Smiley (1956)

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Released 7-Feb-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Family Main Menu Audio
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1956
Running Time 93:27
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Anthony Kimmins

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Ralph Richardson
John McCallum
Bruce Archer
Chips Rafferty
Margaret Christensen
Case ?
RPI $19.95 Music William Alwyn

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Pan & Scan English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    Of the few films made in Australia during the fifties, virtually all were British productions. Films such as The Shiralee and Robbery Under Arms were adapted from classic Australian novels and depicted these unique tales of the Australian outback quite well - Smiley was another such production.

    Smiley was adapted from the 1945 novel of the same name written by Moore Raymond. The film's screenplay was co-written by Moore Raymond and the film's director, Anthony Kimmins.

    The production was shot in Camden, Gundy and Rossgole in country New South Wales between late October and late December 1955. Cinematographer Ted Scaife used the scope of the Cinemascope format to great effect, displaying the beauty of the countryside without any travelogue type pretensions. The fictional outback township of Murrumbilla was also created for the film and included the construction of many buildings for exclusive use within the film.

    Smiley succeeds as a film largely because of the wonderful performances from its young cast. The role of Smiley is superbly played by ten year old Colin Petersen. Colin's initial film career lasted only three years and consisted of just three films; Smiley (1956), The Scamp (1957) and A Cry from the Streets (1958). (Many years later, he played a small role in the 1976 film, Barney). Colin's mother put an early end to his acting career because of the disruption to his education. However he re-emerged in the late sixties as the drummer for The Bee Gees and played on the group's first four albums - this is a story in itself.

    Ten-year-old Smiley Greevins (Colin Petersen) is full of self-confidence and energy. He is a loveable character with a larrikin and mischievous streak that many people may recall from their own childhood.

    Smiley lives with his mother (Margaret Christensen) and his alcoholic father (Reg Lye) in the small outback town of Murrumbilla. Smiley's mother works hard, taking in laundry from around the community, while his father spends long periods away from home working as a drover.

    Smiley and his friend Joey (Bruce Archer) are amused by the careful attention being paid to their new schoolteacher, Miss Workman (Jocelyn Hernfield). Local policeman Sgt Flaxman (Chips Rafferty ) is smitten with the teacher and the boys are enjoying viewing this budding romance from a safe distance. While Flaxman is escorting Miss Workman to the door, Smiley rides and crashes Flaxman's police bicycle. The boys quickly replace the damaged bike from where they took it and flee the scene.

    Smiley has never owned a bike and decides he will earn money himself and save enough to buy a bike that he has seen in a catalogue. Word soon gets around and the local community is only too happy to support Smiley in his venture. One of the most supportive is Reverend Lambeth (Ralph Richardson), who provides money to Smiley and Joey for accurate recitals from the bible. Unfortunately though, as Smiley's savings slowly increase, some form of mischief inevitably brings him undone and he must then dip into his finances.

    One of the seemingly generous locals employing Smiley is the local publican, Rankin (John McCallum). The inconspicuous parcels that Rankin has Smiley deliver to the Aboriginal camp turns out to be opium. Rankin is running and supplying the drug to the Aborigines and Smiley has unknowingly become involved in his racket.

    Smiley's father returns from droving and shamefully steals his son's money for the purposes of gambling. Heartbroken, Smiley runs away from home, only to be bitten by a snake. Sgt Flaxman is closing in on Rankin's opium operation, but will the innocent Smiley also be implicated? The world certainly seems to be conspiring against poor Smiley - just when will he ever earn enough money to buy that shiny new bike?

    The box office success of Smiley spawned a sequel, Smiley Gets A Gun, two year later in 1958.

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Transfer Quality


    The video transfer for Smiley is a big disappointment in terms of presentation.

    The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, which obviously is not 16x9 enhanced. This is a long way from the film's original and correct aspect ratio of 2.35:1. As previously stated, Smiley was filmed in glorious Cinemascope, but instead of preserving the widescreen format we have been presented with a sub-standard Pan and Scan transfer. The opening credits of the film are displayed in the correct ratio to preserve the titles from extending over the 1.33:1 screen, but this wonderful scope is soon blown away by the intrusive pan and scan process.

    The artwork used in the design of the cover slick for this DVD has been adapted from some original artwork from the film. As such, the Cinemascope logo is prevalent at the front and rear of the packaging, which is unfortunately very misleading. It is interesting to note, however, that the Fox Home Entertainment website shows the cover art of the DVD with the Cinemascope logo removed. This may indicate that the packaging has since been corrected and re-printed - let's hope so.

    The transfer exhibits a reasonable degree of sharpness. Blacks were generally deep and clean with no significant noise issues. Shadows displayed an acceptable level of detail.

    Colours were well balanced on the disc, but fluctuated in intensity throughout the film. This was very noticeable in skin tones and backgrounds particularly. A couple of the more obvious instances occur at 28:32 and 49:58.

    There were no MPEG artefacts apparent in the transfer. Film-to-video artefacts were thankfully minor in nature, with the main culprits being aliasing and some edge enhancement. A few aliasing examples occur at 23:58, 28:30 and 36:31. Film artefacts were well controlled and caused very little concern.

    English subtitles and English subtitles for the hearing impaired are available on this DVD. Both subtitle tracks are easy to read in bold white and appear to be very accurate.

    This 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 actually very good for a film of this vintage.

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

    The dialogue quality was surprisingly very good. I had no problems hearing and comprehending the dialogue throughout the film.

    Audio sync was accurate for the most part, although a couple of rather insignificant lapses in sync were evident occasionally.

    The original musical score by William Alwyn was typical of a film of this era and complemented the on-screen action quite well. Shirley Abicair sings the title song, heard at the beginning of the film.

    The surround channels and subwoofer were not used.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    There are no extras on this DVD.


    The menu is of a very basic design, is 16x9 enhanced and features an audio sample of the film's title song.

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 Smiley available.


    Smiley is a thoroughly charming film that should appeal to the whole family. A younger audience may be interested to see how earlier generations entertained themselves prior to the Playstation and Xbox era.

    The video transfer is let down badly by the pan and scan presentation, which effectively wipes out nearly half of the Cinemascope ratio.

    The audio transfer is good and makes the most of the limited mono origins.

    There are no extras on this DVD.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Steve Crawford (Tip toe through my bio)
Saturday, May 20, 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

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Fox Disgrace - pellicule REPLY POSTED
Nice to see a pre-1970 Australian film on DVD, but... - REPLY POSTED
Early Aussie flicks - pellicule