Getting of Wisdom, The: 2 Disc Collectors Edition (1978)

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Released 7-Mar-2006

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-The Fringe Dwellers, Travelling North,Picnic At Hanging Rock
Trailer-The Picture Show Man
Featurette-Documentary - Telling Schoolgirl Tales
Audio-Only Track-1978 Radio Interview
Gallery-Stills And Poster Gallery
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1978
Running Time 97:11
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Bruce Beresford
Nat. Film & Sound
Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Julia Blake
Dorothy Bradley
Kay Eklund
Max Fairchild
Jan Friedl
Diana Greentree
Maggie Kirkpatrick
Monica Maughan
Candy Raymond
Terence Donovan
Kerry Armstrong
Celia De Burgh
Kim Deacon
Case Amaray-Transparent-S/C-Dual
RPI $29.95 Music Sigismund Thalberg

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/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 No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding... Proverbs, iv, 7

    The Getting Of Wisdom was adapted from the 1910 novel of the same name by Henry Handel Richardson (Ethel Richardson). The novel is based on her own life experiences at the Presbyterian Ladies College during the late eighteen hundreds and is a classic piece of Australian literature.

    Director Bruce Beresford acknowledged the responsibility of adapting such a classic literary work to the screen by remaining as faithful as possible to the novel. Having read the novel as a child, Beresford had long wanted to make a film version of the novel. After directing Don's Party and the very "ocker" Barry McKenzie films, The Getting Of Wisdom marked Bruce Beresford's return to a more "respectable" and artistic genre of cinema.

    The casting of an unknown and untrained schoolgirl in the lead role was a risky, but superb choice by Beresford. Susannah Fowle was selected from the few thousand girls who auditioned for the role of Laura and brought genuine authenticity to the character. The casting of Barry Humphries in the dramatic role of Rev. Strachey is also very hard to fault. The many roles of the schoolgirls are played by some well-known Australian actors in the early days of their careers, including Kerry Armstrong, Sigrid Thornton and Kim Deacon.

    The film's narrative is rather episodic in nature and it manages to convey the journey of time quite well.

    The year is 1900; Laura Tweedle Rambotham (Susannah Fowle) leaves her quiet country surroundings for an education at the exclusive Presbyterian Ladies College in Melbourne. Laura is immediately different from most of the other girls at the college, as she does not move in the privileged circles of society. Instead, Laura's mother is a widow, working hard as a country postmistress to provide her gifted and spirited daughter with a quality education.

    Laura proves to be an interesting newcomer at the college and provides the conceited and snobbish girls with a person to taunt on a constant basis. However, Laura's quick tongue and thick skin protects her from these barrages and she often gives back as good as she receives.

    The college headmaster Reverend Strachey (Barry Humphries) invites some of the girls and teachers to his private rooms for afternoon tea. The students provide an impromptu recital, with Laura horrifying the gathering by playing a brash piano piece by Thalberg. Although she is severely reprimanded by the headmistress, Mrs Gurley (Sheila Helpmann), Laura's musical talent is announced.

    In time, Laura is accepted by the other girls and even becomes idolised by a college newcomer, Chinky (Alix Longman). In Chinky's longing to please Laura, she steals money to purchase her a ring and is subsequently expelled from the college.

    When a young and handsome minister arrives at the college, the girl's adolescent passions are stirred. Although Reverend Sheppard (John Waters) is married, Laura delights in fueling rumours that she and the minister are involved in a relationship. The perfect situation arises for Laura to heighten the girls' suspicion when she is invited to dinner with the Reverend, his wife and his sister. But, the Reverend's good looks and apparent charm may be masking a darker side to his personality.

    Laura's musical talent and her love for the piano brings her closer to the head girl of the college, Evelyn (Hilary Ryan). The pair develops a warm and close relationship that goes beyond their common musical interests. However, Laura's gradual obsession and possessive nature brings conflict to the relationship, as she denounces any contact Evelyn has with other people. Director Bruce Beresford cleverly keeps the sexual tension between the two characters on a reserved and ambiguous plateau, allowing the audience to make their own conclusions.

    Laura's final year at the college culminates with her winning a music scholarship to study overseas. As she runs through the park in a symbolic act of liberation, we realise the getting of wisdom has heralded a prosperous future for our defiant heroine.

