Against the Wind: Special Collectors Edition (1978)
|Category||Drama||Main Menu Audio & Animation|
|Year Of Production||1978|
|Running Time||620:05 (Case: 619)|
|RSDL / Flipper||
Multi Disc Set (4)
|Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||1,2,3,4,5,6||Directed By||
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English Dolby Digital 2.0 (256Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.33:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
The late 1970s and early 1980s saw the television mini-series approaching its peak in terms of number and popularity. Much like the reality phenomenon (some might call it a plague) of the late 90s and early 2000s hardly a month went by when a new mega mini-series featuring a massive cast telling a story set across many generations swept onto our small screen. Television programmes such as the massive worldwide hit from 1977, Roots, changed the way we watched television. No longer could you simply watch a new programme from beginning to end in two hours on just one night. With the mini-series you had to set aside several nights, often consecutively, to fully satisfy the requirement of watching a 2, 3, 8 or even 13 part programme that could stretch to 20-plus hours.
In 1978 when the mini-series concept was still finding its feet in Australia, Against The Wind hit our screens. It was a 13-part historical drama mini series that was probably the first major series ever produced in this country and was rumoured to have cost more than $1 million to make - a huge sum for a television programme of the day.
A sweeping tale of immense scope (all mini series have to have that moniker buried in there somewhere don't they?), it is a story focusing on the very foundations of Australia's birth - the early years after the arrival of the First Fleet and the building of our country by early settlers and convicts. The story begins in Ireland in 1796 with the exploits of Mary Mulvane (Mary Larkin), a bright eyed eighteen-year-old girl who is tried for her involvement in attempted theft of a cow (even though the animal actually belonged to her family and was taken unfairly) Tried by a hard-fisted British court and despite her previously clean record, punishment is swift and harsh. Mary is sentenced to imprisonment for seven years and like many convicted felons of her day, she faces a rather depressing time - transportation to the fledgling penal colony of New South Wales. After a painfully slow voyage by ship, in cramped and trying conditions, Mary and hundreds of other convicts arrive in the strange land that is NSW. It is here she meets another convict, Jonathan Garrett (Jon English). The story then evolves over the next 10 or so episodes, following the lives of the pair as they serve their punishment, are set free and marry and settle down to life in the new colony.
Featuring many noted Australian actors (look out for an early appearance by a youthful Bryan Brown with a dreadful Irish accent) it is the work of Jon English that is most interesting and further proof that he may just be one of this country's most underrated performers, especially in his early years. English was making steady progress with his music career when he decided to take a break and try to further his acting abilities (something he had started with his role in the stage musical Jesus Christ Superstar) His effort as the impoverished convict Garrett earned him much acclaim, culminating in a Logie for best television actor in 1979. He is also one of the few performers who has won a Logie and a Countdown award for best male vocalist in the same year.
One of the more memorable legacies of this series was the music. Jon English partnered Mario Millo to write all the incidental music and the theme song, Six Ribbons, which became a number one hit in Australia and overseas in 1978 and pushed the soundtrack album to sales of more than a million copies.
Against The Wind has been regarded by many as the most successful Australian mini-series ever and it certainly captured the heart of the nation when it screened. Almost everyone over the age of 40 that I spoke to can remember watching it and with its final episode hitting a rating score of 49, a rare achievement then and something virtually impossible now given the wide choice the viewing public has at their disposal, it's hard to argue about how popular it was.
Against The Wind is certainly worth a look to see just what Australian mini-series are capable of given the funding and the commitment. Unlike the garbage that is dished up by the commercial networks now that they describe as drama, this series has just about everything going for it - except for a stellar transfer to DVD. Read on for details.
Any television mini-series (even one with a substantial budget) from 1978 is probably not going to look all that good when transferred to DVD and though I'd like to report on a fully restored transfer with bright, sharp images, sadly what we have here is really quite disappointing. Hazy at times, almost to the point of being unable to work out which character is which, it is the overall lack of clarity and sheer number of film artefacts that sees the biggest problems.
The transfer is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and is not 16x9 enhanced.
Grain is among the biggest issues, with every episode across every disc being among the grainiest transfers I have yet seen. While my screen is rather small, I could well imagine the problems watching this series on a large front projector display.
After the incredibly high levels of grain, easily one of the most obvious problems is that sharpness levels are highly variable with several scenes featuring quite blurred edges. As a result of the blur and the grain the colours are not what could be called bright or vivid and do lack a little consistency at times with tonal balance all over the place at times. Thankfully skin tones are natural enough and although blacks sometimes look extremely grey, no detail is lost.
There are no apparent compression artefacts, though the same cannot be said about other types of artefacts. Every episode contains artefacts of various size and shape throughout.
There are no subtitles.
All the discs are dual layered with the layer changes occurring between episodes.
There is just one soundtrack available across the four-disc set, this being the original mono soundtrack presented in the form of Dolby Digital 2.0.
This is very much a one-dimensional experience that is delivered in a fairly flat and uninspiring manner with little dynamic range and some obvious clarity issues.
The dialogue isn't great but it is at least clear enough most of the time and despite a handful of audio sync problems is easy to listen to.
The score and main theme are important parts of the production. Jon English's Six Ribbons was a huge hit in Australia in 1978 and features heavily here in both its full form and as a foundation for the actual score.
There is no surround and subwoofer activity.
|Surround Channel Use|
There are no extras on any of the discs.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
This four disc set is not available in Region 1, so for now the local version is obviously the disc of choice.
Against The Wind was a landmark television series for many reasons. It has remained unseen for many years but thanks to the huge popularity of DVD it can find a whole new audience.
The video and audio quality are not pretty, with soft images, stacks of artefacts and a fairly flat and uninspiring audio soundtrack.
Sadly there are no extras.
|DVD||Denon DVD-3910, using RGB output|
|Display||Loewe Calida (84cm). Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL).|
|Speakers||Front - B&W 602S2, Centre - B&W CC6S2, Rear - B&W 601S2, Sub - Energy E:xl S10|