Phar Lap: 2 Disc Collector's Edition (1983)

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Released 20-Oct-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Docudrama Main Menu Introduction
Menu Animation & Audio
Audio Commentary-Simon Wincer (Director)
Audio Commentary-Tom Burlinson (Actor)
Audio-Only Track-From The Horse's Mouth: Tommy Woodcock's Phar Lap Memories
Gallery-Phar Lap 75th Anniversary - The VRC Tribute (Montage)
Notes-The Phar Lap Story
Featurette-The Mighty Conqueror
Featurette-Phar Lap's Last Race
Theatrical Trailer-2
Teaser Trailer-4
Gallery-Music Montages-Centennial Park, Fame
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1983
Running Time 112:54
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (61:09)
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Simon Wincer

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Tom Burlinson
Richard Morgan
Robert Grubb
Simon Wells
Kelvyn Worth
Justin Ridley
Martin Vaughan
Brian Granrott
Celia De Burgh
Steven R. Bannister
Richard Terrill
Ron Leibman
Ross O'Donovan
Case ?
RPI $34.95 Music Bruce Rowland

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 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

    Decades after his death, Phar Lap remains Australia's most famous racehorse. Last year marked the 75th anniversary of Phar Lap's win in the 1930 Melbourne Cup. Released late last year on DVD, Phar Lap pays tribute to an Aussie icon that transcended racing, and even sport, to become part of the fabric of Aussie iconography.

    Phar Lap was foaled in New Zealand in 1926. His name was derived from the Thai word for lightning (Farlap). Impressed by his blood line, Sydney trainer Harry Telford (Martin Vaughan) convinced an American businessman living in Sydney, Dave Davis (Ron Leibman), to buy and import the horse. Purchased very cheaply at auction, Phar Lap was shipped to Australia.

    Apparently Telford was horrified when the gangly and thin horse arrived, its face covered with warts; and Davis was furious, demanding the horse be sold immediately.

    Telford offered Davis a deal: He would cover the cost of training Phar Lap in return for two thirds of any winnings. Davis agreed, assuming that there would be none. Needless to say, with 37 wins from 51 starts between 1929 and 1932, Telford's gamble paid off, and paid off handsomely.

    In his career, Phar Lap won the Melbourne Cup, AJC Derby, Victoria Derby, WS Cox Plate (twice), and North America's richest race, the Agua Caliente Handicap. I have attended the last two Melbourne Cups, and have thus witnessed Makybe Diva's last two wins there. While much is made of the Diva's 15 wins, including the Melbourne Cup (three times), Sydney Cup, Australian Cup, BMW, and Cox Plate, I doubt that we will ever see another Phar Lap.

    The Red Terror or Big Red was much more than just a race horse. During the 1930s, while Australia was gripped in the depression, Phar Lap provided a nation with an unusual choice in hero. While he was only an animal, as Telford remarked following Phar Lap's early death: "He was almost human - he could do anything but talk. I've never practised idolatry, but by God I loved that horse".

    Well written by David Williamson, the film captures the relationship between "Big Red" and the adoring public, while focusing on the warm relationship between the strapper (later trainer) Tommy Woodcock (Tom Burlinson) and the horse he cared for.

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Transfer Quality


    Considering the source material is over 20 years old, the transfer is pretty good.

    The transfer is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and it is 16x9 enhanced.

    The sharpness is reasonable, but the image can appear a little soft at times, such as at 19:08. Where the source material really shows its age is in the black level and shadow detail, which are both poor. For example consider the murky image in the stable at 14:21.

    The print looks dated and the colour appears a little washed out. The skin tones often exhibit a harsh orange tint.

    MPEG artefacts do appear, such as at 11:43, and the image can often seem grainy or murky.

    There are no problems with film-to-video artefacts, such as aliasing or telecine wobble.

    A few film artefacts such as black or white marks appear throughout, but considering the age of the source material the print is fairly clean.

    English for the Hearing Impaired subtitles are present, and they are accurate.

    This is a Dual Layer disc, with the layer change placed at 61:09.

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


    I'm not sure what the original theatrical audio would have been for this film, but it has been remixed into a surround sound format for this DVD. Apart from the English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s) audio, and the two audio commentary tracks (both encoded at 192Kb/s), there is also an English dts 5.1 (768Kb/s) audio option. I heard no real difference in quality between the Dolby Digital and dts audio options.

    The dialogue quality and audio sync are fine on both the Dolby Digital 5.1 and dts audio tracks.

    The musical score is credited to Bruce Rowland, who won the 1983 AFI Award for Best Original Music Score with his work here. While not as moving as his score for Man From Snowy River, Rowland's orchestral score does effectively underline the film's emotions.

    The surround presence and activity is quite good, with a nice spatial soundstage across the front three speakers. The surround sound mix is quite front-heavy, but the rear speakers are used effectively to help provide some ambience, such as on the docks at 6:04. As expected, however, there is not a strong LFE track, and the subwoofer never drew attention to itself.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    As a two-disc set, there are plenty of genuine and interesting extras.


    Animated with audio.

Disc One

Audio Commentary 1

    Simon Wincer (Director) provides a screen-specific commentary in which he identifies many of the film's actors and locations. Wincer also discusses Tommy Woodcock, who was on set during the production.

Audio Commentary 2

    Tom Burlinson (Actor) also provides a screen-specific commentary, in which he covers some of the same ground as Wincer, but I found it was not as interesting.

Disc Two

Audio-Only Track (81:53)

    From The Horse's Mouth: Tommy Woodcock's Phar Lap Memories - Recorded in 1984, Woodcock chats with Wincer about the events in the film, especially their trip to North America. Their conversation is accompanied by a photographic slide show.

Gallery-Phar Lap 75th Anniversary (4:19)

    The VRC's Tribute to Phar Lap contains footage and a number of stills set to music, with some subtitles to identify what we are looking at.

Notes-The Phar Lap Story

   Clips from the film are accompanied by text.

Featurette-The Mighty Conqueror (10:02)

    A collection of some of the original cheesy newsreel footage of the Red Terror from the 1930s.

Featurette-Phar Lap's Last Race (2:57)

    Archival news reel footage.


    A photographic slide show of stills from the film production set to music.

Australian Theatrical Trailer (2:22)

US Theatrical Trailer (2:19)

Teaser Trailers (2:24)

    Four teaser trailers

Music Montages

R4 vs R1

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

    Phar Lap was released theatrically and on VHS in Region 1, in a slightly altered version (Phar Lap's death was put at the end, rather than the beginning of film), but there appears to be no R1 DVD release as yet.


    Written by the brilliant David Williamson and directed by Simon Wincer, Phar Lap is a decent biopic of a true Aussie legend.

    The video quality is good considering the age of the source material.

    The audio quality is also good for its age.

    The extras are genuine and interesting.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Brandon Robert Vogt (warning: bio hazard)
Wednesday, February 01, 2006
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-535, using S-Video output
DisplayGrundig Elegance 82-2101 (82cm, 16x9). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationSony STR DE-545
SpeakersSony SS-V315 x5; Sony SA-WMS315 subwoofer

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