Kokoda Front Line! (1942)

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Released 17-Nov-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Main Menu Animation
Introduction-Peter Fitzsimons
Rating Rated E
Year Of Production 1942
Running Time 67:23 (Case: 72)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By None Given

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Peter Bathurst
Damien Parer
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $24.95 Music None Given

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    The films that are presented on this DVD represent a body of work that most documentary filmmakers would treasure as part of their resume. These films document many aspects of the Australian fighting forces in World War Two, with the main purpose of informing, and hopefully reassuring, a concerned home front. Every film stands not only as a testament to the men who gave their lives in defence of ours, but also to the tragically short career of a truly gallant and gifted Australian filmmaker and photographer, Damien Parer.

    Parer's photographic career began before the war, when he worked with a pioneer of Australian cinema, Charles Chauvel. Parer not only worked on films with Chauvel, but also as a stills photographer. He then continued his quest for knowledge and experience, working with stills photographers Max Dupain and his wife, Olive Cotton.

    After working as Director Of Photography on a short film titled This Place Australia, Parer was offered a position at the Department Of The Interior as a principal cameraman. At the outbreak of World War Two, Parer transferred to the Department Of Information and began capturing both action and stills on film in the Middle East and Africa. Parer's most significant work, though, came when he returned closer to home and began documenting Australia's role in the war around the Pacific Ocean.

    Newsreels in Australia at that time were dominated by the locally owned Cinesound, and Movietone, which was owned and controlled by 20th Century Fox. When film footage arrived in Australia from overseas, both companies received the same stock footage to edit in their own manner, the result being something akin to television networks of today, covering the same news stories with different footage and journalistic angles.

     In 1942 Damien Parer turned his camera to documenting the brave fight of Australian troops against the Japanese along the Kokoda Track in New Guinea. The film, Kokoda Frontline, captured some extraordinary images and for the first time brought home pictures of a war raging only about three hundred miles from the Australian coastline. The Movietone edit of Parer's famous Kokoda footage, titled Road To Kokoda, is also included on this DVD. It is interesting to view both versions and notice the slight differences in the documenting of the same story, together with additions and deletions of film footage.

    It was Kokoda Frontline, however, that was widely regarded as the superior of the two versions and it would go on to win an Academy Award for Best Documentary in 1943. This was the first Oscar won by an Australian production and was awarded to Ken G. Hall who produced Kokoda Frontline, as well as many of Parer's other newsreels. Apart from his pivotal role with Cinesound in those days, Hall also holds a respected position in history as a significant pioneer in the birth of the Australian film industry.

     When Kokoda Frontline was released on September 17th 1942, there were enormous queues at the theatrette in Market St, Sydney. With the fresh war footage reaching the mainland so quickly, the action was extremely current and uncomfortably close to home. Hall convinced Damien Parer to film a brief introduction to the film. In speaking directly to the camera, he pays tribute to the courageous men fighting a harsh war in the jungles of New Guinea and also enforces the fact that this war was perilously close to our shores.

    In 1943 Damien Parer resigned from the Department Of Information and took up a position with Paramount News. While filming American Marine operations during the invasion of Peleliu Island, Parer was fatally shot by a Japanese machine-gun. The date was 17th September 1944, exactly two years after the premiere of Kokoda Frontline in Sydney. He died still carrying the instrument that brought him such notoriety and us a timeless, visual history of bravery and mateship that has been forever etched into the heart and soul of Australian culture.

    This comprehensive collection of Damien Parer's wartime film work includes the following newsreels:

  • Kokoda Frontline (9:07)
  • The Road To Kokoda (8:12)
  • Moresby Under The Blitz (8:37)
  • The Men Of Timor (8:20)
  • R.A.A.F. Eagles Over New Guinea (7:16) - This particular newsreel has no audio track.
  • Assault On Salamaua (8:57)
  • From Palestine To Bengazi with the Prime Minister, Robert Menzies (7:50)
  • Bismark Convoy Smashed! (8:55)

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    Transfer Quality


        The video transfer for Kokoda Frontline is as good as we are likely to get from the source material.

        The films are presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and appear to be full frame.

        When put into context, this video transfer is very impressive and is a wonderful presentation of the restored and preserved footage. Naturally, sharpness and clarity levels vary, but are generally excellent. Blacks and shadows also appeared fine and exceeded all my expectations.

        All of the films that are presented on this DVD were filmed in black and white.

        There were no MPEG artefacts noticed in this transfer. Film-to video artefacts were not significant enough to be of concern. Film artefacts were obviously frequent, but relatively minor, consisting mainly of very small flecks and scratches. These artefacts have become a part of the character of these timeless films and are not at all problematic issues when viewing.

        There are no subtitles available on this DVD.

        This disc is a single sided, single layered disc. As such, there is no layer change.

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


        The audio transfer is equally impressive, considering the limitations of the source material.

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

        Overall the dialogue quality is really very good. There is very little in the way of direct speaking in all of the films, with the vast majority of dialogue coming from narration. The occasional audible click and pop can certainly be forgiven. These were quite frequent, but minor in nature and shouldn't cause any distraction to the viewer. Audio hiss is noticeable at an increased volume. However, this should not be a significant issue due to the mere nature of these films and the little requirement for high volume.

        A couple of rare instances of direct-to-camera speaking resulted in a very slight sync discrepancy. There is every chance that this may be inherent in the source material.

        There are no credits given for music in any of the films. However, music was a very important and a heavily used element in all newsreels and Parer's work is no exception. The music is used to create the mood of the scene and is generally very heavy in building drama and a sense of peril.

        The surround channels and subwoofer were not used.

    Audio Ratings Summary
    Audio Sync
    Surround Channel Use


        The selection of extras is very limited.


        The menu is perfectly appropriate for the material, while still incorporating some imaginative thought into the design. The menu is silent, features subtle animation and has 16x9 enhancement. The films can be selected for play individually or consecutively by selecting the "play all" feature.

    Introduction by the author of Kokoda, Peter Fitzsimmons. (7:00)

        This is a brief introduction to the films of Damien Parer and Kokoda Frontline in particular. Peter discusses Parer's incredible contribution to the war and of his determination to make a difference by delivering his films back to an anxious audience at home in Australia.

    Concluding narration by Peter Fitzsimmons  (6:16)

        This is an audio passage taken from a radio program. It features Peter Fitzsimmons reading a passage from his book, Kokoda. This plays over a selection of stills taken from Parer's films.

    Damien Parer Excerpts  (2:31)

        A small montage of Parer's images are displayed on screen, while a short biography scrolls over the footage. There is also brief footage of his wedding day and wreaths being laid in tribute after news of his death.

    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 Kokoda Frontline available.


        This is a wonderful presentation of iconic films documenting a defining time in Australia's war history. Damien Parer's initial testament to Australia's courageous and defiant defenders has also become a timeless reference for future generations. Highly recommended for every DVD collection.

        All things considered, the transfers are excellent.

        The extras are minimal. A documentary on Damien Parer would have been icing on the cake.

  • Ratings (out of 5)


    © Steve Crawford (Tip toe through my bio)
    Friday, February 17, 2006
    Review Equipment
    DVDJVC XV-N412, using Component output
    DisplayHitachi 106cm Plasma Display 42PD5000MA (1024x1024). Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
    Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
    AmplificationPanasonic SA-HE70 80W Dolby Digital and DTS
    SpeakersFronts: Jensen SPX7 Rears: Jensen SPX4 Centre: Jensen SPX13 Subwoofer: Jensen SPX17

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