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Transfer Quality


    The video transfer for The Getting Of Wisdom is surprisingly good and is clearly the best the film has looked for some time.

    The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. This is not too far from the correct aspect ratio of 1.85:1.

    The recent film restoration of The Getting Of Wisdom provides a wonderful level of sharpness and clarity. The film also has a degree of softness that embraces the period and perfectly enhances the film's ambiance. Blacks were generally deep and clean, with shadows holding a substantial and consistent level of detail.

    Colours have been superbly restored and look a treat on the DVD. The rich colours of the period sets and locations are beautifully balanced, with no adverse saturation issues.

    There are no MPEG artefacts on the disc. There are no significant film-to-video artefacts. A very slight telecine wobble was noticed at 19:50 and a single reel change mark was apparent at 58:12. While some film artefacts were occasionally evident during the film, they were all very minor in nature.

    Unfortunately, there are no subtitles available on this DVD.

    Both DVDs are single sided, dual layered discs. The layer change on disc one occurs at 35:17 during a scene and is barely noticeable. The layer change on disc two occurs at 49:26 during the "Telling Schoolgirl Tales" documentary and is also well masked.

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


    The audio transfer is acceptable, but it doesn't quite match the quality of the video transfer.

    There is one audio track on the DVD, English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s), which is the original mono track.

    Dialogue quality is a little inconsistent. At times I had some difficulty comprehending certain passages of dialogue, especially when quietly spoken. Increasing the volume above normal listening levels did help the situation, but this is not always an acceptable option. Single and very minor audio pops were heard at 10:32, 29:49, 68:51 and 87:48. Thankfully, these are unlikely to cause much irritation while viewing the film.

    Audio sync was not an issue and appeared to be very accurate.

    The music used in The Getting Of Wisdom comes from a few different composers. The music of Sigismund Thalberg, Franz Schubert and Arthur Sullivan is wisely used in the story and of course, the soundtrack. All the featured pieces suit the period and mood of the film very well.

    The surround channels and subwoofer were not used.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    The selection of extras on this two disc collector's edition is quite decent.


    The menu is of a very basic design. It is static, 16x9 enhanced and features a small sample of music from the film.

Disc One Extras:

Original Theatrical Trailer

    The Getting Of Wisdom (2:28)

Umbrella Trailers   

Disc Two Extras:

Featurette -  Telling Schoolgirl Tales (83:27)

    This recently made feature length documentary about the making of The Getting Of Wisdom is certainly loaded with relevant and fascinating insights. The producers have gathered many of the key players in the film's production, providing extensive information and anecdotes. The documentary is divided into different categories relating to the production, with cast and crew offering their thoughts and memories. Scenes from the film are also incorporated into the documentary to enhance and emphasize the discussion. Cast and crew that contribute to this informative featurette include Bruce Beresford, Barry Humphries, Don McAlpine, Phillip Adams, Susannah Fowle, John Waters, Kim Deacon and Candy Raymond.

Radio Interview (54:57)

    This radio interview seems to have been recorded at the time of the film's initial cinema release in 1978. The unnamed radio program and interviewer talks to Bruce Beresford, Phillip Adams, Barry Humphries and Susannah Fowle about The Getting Of Wisdom and the many aspects of the production. Audio samples from the film have also been incorporated between the discussions. Much in this interview is already told in the above documentary, but I still found this piece to be informative and certainly worth the listen. Obviously, this is an audio only feature and it plays over a static promotional image from the film.

Stills & Poster Gallery

    A collection of thirty-seven stills consisting of images taken from the film with some behind-the-scenes shots. This collection is a mixture of colour and black & white images.

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 Getting Of Wisdom available.


    The Getting Of Wisdom is yet another excellent Australian film from the seventies that has not seen the light of day for some considerable time. That old scratchy VHS copy can finally be replaced with this outstanding two disc collector's edition on DVD.

    The film's recent restoration has been well transferred to DVD and looks a treat. The audio transfer is reasonable.

    The selection of extras is worthy of the collector's edition tag. All the featured extras are interesting and highly relevant to the film.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Steve Crawford (Tip toe through my bio)
Saturday, May 06, 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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