The Picture Show Man (1977)

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Released 27-Jul-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Main Menu Audio
Featurette-Return To Oz
Audio Commentary-Actors And Production Manager
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Travelling North, History Of Australian Cinema,
Trailer-The Fringe Dwellers, We Of The Never Never
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1977
Running Time 94:36 (Case: 99)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By John Power
Limelight Prods
Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Rod Taylor
John Meillon
John Ewart
Harold Hopkins
Judy Morris
Garry McDonald
Sally Conabere
Jeanie Drynan
Don Crosby
Patrick Cargill
Yelena Zignon
Gerry Duggan
Tony Barry
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $24.95 Music Peter Best

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/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 None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes

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

Plot Synopsis

    The Picture Show Man is based on a previously unpublished book of memoirs by Lyle Penn. He and his father travelled the Australian countryside in the early twenties, bringing their travelling picture shows to appreciative audiences. These shows gave people from remote country towns the opportunity to see silent films, complete with live piano accompaniment. Many shows also incorporated live vaudeville style acts in addition to the film component of the show.

    Writer and producer Joan Long developed this story into a screenplay over many years, and she used a combination of real life and fictional characters to create a story rich in period detail and loaded with gentle humour. Long had many of the main cast members in mind during the writing process such as John Meillon and John Ewart, who were always envisaged for their roles, although the surprise acceptance by ex-patriot Rod Taylor of the role of Palmer meant his character needed a nationality change. The screenplay was subsequently changed to accommodate Taylor's acquired American accent.

    Long decided to find a fresh director for the film and chose former journalist John Power for the role. His work with the ABC television drama unit and in particular two telemovies he directed, Billy and Percy and They Don't Clap Losers, caught Long's attention. Power liked the concept of the film and agreed to direct the production, as well as collaborating with Long on the final draft of the screenplay.

    Sometime in the early nineteen hundreds, Maurice Pym (John Meillon) and his son, Larry (Harold Hopkins) travel between remote country towns in a horse drawn carriage, displaying "Pyms Pictures On Tour". They bring an escape from everyday life for these country people, in the form of silent movies and live vaudeville style entertainment.

    Maurice and Larry begin auditioning pianists after their regular player, Lou (Garry McDonald) defects to the rival operator, Palmer (Rod Taylor). After a string of woeful applicants, a suave piano tuner named Freddie (John Ewart) brings a breath of fresh air to the travelling show. He quickly settles into his role of providing background music for the films and accompanying Maurice's singing act. Freddie is very much a ladies man and finds that his new job is also beneficial with such endeavours.

    After an ill-fated horse race, Larry meets and subsequently falls in love with Lucy Lockhart (Sally Conabere), the daughter of a wealthy landowner. Lucy's aunt Miss Lockhart (Judy Morris) is one of the most respected women in the district, and she is widely respected in the field of modern dance. She has returned home for some rest and to do some dance teaching with local children.

    Larry is left behind to manage an open-air cinema in a small town while Maurice and Freddie continue with the travelling show.

    They meet a couple of scammers, Fitzwilliam (Patrick Cargill) and Madame Cavalli (Yelena Zigon) who are also travelling with their bogus mind reading act. Maurice has an immediate attraction to Madame Cavalli and suggests the four travel together. Maurice soon discovers the flirtatious interest shown in him by Madame Cavalli may not be totally genuine.

    As the decade draws to an end, the arrival of the talking picture and the motor vehicle are changing the way of life for the travelling entertainers. This, together with the ever increasing rivalry between Pym and Palmer, brings the realization that the vast countryside is just not big enough for the two of them.

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Transfer Quality


    The transfer for The Picture Show Man is much better than previous VHS versions, but is still inconsistent.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. I believe the original aspect ratio of the film to be 1.85:1.

    The film exhibits a deliberate warm glow in many scenes, which suits the mood and era wonderfully well. The overall sharpness and clarity is quite good and I believe accurately reflects the source material. Minor film grain was noticed occasionally, but wasn't a significant problem. Blacks were not particularly deep, but were clean and clear of low-level noise. Shadows held a good level of detail.

    While colours appeared pleasant to the eye and well balanced, they were also the most problematic issue encountered with the transfer. During many scenes, slight but noticeable colour fluctuation was evident. This was particularly noticeable in skin tones and some backgrounds. A few examples of this occur during the opening credits as well as 27:36 and 85:28 . I sampled these scenes on a smaller screen display and found the fluctuation still noticeable.

     I found no evidence of MPEG artefacts. Film-to video artefacts were kept to minimal levels and weren't an issue. A small, shadow like spot appears and disappears in the top left hand corner of the screen at 32:43 and 76:05 . Although not overly annoying, it is easily noticeable and worth mentioning. Film artefacts were minor, but quite frequent and consisted of small marks and scratches.

    Unfortunately there are no subtitles available on this DVD.

    This DVD is a single sided, dual layer disc. The layer change occurs at 65:43 and is quite well placed.

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


    The audio transfer is quite adequate.

    There are two audio tracks available on the disc, an English Dolby Digital 2.0 track running at (448Kb/s) and English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0, also at (448Kb/s).

    Dialogue quality is clear and easily understood throughout. Audio sync presented no problems. There was a minor audio drop out at 85:12 .

    The original music score by Peter Best is upbeat and complements the mood of the film in general. The title song for the film is used extensively and tends to stay in your head, for better or worse.

    The surrounds carried music and general audio without any genuine separation between the channels.

    The subwoofer supported music and the scene featuring a horse race. Apart from highlighting these elements, the subwoofer remained relatively inactive.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    The selection of extras on offer are reasonably good.


    The menu design is static and very basic. It features the title song (at Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s) audio) from the film and is 16x9 enhanced.

Audio Commentary - Harold Hopkins, Sally Conabere and Judy Morris (Actors) and Sue Milliken (Production Manager) 

    This entertaining commentary delivers interesting information about the film, from both sides of the production. Sue Milliken takes the lead role in the commentary and provides most of the inside facts relating to the film. This includes anecdotes regarding many of the behind-the-scenes aspects of the film. The actors also contribute with their memories of the production and with many amusing anecdotes.

Return to Oz - An interview with Rod Taylor. (16:30)

    This recent interview with Rod Taylor is too short to offer any decent level of information regarding the production, but is still interesting viewing. Taylor discusses his experience on The Picture Show Man and  his professional relationship with the other actors and the crew, with great fondness. His memories of the production are incorporated with small grabs from the film. Taylor does occasionally digress from The Picture Show Man to mention other films in his filmography.

Theatrical Trailer

    The Picture Show Man (3:18)

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 The Picture Show Man available.


     The Picture Show Man is another wonderful Australian film from the 70s that is worthy of re-visiting, or indeed discovering for the first time. The film's genuine warmth and subtle humour is suitable and recommended for the whole family.

    The transfers are reasonably good, despite having a couple of issues.

    The selection of extras on offer should satisfy the curious viewer.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Steve Crawford (Tip toe through my bio)
Saturday, September 10, 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

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