Picnic at Hanging Rock (Blu-ray) (1975)

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Released 12-May-2010

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio & Animation
Featurette-Making Of-A Dream within a Dream
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-A Recollection - Hanging Rock 1900
Theatrical Trailer-Picnic at Hanging Rock
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1975
Running Time 106:56
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Peter Weir
Studio
Distributor

Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Rachel Roberts
Vivean Gray
Helen Morse
Kirsty Child
Tony Llewellyn-Jones
Jacki Weaver
Frank Gunnell
Anne-Louise Lambert
Karen Robson
Jane Vallis
Christine Schuler
Margaret Nelson
Ingrid Mason
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI $39.95 Music Bruce Smeaton


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Unknown English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (3254Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 1.66:1 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

"What we see and what we seem are but a dream, a dream within a dream"

     In the 1970's the renaissance of Australian cinema brought many contrasting genres. A winning combination of sex, comedy and violent action created strong audience support with films like Alvin Purple, The Adventures of Barry MacKenzie and Stone. But there was also a more refined and dignified body of films in production. These films were conventional period dramas and provided cultural balance in the era that defined our film industry. One of these films was Peter Weir's 1975 masterpiece, Picnic at Hanging Rock.

     The film is based on the classic 1967 novel by Joan Lindsay. Although some characters and elements may have been based on fact, the story is ultimately a work of fiction. However, Lindsay successfully managed to sustain an air of doubt surrounding this right up to her death in 1984.

     For those unaware, Hanging Rock is located about 80kms north of Melbourne in the beautiful Macedon Ranges. As anyone who has visited the rock will testify, it is a majestic location with an eerie and imposing presence. The book and film will obviously assume some responsibility for these qualities.

     Filming the novel was the dream of a then television presenter, Patricia Lovell. She loved the book and immediately saw cinematic potential in the story. Although she had considerable experience in television, the world of feature films was totally foreign to her. But in early 1973, after encouragement from some prominent industry people, Pat Lovell began the process of producing a feature film - and the rest is history.

     The story behind the production of Picnic at Hanging Rock is superbly told in the 114 min documentary, A Dream within a Dream, which is included as an extra on this disc.

     The story of Picnic at Hanging Rock begins on St Valentines Day, 1900. There is great excitement and anticipation at the exclusive rural girl's boarding school, Appleyard College. A small group of senior girls and two teachers, Miss de Portiers (Helen Morse) and Miss McCraw (Vivian Gray), have planned a picnic at Hanging Rock in honour of the day. The owner and disciplinarian headmistress of the college, Mrs. Appleyard (Rachel Roberts), has forbidden one of the girls, Sara (Margaret Nelson), from attending the picnic. Sara is an orphan who has endured physical and emotional torment in her life. As a result, she has a fragile personality and is emotionally dependent upon fellow student Miranda (Anne Lambert).

     After their picnic lunch four of the girls set out to explore the rock, while the others prefer to avoid the intense heat of the day. Meanwhile, also picnicking with family at the rock that day is a young Englishman, Michael Fitzhubert (Dominic Guard). He and his larrikin valet, Albert (John Jarrett), witness the four girls as they cross a stream at the base of the rock - an image that will continually haunt him.

     In a state of terror, only one of the girls returns from the rock. Edith (Christine Schuler) has virtually no recollection of events, which becomes a source of frustration for police as they undertake a massive search. Students Miranda, Irma (Karen Robson), Marion (Jane Vallis) and their teacher, Miss McCraw, have all simply vanished.

     At Appleyard College, Sara is devastated by Miranda's disappearance. Her delicate mental state is placed further in jeopardy when she is informed of her imminent expulsion due to the unpaid tuition fees by her parental guardian. As time goes by and hope fades for the missing, Michael's obsession for a resolution leads him to climb the rock.

     A few years ago Peter Weir removed about seven minutes of footage from the original theatrical release to improve the narrative flow. This is one of the rare instances - possibly the only instance - of a director's cut having a shorter running time than the original cut. Like the Umbrella DVD release, this Blu-ray edition of Picnic at Hanging Rock is the director's cut.

     Peter Weir's sublime masterpiece is one of the films responsible for my love of the cinema. I was about eleven years of age when this film was first released and I can clearly recall attending a fund raising night at our local cinema to see it. Ironically, I had absolutely no interest in seeing the film back then. The image of a group of early 1900's school girls picnicing around Hanging Rock was not my idea of a fun night out - I was wrong. Needless to say, I have been completely mesmerised by Picnic at Hanging Rock since that first screening. Thirty-five years and countless viewings later, this film has lost none of its beguiling fascination - it is a true and undisputed classic of Australian cinema.

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Transfer Quality

Video

Disclaimer: Please note that this disc has a video resolution of 1080p. It has been reviewed on a display device with a maximum native resolution of 1080i. More information can be found here.

     The following statement is printed on the rear cover of this Blu-ray edition: This digitally remastered transfer was completed under the supervision of Peter Weir. The process included colour grading and digital restoration of the original film materials while maintaining the authenticity of the 1975 feature.

     Picnic at Hanging Rock is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. The intended ratio for the film is reported to be 1.66:1. Either way, there are no apparent issues with the presented ratio. The film has been encoded using MPEG-4 AVC compression and is presented in 1080p.

