Number 96-The Pantyhose Strangler (1974)
Audio Commentary-Episode 680 with Chantal Contouri & Andrew Mercado
Interviews-Cast & Crew-Ten News Reunion
|Year Of Production||1974|
|Running Time||755:47 (Case: 800)|
|RSDL / Flipper||
Multi Disc Set (4)
|Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||1,2,3,4,5,6||Directed By||
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||
English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.29:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.33:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||Yes, plenty of product - but all used in context|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
For a good part of the 1970's Number 96 was the premier serial on Australian television. It was a program that broke all conventions by portraying taboo subjects in storylines and by introducing on-screen nudity to an "innocent" Australian television audience.
The program was commissioned by the 0-10 Network (now Channel Ten) in the hope that it would lift the station's poor standing against the bigger networks. The basic idea was to generate a program similar in notion to the successful British serial, Coronation Street, but have much stronger "adult" content. In collaboration with the independent production company, Cash-Harmon, writer David Sale created the characters and concept for Number 96. The program would herald in a new era of television viewing in this country.
Number 96 premiered in March 1972 and then continued five nights a week in thirty-minute timeslots. The first night caused a sensation with a multitude of complaints made to the network and the relevant broadcasting control bodies. Despite this initial outrage, absolutely no harm was done to the show's ratings; if anything, it actually intensified audience curiosity and delivered more viewers. It's a pretty fair assessment that the premier of Number 96 would become known as "the night Australian television lost its virginity".
The simple premise of the program followed the day to day lives of the occupants in a four storey apartment block in inner suburban Sydney, known as Number 96. The audience was privy to just about everything that happened in the building, especially the bedroom antics of the tenants. Each night the show ended with a teaser, which hopefully brought the viewers back the following night. Most importantly, the program never took itself too seriously; this is clearly reflected in some of the storylines.
Number 96 was such a stark departure from the television content of the day and it became a ratings machine for the network. A loyal and often fanatical fan base was quickly established. The stars of Number 96, even the more mature cast members enjoyed (or endured) rock star status and their faces filled the pages of every TV magazine around the country.
In 1974 the success of Number 96 on television spawned a movie, aptly titled, Number 96: The Movie. Because most of the sets already existed, the film version was shot very quickly (eleven days) and was made for approximately $100,000. The film was also able to include full-frontal nudity, which at that time, still hadn't been seen on the television serial. While the critics absolutely hated the film, audiences loved it and decent profits were returned for investors. In July 2006, Umbrella Entertainment released the film on DVD in an excellent two-disc presentation, containing a selection of quality extras. This set is still readily available and makes the perfect companion piece to this four-disc set of Number 96 episodes. Click here to read the review by Philip S, which also includes a brief overview of some of the show's characters.
Over the years Number 96 developed a reputation for its melodramatic storylines. While they might appear totally camp and ridiculous by today's standards, in their day they kept the audience captivated. Whenever the producers and writers thought the program needed a lift, they always seemed to deliver the perfect solution. Particular storylines would develop over many weeks, building patiently to a surprise climax. One of the most widely remembered (and loved) plots from Number 96 were the episodes involving "the pantyhose strangler". As the title suggests, this storyline sees a murderer on the loose around Number 96. When the psychopath's second victim (Lorelei Wilkinson) is discovered in the Whittaker apartment, police start investigating a growing list of suspects. Over many episodes, the evidence mounts and it seems that nearly everyone at Number 96 becomes a suspect at some point. When a third person is found murdered (I won't reveal the victim's identity), the theories and suspicions shift yet again. Clues to the crimes are tainted by numerous red herrings, until a dramatic confrontation in the launderette finally reveals the killer's identity.
This four-disc set features the thirty-two episodes involving the pantyhose strangler storyline. Each DVD contains eight episodes, which play in chronological order, beginning with episode 649 and ending with episode 680. Umbrella has wisely included a brief synopsis of each episode, which is printed on the inside cover. If required, this makes it quite easy to find a particular episode.
These episodes were made in late 1974, when Number 96 had eased off on its sexy reputation to concentrate more on scandal and comedy. Even though these episodes were still "adult's only" in their day, today they only warrant a PG rating.
