The Last Outlaw: Special Collectors Edition (1980)
|Year Of Production||1980|
|RSDL / Flipper||
Dual Disc Set
|Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||1,2,3,4,5,6||Directed By||
Kevin James Dobson
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.29:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.33:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
The legend of the Kelly Gang has become indelibly etched into Australian folklore. Even though many people may not know the complete history of our most famous - or infamous - bushranger, just mentioning the name of Ned Kelly stirs an instinct of patriotism. The distinctive plates of armour used by the Kelly gang, in particular Ned's iconic helmet, are instantly recognised symbols of Australian culture.
The Kelly legend has been portrayed on film on several occasions, although only a few of these films are commonly known. The 1906 film The Story Of The Kelly Gang is widely regarded as the world's first feature length film. It also became the first of many screen adaptations depicting the Ned Kelly story, even including a couple of parodies, such as Reckless Kelly (1993) and Ned (2003). But the most commercially recognised of the Kelly films are the 1970 film Ned Kelly starring Mick Jagger and the 2003 film of the same name starring Heath Ledger . Despite being highly publicised versions of the story, these two films were largely savaged by critics for a variety of reasons. Of all the films ever made on the subject, only one can claim to convey the comprehensive story of Ned Kelly while remaining very faithful to the actual events. That film was the 1980 made for television mini-series The Last Outlaw.
Written by Ian Jones and his late partner Bronwyn Binns, The Last Outlaw has used the mini-series concept to distinct advantage, paying great attention to historical detail without having the time restraints of a feature length film. Bronwyn Binns was a stickler for research and actually discovered some significant factors relating to Ned Kelly's life.
Ian Jones is a highly regarded and passionate Kelly historian who has written many books on the subject. He is also a veteran of the Australian television industry with many years experience as a writer, director and producer. Bronwyn and Ian's interest in Australia's colonial past also spawned the much loved mini-series Against The Wind, which they co-wrote in 1978. It is interesting to note that Ian also shares the screenplay credit with Tony Richardson for the 1970 film Ned Kelly.
I won't even attempt to deliver a thorough synopsis of The Last Outlaw as there is so much detail in the story it would only lead to confusion. Instead, I'll briefly outline some of the key points in the story and leave the rest for your viewing pleasure.
The Last Outlaw begins the telling of the Kelly saga in 1869, when Ned (John Jarratt) is about fifteen years of age. The Kelly family struggles on their selection, weighed down by an unfair government system and a constant battle with police and wealthy squatters.
Ned's early involvement in horse and cattle stealing sets a tragic course of confrontation with the regimented establishment. Soon his family and friends came under constant attention from an authoritarian police force, as mere association brought with it an assumption of guilt.
In an incident at the Kelly homestead, Constable Fitzpatrick (Adrian Wright) accused Ned's mother, Ellen Kelly (Elaine Cusick) of attacking him and Ned of shooting him in the wrist. Ellen Kelly was subsequently found guilty of attacking the Constable on his word alone and she was sentenced to three years in Beechworth Gaol. Ned was again on the run, but this time he was wanted for a significantly more serious crime than horse theft.
Ned, his brother Dan, and friends Joe Byrne (Steve Bisley) and Steve Hart (Ric Herbert) fled into the bush and were hunted by the authorities. The Kelly gang discovered a police camp at Stringybark Creek and made an attempt to bail them up. A confrontation followed and three of the four policemen at the camp were shot and killed, although these actions were vigorously claimed as self defence by the Kelly gang.
A massive reward was posted for the apprehension of Ned Kelly and other members, but with the assistance of a network of friends they managed to elude the authorities for a couple of years. In this time the gang robbed two banks, without any loss of life, and soon gained the admiration of the public. Ned Kelly also used these robberies to hand deliver letters that he had either written or dictated. These letters were intended for Melbourne newspapers and detailed the injustices and persecution he believed had been perpetrated against himself and his family.
With an inevitable confrontation with police looming, the Kelly gang constructed primitive, yet reasonably effective suits of armour to protect themselves from police gunfire.
