Journey Among Women (1977)

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Released 11-Nov-2009

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio & Animation
Booklet-20 Page
Audio Commentary-Tom Cowan, John Weiley & Lisa Peers
Featurette-Making Of-Tom Cowan, John Weiley & Nell Campbell
Featurette-Dr Rozanna Lilley & Merv Lilley with Tom Cowan
Interviews-Crew-Tom Cowan interviewed by Allan Hogan in 1978
Short Film-The Dancing Class
Short Film-Signature
Short Film-Helena In Sydney
Short Film-Australia Felix
Gallery-Photo-Postcard Book
Theatrical Trailer-Original 1977 Theatrical Trailer - Journey Among Women
Gallery-Photo-Stills Gallery
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 1977
Running Time 80:10
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Tom Cowan
Studio
Distributor

Beyond Home Entertainment
Starring June Pritchard
Martin Phelan
Nell Campbell
Lillian Crombie
Diane Fuller
Therese Jack
Michelle Johnson
Helenka Link
Jude Kuring
Rose Lilley
Robyn Moase
Lisa Peers
Case Custom Packaging
RPI $34.95 Music Roy Ritchie


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Unknown English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 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

     It's probably a fair assumption that Australian filmmaker, Tom Cowan would be better known for his work behind the camera as a cinematographer than at the helm as a director. In a filmmaking career that so far spans nearly forty years, he has only directed four feature films. However, it was his third film, Journey Among Women, that brought him into prominence - he not only directed, but co-wrote and shot the film.

    Like many Australian films produced during the 1970's, the story behind Journey Among Women, is every bit as fascinating as the film itself. In this instance, the actors spent many weeks in a bush environment workshopping their characters and ideas for the film. Late into the filming there was even an actor revolt, as differences of opinion surfaced regarding the final resolution of the film. This and other fascinating tales are told in the audio commentary and in the many extras on the second disc of this presentation.

    Journey Among Women is set somewhere in Australia during the early colonial period. A group of female convicts are subjected to endless ridicule and sexual abuse from their male guards.

    Lady Elizabeth Harrington, (June Pritchard) is the daughter of a judge and engaged to marry Captain McEwan (Martin Phelan). But when she spies him raping one of the convicts, events take a surprising turn and Lady Elizabeth shoots and kills a military guard. She now has no other option but to escape with the women convicts into the harsh Australian bushland.

    With soldiers in pursuit, the group of women manages to avoid capture. Relationships and alliances are quickly established, as the women descend into savagery.

    After many days, Lady Elizabeth decides to stay behind and wait for the soldiers to arrive. She is found naked at the campsite by her fiancé and is returned to the sanctuary of her home. Meanwhile the effort to recapture the fugitives intensifies, drawing the establishment into some drastic action to end the confrontation.

    Although I have only mentioned two actors directly, other wonderful acting performances also carry the narrative including, Nell Campbell, Rose Lilley, Robyn Moase, Lisa Peers, Lillian Crombie and Diane Fuller.

    In 1977 the release of Journey Among Women caused something of a sensation. The film was highly controversial for many reasons, but mostly due to the themes of lesbianism, full-frontal female nudity and  strong violence. Personally though, I find it quite incredible that this film still holds an Australian R rating (18+). The shock value has certainly diminished over the years, so this rating seems a little excessive by current standards - a MA rating would now seem far more appropriate.

    Journey Among Women was quite successful financially - naturally, this was due in some part at least, to the aforementioned controversies. All of that aside though, this rarely seen film holds a place of significance in the overall prosperity of the Australian film industry during the 1970's.

    This edition from Beyond Home Entertainment finally delivers Journey Among Women to DVD for the first time. It also encompasses many of the behind-the-scenes trials and tribulations and in a beautifully presented two-disc set.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Journey Among Women is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.77:1, which is 16x9 enhanced. I could not confirm the original aspect ratio. Although some scenes seem to display evidence of cropping, it's difficult to say whether this is actually the case.

    During normal playback on disc one, certain scenes exhibited an artefact, which produced a jagged, "comb-like" edge on particular objects. This was more obvious with camera panning or character movement, but it wasn't consistent throughout the film. The problem was quickly corrected on screen by disabling the progressive scan option on my player. There was also some "ghosting" evident at film cuts, which would indicate interlacing. In consultation with Peter Coulam (DVD Author) from Beyond Home Entertainment, it's believed that this is an isolated problem, which may be related to a conflict between the actual transfer and the progressive scan operation of my player. Peter could not replicate the artefact at his end. To date, Beyond have not received any negative feedback from customers in relation to this problem. Regardless, once I had this under control, and taking into account the limitations of the source material, a reasonably good looking transfer was revealed.

    Journey Among Women was shot on 16mm and blown up to 35mm, so there is the presence of film grain. This enhances the ambience of the film really well and isn't at all problematic. As such, sharpness and clarity varied throughout the film, but was generally quite good. Many scenes in Journey Among Women take place in various degrees of darkness or shadow. On first impression, it appeared to me that this transfer was overly dark. But after listening to the audio commentary on the disc, it became obvious that the scenes in dark shadow were intentional. Blacks were clean and shadow detail was often dark, but fine.