Number 96 screened on Australian television from 1972 - 1977. In the last two years of its run, the program changed from five thirty-minute episodes each week to two one hour episodes each week. This format worked in well with the network's other adult serial, The Box, which would screen directly after Number 96. But in mid 1977 audiences were growing weary of the sexy melodrama and no amount of revamping could lift its declining ratings. Even the reintroduction of nudity (including full frontal nudity) over the last couple of years had ultimately failed to save Number 96 from its inevitable demise. Television viewing habits in Australia had changed again and now viewers were embracing more refined family programs such as the Nine Network's, The Sullivan's.
The final episode of Number 96 aired in August 1977, leaving a legacy of fun memories for those of us old enough to remember. These thirty-two episodes are a great way to reminisce. They are also an excellent introduction to one of the legendary programs of Australian television.
At the beginning each of DVD a disclaimer appears on screen which states, "This DVD has been created using archival footage, there may be imperfections in picture quality inherent to the original masters. This should not effect your viewing enjoyment". While these types of disclaimers often strike fear into the viewer, on this occasion at least, the viewing experience wasn't compromised.
The episodes of Number 96 - The Pantyhose Strangler are presented in an aspect ratio of 1.28:1, which is not 16x9 enhanced. This is very close to the original aspect ratio of 1.33:1.
I have little doubt that this transfer is the best possible result from the aging 1970's video stock. Naturally, the limitations were obvious, but the episodes looked better than I was expecting. Overall the image was quite grainy and had a moderate softness - the larger the viewing screen, the more apparent this will be. Blacks were reasonably good and exhibited minimal noise, but shadow detail was only fair.
Reflecting the colours and fashions of the seventies, Number 96 is laden with a cocktail of garish and dowdy colour, both for interiors and in costumes. On occasions, vivid colours had a tendency to strobe slightly on screen. While this was easily noticed, it wasn't really problematic.
On a couple of occasions, I noticed what appeared to be a compression artefact. These instances were really insignificant and could only be pin-pointed by using frame advance, so they were barely noticeable during normal viewing. Taking into account the disclaimer at the start of each disc, film-to-video artefacts were present, but none distracted from the viewing experience. Naturally these artefacts varied from episode to episode. The most noticeable examples included instances of comet trails, colour bleeding, edge enhancement and the odd tracking error. Thankfully, all of these artefacts were relatively minor in nature. The general quality of the video stock was very good, so it produced quite a clean image throughout all the episodes.
There are no subtitles available on any of the discs.
Each DVD is a dual layer DVD 9 disc. I could only locate the layer change on one disc - 0:26 on disc three, episode 669. It would seem the layer changes on the other discs occur between episodes.
There are two audio tracks available, English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s) and English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s).
In general terms dialogue quality was quite good, although I found that I needed to increase my volume slightly above my normal listening level to obtain clear comprehension.
Audio sync appeared to be accurate.
The only music heard in Number 96 is the well-known theme music, which plays over the closing credits of each episode. No screen credit is given to the composer of this theme music. The omission of music obviously helped with the speed of production and assisted in keeping production costs down.
The surround channels and subwoofer were not required.
|Surround Channel Use|
The main menus on each DVD are animated and feature a looped sample of the Number 96 theme music.
This commentary is pleasant enough to listen to, but it's all a bit too short to gain any real insight. Andrew provides the leads for Chantal to discuss her character and the memories of her time on Number 96. This was the first time Chantal had seen some of her work in this episode, so there are also a few pauses as she assesses her performance.
This very short piece is a fairly recent news story from Ten News. It features entertainment reporter, Angela Bishop and a small reunion of some of the Number 96 cast. Again, although it's mildly interesting, it's way too short to have any real value on an informative level.
A collection of 16 images relating to Number 96: The Movie.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
There is no R1 version of Number 96 - The Pantyhose Strangler available and probably never will be.
Like it or not, there is no denying the impact and influence Number 96 has had on the Australian television landscape. The sexy, melodramatic and often high camp antics of the tenants within this infamous building have left us with many fun memories. For those of us old enough to remember, the opportunity to view thirty-two episodes in chronological order provides a really nostalgic experience. Those on the other side of the spectrum now have a chance to see what all that fuss was about.
All things considered, the video and audio transfers aren't too bad.
The selection of extras is minimal, but worth a look.
|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|