In June 1880 the Kelly gang patiently waited in the Glenrowan Hotel for a train carrying a large assembly of police to arrive from Melbourne. The gang's plan to derail the incoming train failed and soon the hotel was surrounded by scores of police. After the intense battle of their last stand, Ned would be the only survivor of the gang. He was, however, critically wounded with multiple gunshot wounds to areas of the body where the armour had failed to protect him.
Ned Kelly recovered from his injuries and was found guilty of the murder of one of the policemen at Stringybark Creek. Despite a growing wave of public support for Ned, he was hanged in the Melbourne Gaol on 11th November 1880 - he was twenty five years of age.
The story of the The Last Outlaw unfolds with patient detail and never becomes tedious. The saga is revealed over four episodes on two DVDs.
Considering the poor DVD presentations of many Australian mini-series lately, it was with some apprehension that I put my hand up to review The Last Outlaw. Thankfully, I can report that this presentation is far from dreadful and even though the transfer is by no means pristine, it is much better than I had expected. This much loved but rarely seen mini-series is sure to please the many people who have waited so long for its arrival on DVD.
The Last Outlaw is presented full screen in an aspect ratio of 1.29:1, not 16x9 enhanced.
Considering the age and limitations of the source material, sharpness and clarity was reasonably good. The biggest issue with the video transfer was the constant but generally minor presence of grain. This issue certainly did not spoil my viewing of the series and is more likely to be noticed when viewed on large screen displays. Blacks were never particularly bold or deep, but were consistent and didn't cause any significant annoyance while viewing. Shadow detail was a little on the murky side and displayed only average definition.
Colour intensity was a little soft and muted, which I'm sure would be consistent with the source material. There were no oversaturation issues evident in the transfer. Colour balance appeared excellent.
There were no MPEG artefacts noticed. All things considered, film-to-video artefacts were well controlled and didn't present much of a problem. Film artefacts were minor and presented occasionally in the form of small marks and scratches.
There are no subtitles available on this DVD.
Both discs in the set are single sided, dual layer discs. The layer change on disc one occurs between episodes, so there is no disruption. The layer change on disc two occurs at 0:56 during episode four and is perfectly placed at the very beginning of the episode.
The audio transfer is basic, but acceptable.
There is one audio track on the DVD, English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s).
Dialogue quality was impressive. Considering the many accents spoken in the series, I had few problems hearing and comprehending the dialogue. An infrequent, low frequency hum could be heard spasmodically throughout all four episodes. At normal listening levels this was not overly intrusive, but obviously any decent increase in volume will subsequently increase the severity and relevance of this issue.
Audio sync appeared to be accurate throughout.
The late Brian May provides the original music score for the series. Brian has written many musical scores for Australian television and film, including Mad Max and Mad Max 2. Personally, I find many of his scores to be a little too intrusive and overdramatic. In my opinion, his score for The Last Outlaw is no exception and tends to occasionally overstate the action on screen.
The surround channels and subwoofer were not used.
|Surround Channel Use|
There are no extras on this edition of The Last Outlaw.
The main menu is well themed, but very basic. It features a close up image of the Ned Kelly trademark head armour, with some subtle animation. The menu is 16x9 enhanced and also features an audio sample of Brian May's score.
At the time of this review, there is no R1 version of The Last Outlaw available.
The Last Outlaw is still the definitive version of the Kelly story on film. Despite being nearly thirty years old, this highly acclaimed mini-series has dated only marginally and still provides over six hours of engrossing entertainment.
All things considered, the video and audio transfers are both reasonably good.
There are no extras on this collector's edition of The Last Outlaw. The inclusion of some current interviews with cast and crew members would have been a wonderful addition. However, I'm sure fans of The Last Outlaw won't be complaining too much and will be pleased just to have the series finally released on DVD.
|DVD||JVC XV-N412, using Component output|
|Display||Hitachi 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 Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.|
|Amplification||Panasonic SA-HE70 80W Dolby Digital and DTS|
|Speakers||Fronts: Jensen SPX7 Rears: Jensen SPX4 Centre: Jensen SPX13 Subwoofer: Jensen SPX17|