emerge in the plot.

   In dire need of finding Sally's mother, Simon drives out to the remote property. He crosses the long bridge before being confronted by the securely locked gates of Summerfield. Leaving Sally in the car, Simon jumps the gates and runs up the dirt road that leads to the house.

   After their meeting under the unfortunate circumstances of Sally's accident, Simon offers to tutor Sally at home while she recovers. This offer also allows him to spend more time with Jenny, for whom he is developing strong emotional feelings. Jenny's brother, David, always appears friendly, but keeps an air of distance between himself and Simon.

   The mystery of Peter's disappearance deepens when Simon discovers Peter's abandoned car, hidden in a garage. Simon then discovers more of Peter's personal belongings after opening a stuck drawer of the wardrobe in his room. He finds a series of photographs, featuring Jenny and Sally Abbott with Peter, in familiar family type poses. This starts Simon on a journey that he will live to regret.

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Transfer Quality


   The video transfer for Summerfield is outstanding.

   The film is presented on this DVD in an aspect ratio of 1.66:1. I am unsure of the film's original aspect ratio. However, I would suggest it is very close, if not spot on to that presented on this DVD. The transfer is 16x9 enhanced.

   The rear part of the cover slick for Summerfield boasts that this is a brand new transfer, and this has certainly done the film a great justice. It seems a lot of care has gone into this transfer, as most of the film looks as good as any recent release. I remember viewing an inferior VHS copy of this film a few years ago. If you happen to own one of those VHS copies, relegate it to the rubbish bin right now and grab a new copy on DVD.

   The transfer is extremely sharp and clear overall. Only a couple of scenes exhibited some slight softness, but this is probably inherent in the source. Blacks were deep and clean and displayed no low level noise. Shadows were also very impressive and held excellent detail.

   The colours are beautifully rendered on the disc. They are consistent and natural throughout the film and showed no evidence of any oversaturation problems.

   There were no problems with MPEG artefacts. Film-to-video artefacts were also all well controlled. Some minor telecine wobble was noticed during the opening seconds of the film, but was not a major issue. Minor film artefacts were common throughout the film, but thankfully they were not overly distracting. They consisted of the lesser of the evils - small marks. These are considerably less annoying than hairs and scratches.

   Unfortunately, there are no subtitles available on this DVD.

   This is a single sided, dual layered disc. I could not locate the layer change on the disc, either by viewing, or with the assistance of software.

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


   The audio transfer is also excellent, albeit on a small scale.

   There is one audio track on the DVD; English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s).

   The dialogue quality was consistently clear and presented no problems. The audio sync was also not a problem in this transfer.

   The haunting musical score for Summerfield is from the wonderful Australian film composer, Bruce Smeaton. It beautifully enhances the images on the screen and is a key player in creating the right atmosphere for the film. Apart from the beauty of the actual score, Smeaton also creates some great musical effects for the film with the use of an Aeolian Harp. This is an unusual, harp-like instrument made from wood. It is played by wind and produces a unique and incredibly eerie sound.

   The surrounds were not used.

   The subwoofer usage was very minimal and enhanced only a few bass effects throughout the film.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


  There is a wonderful selection of quality extras on the disc.


  The main menu is themed around the film, but is really quite basic. All menus are static, but are 16x9 enhanced. Only the main menu features a short looped sample of Bruce Smeaton's music score. Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s) audio.

Featurette - Secrets of Summerfield  (48:34)

  This recently made documentary features interviews with actors Nick Tate, John Waters and Elizabeth Alexander. It also features interviews with the film's producer, Patricia Lovell, the writer, Cliff Green and music composer Bruce Smeaton. All give their retrospective thoughts on Summerfield , made nearly thirty years ago. The documentary starts with discussions on the characters in the film and actors who portrayed these roles. What was of great interest though, was the politics and some regrettable decisions made throughout the making of the film. This documentary brings forward a wealth of information regarding so many factors, all of which conspired against Summerfield having initial success, both critically and at the box office. The thoughts of the cast and crew are highlighted with scenes from the film, creating a fascinating inside look into the troubled making of Summerfield. Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s) audio.

Featurette - A Shattered Silence (22:58)

   This shorter documentary was made at the time Summerfield was originally shot and is an excellent companion piece to the more comprehensive Secrets of Summerfield. It's interesting to hear the thoughts of Tate, Alexander, Waters and Lovell as they speak about the project as it was being made. Also speaking in this documentary is the film's director, the late Ken Hannam. The discussions centre around the characters, locations and the screenplay. Both final cut and behind the scenes footage augments the discussions. Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s) audio.

Stills Gallery

   A collection of forty five still images, some behind the scenes. No music is featured.

Theatrical Trailer

   Summerfield (2:45)  Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s) audio.

Umbrella Trailers

R4 vs R1

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

    At the time of this review, there is no R1 version of Summerfield available.


   Despite the panning Summerfield received from many critics at the time of its initial release, there is no doubt this film deserves much greater recognition. Viewing the film in retrospect is of great benefit and many critics now hold the film in a much higher regard. I personally believe Summerfield is a forgotten gem that uses its location perfectly to create a haunting film of sublime atmosphere.

   The film has been given a wonderful video and audio transfer to DVD.

   The selection of extras on the disc will certainly please those who have eagerly awaited its release on DVD.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Steve Crawford (Tip toe through my bio)
Saturday, June 04, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDJVC XV-N412, using Component output
DisplayHitachi 106cm Plasma Display 42PD5000MA (1024x1024). This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationPanasonic SA-HE70 80W Dolby Digital and DTS
SpeakersFronts: Jensen SPX7 Rears: Jensen SPX4 Centre: Jensen SPX13 Subwoofer: Jensen SPX17

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
The British loved Summerfield - REPLY POSTED
underrated Oz classic - REPLY POSTED
The ending had me guessing - a real Aussie gem! - John REPLY POSTED
Underrated gem -
Where has been all this time? - REPLY POSTED