     I will cut to the chase - until other distributors release Blu-ray editions of this film (see below) this Umbrella release is the definitive edition of Picnic at Hanging Rock. I've seen this film in many formats over the years, but viewing this Blu-ray brings a whole new experience. The opening scene, which has often been problematic, is now greatly improved with clearly defined titles. As most people would be aware there is some deliberate softness in Picnic at Hanging Rock, but the superior degree of sharpness and clarity is amazing. Considering the vintage of this film, blacks and shadow detail were also outstanding.

     Apart from the improvements in image clarity, the most significant improvement to this film is the strength of colour. Previous transfers have appeared rather subdued, but this Blu-ray edition delivers stunning colours. If you own the DVD release, it's worth switching between the two to gauge the differences. In particular, compare the luminance of vibrant reds and greens - stunning.

     There were no MPEG artefacts and film-to-video artefacts weren't an issue. There were a couple of very minor instances of telecine wobble but otherwise nothing of consequence. Thankfully, this is a very clean print, with virtually no film artefacts.

     Unfortunately there are no subtitles in this edition.

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

Audio

     There is one audio track on the Blu-ray - English Dolby True HD 5.1 encoded at 3254 Kb/s.

     Dialogue quality and audio sync was outstanding throughout.

     The music used in Picnic at Hanging Rock is a sublime marriage of sound and vision. The main theme music used in the film is titled Flute de Pan and is played by the Romanian pan flautist, Gheorghe Zamfir. Over the years, this haunting piece of music has become exclusively associated with the film. The third movement of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No5 " Emperor" is also used to beautiful effect. Thirdly, the beautiful, original music of Bruce Smeaton adds significantly to the film’s brooding ambience - especially the eerie scenes on the rock - superb.

     The Dolby True HD audio track delivers an amazing degree of clarity and fidelity. Apart from the obvious enhancement to musical elements, surround activity is effective, yet subtle and unimposing. The subwoofer was generally passive but became quite active during the more sinister scenes on the rock.

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 and features the pan flute theme music.

Featurette: A Dream within a Dream (113:16) - presented in HD

     This superb "making of" documentary was produced by Umbrella Entertainment in 2004 especially for their DVD release. The film was researched, directed and edited by Mark Hartley, who made the outstanding Ozploitation documentary, Not Quite Hollywood in 2008.

     With a running time longer than the film, this featurette leaves no stone unturned in providing great insight into the making of Picnic at Hanging Rock. Many of the cast and crew discuss their experiences and memories of the film. Those people featured in this documentary include Peter Weir, Russell Boyd, Pat Lovell, Anne Louise Lambert, Christine Lawrance, Hal McElroy, Jim McElroy, Helen Morse, Bruce Smeaton, Martin Sharp, John Jarrett and Jose Perez. This documentary is divided into a series of chapters which neatly categorises all aspects of the production. Of particular interest to me was the alternate ending, which was rightly scrapped during the original edit. Essential viewing.

Featurette: A Recollection - Hanging Rock 1900 (25:53) - presented in HD

     This on-set documentary and promotion piece was made in 1975 for television. It is presented by Patricia Lovell and features plenty of behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with cast and crew. Patricia also talks with author Joan Lindsay, who visited the set during filming at Hanging Rock.

Theatrical Trailer - Picnic at Hanging Rock (4:33) - presented in HD

Censorship

    There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

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 is no alternate Blu-ray edition of Picnic at Hanging Rock available. Having said that, Second Sight Films in the UK have scheduled their Blu-ray release of Picnic at Hanging Rock for 26 July, 2010. At the time of writing this review, I have no information regarding the transfer and extras on that edition. I'm sure other world distributors will follow with Blu-ray editions in due course.

Footnote: - August 2010. The UK Blu-ray edition, distributed by Second Sight has now been released. A reader has kindly posted the details in the comments section at the bottom of this review. Many thanks.

Summary

    As I mentioned earlier in my review, Picnic at Hanging Rock is certainly one of the films that fuelled my love of the cinema. The film has an imposing presence, which never seems to diminish with the passing of time. The Umbrella Blu Ray edition further revitalises this true classic of Australian cinema.

    The transfers deliver stunning results.

    The extras are fascinating and relevant. Unfortunately though, this edition comes up short in terms of extras from Umbrella's two-disc DVD collector's edition. Only the two main featurettes and trailer have been included from that set. Although some of the deleted scenes feature briefly in the, A Dream within a Dream documentary, a great addition to the extras here would have been to include the complete list of deleted scenes from the original theatrical cut. Even better still, would have been to also present the film in its original form on a second Blu Ray disc. Still, I'm not complaining loudly - maybe that option has been left for another day.

    Very highly recommended.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Steve Crawford (Tip toe through my bio)
Thursday, June 03, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDPanasonic DMP-BD35 Blu Ray Player, using HDMI 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)
Hanging Rock musings - REPLY POSTED
Director's Cuts and Locations - Le Messor (bio logy class)
Pity we didn't get the original cut too - Bran (my bio, or something very like it)
UK Blu - penguin (there is no bio) REPLY POSTED
UK Region B Cat # 2NDBR 4004 - REPLY POSTED