    Colours appeared to be well balanced on the disc, with no saturation issues.

    MPEG artefacts were not a significant issue. Some minor film-to-video artefacts were present, but weren't particularly problematic. The occasional film artefact was also evident, but these were generally small and minor in nature.

    Unfortunately, there are no subtitles available on the DVD.

    Both discs are DVD 9, dual layer discs. I could not locate the layer change on disc one (film disc).

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are two audio tracks available on the DVD, English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s) and English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s).

     Dialogue quality was generally very good, but the occasional and minor audio pop was evident.

    There were no obvious issues with audio sync.

    The original music by the late,  Roy Ritchie has a wonderful traditional ambience, which enhances the narrative without overwhelming it. The main song, The Rose of Sharon, which plays over the end credits, is sung by Therese Jack - who plays Kate in the film. Journey Among Women was Roy's first film score. He went on to write the music for John Duigan's rarely seen 1978 gem, Mouth to Mouth - but sadly, he died soon after.

    The surround channels and the subwoofer were not used.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    

Menu

    The main menu is animated with scenes from the film. It features a sample of the song, The Rose of Sharon and is 16x9 enhanced.

    20 Page Booklet

    This quality booklet features a recent article by Jane Mills and a reprinted article from the Nation Review in April 1977, by Merv Lilley. Stills from the film have also been incorporated into the book - an excellent inclusion.

Disc One Extras:

    Audio Commentary - Tom Cowan, John Weiley and Lisa Peers.

    This recently recorded commentary is full of insight, trivia and anecdotes. I thought I recognised the voice of veteran actor, Chris Haywood on a couple of occasions during the film. Tom reveals that Chris did in fact do some work in post-production, as the voice of an unseen soldier - worth a listen.

Disc Two Extras:

    Featurette - Tom Cowan, John Weiley & Nell Campbell on the making of Journey Among Women (26:52)

    Tom, John and Nell sit around a table and discuss various aspects of the film and their memories of the production. Nell's sister, Sally, who was the Production Designer on the film, put together a photo album while on set. Many of these photos are also presented in this piece.

    Featurette - Dr Rozanna Lilley & Merv Lilley with Tom Cowan (9:34)

    Rozanna (Rose) Lilley is the daughter of the late, Dorothy Hewett (co-writer of Journey Among Women) and Merv Lilley is her father. Both, Rose and Merv had roles in the film - in fact, Rose caused a storm of controversy at the time, because she was only 13 years of age and had a few nude scenes in the film. In this recently recorded piece, Rose and Merv talk with Tom Cowan about some of their experiences making the film.

    Interview - Tom Cowan interviewed by Allan Hogan in 1978. Australian Filmmakers Series - The Australian Film & Television School (37:45)

    As you might expect, the quality of the video is pretty ordinary, but it's a worthy inclusion to the extras package. Allan Hogan talks with Tom Cowan about his films and his methods of filmmaking. Allan is very forthright with his opinions and as such, there is just a hint of angst from Tom about halfway through the interview. All in all, it's quite an interesting and informative piece.

Short Films

    The four short films listed below were all directed by Tom Cowan. They are all in black & white, except the final listed film. Incidentally, the inside sleeve of this presentation features a brief overview of each of these films, written in 2009 by Tom Cowan .

     1964 Short Film - The Dancing Class  (11:56)

     A self-assured, chain-smoking ballet teacher gives instruction to a small group of young female ballerinas.

    1966 Short Film - Signature (1:28) 

    This film ends abruptly at 1:28. This has been noted by Beyond Home Entertainment and will be corrected by them in due course. Judging by the short "preview" we get here, it's an indescribable experimental film.

    1967 Short Film - Helena In Sydney (13:02)

    We spend a day and night with Helena, a Greek actress, as she tours Sydney. Most of the dialogue is in Greek, but it's easy to follow the narrative. A great nostalgic short film - look for the Sydney Opera House still under construction.

    1970 Short Film - Australia Felix (26:03)

    The longest of the short films and the only one in colour. This film is an interesting cultural, social and political document of the day (1970) - in relation to the differences between Australia and the mother country, England.

    Original 1977 Theatrical Trailer - Journey Among Women  (1:29)

    Postcard Book (6:50)

    This is a complete photo record of Sally Campbell's photo album, as noted in the above mentioned featurette. The album scrolls through automatically, with the background music of Therese Jack singing, The Rose of Sharon.

    Stills Gallery (9:11)

    This is a collection of production stills from the film. As with the Postcard Book, this also scrolls through automatically and features the accompaniment of background music.

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 writing this review there doesn't appear to be an official release of Journey Among Woman from outside of this country.

    Although a search on Ebay revealed a couple of obscure looking DVD editions of the film, there is no doubt that this all region, two-disc edition from Beyond Home Entertainment is currently the definitive DVD release of Journey Among Women.

Summary

    Journey Among Women is an almost forgotten, but significant film from the glory days of Australian cinema in the 1970's. Beyond Home Entertainment have presented the film rather nicely in this two-disc set.

    Taking into account the limitations of the source material, the video and audio transfers are quite acceptable.

    The selection of extras is comprehensive, relevant and interesting.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Steve Crawford (Tip toe through my bio)
Thursday, December 03, 2009
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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