Hammers Over the Anvil (1993)

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Released 2-Feb-2007

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio-Music from soundtrack plus graphic.
Theatrical Trailer-Jessica (2:33)
Theatrical Trailer-The Getting of Wisdom (2:28)
Theatrical Trailer-Picnic at Hanging Rock (4:50)
Theatrical Trailer-We of the Never Never (3:37)
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1993
Running Time 97:15
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Ann Turner
South Aust Film Corp
Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Charlotte Rampling
Russell Crowe
Alexander Outhred
Frankie J. Holden
Jake Frost
Alethea McGrath
John Rafter Lee
Frank Gallacher
Amanda Douge
Kirsty McGregor
Daphne Grey
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $19.95 Music Not Drowning Waving

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Auto Pan & Scan Encoded English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.75:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes, in character and period.
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, nude swimming sequence pre-credits.

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     I don't know whether the writings of Alan Marshall are still taught in Australian schools, but for older generations the story of Alan Marshall was a well known story of inspiration, courage and humour. Young Marshall was stricken by polio as a child and he later in life, from 1955 to 1963, published an autobiographical three-part series telling stories of his growing up in a Victorian country town. These stories became a TV movie, and a novel on that movie, I Can Jump Puddles. In 1993 a further telling of Alan Marshall's coming-of-age stories was made into a big screen movie, Hammers Over the Anvil. With a local DVD release by Umbrella, the major interest for us today is that this film starred a twenty-nine year old Russell Crowe, fresh from his success in Romper Stomper. It appears that this film is no longer in Umbrella's catalogue, but I have seen copies sitting in "sale" tables, most notably at Myer.

     With a screenplay by Peter Hepworth (most recently Blue Heelers) based on Marshall's stories, the major problem with this film is that it never becomes more than a series of coldly observed happenings in the life of young Alan (Alexander Outhred). As far as I can determine Outhred never appeared in any other film or TV production. He is just passable here, but never takes the audience with him on his coming-of-age experiences involving the various inhabitants of his town and its environs. This, of course, is the fault of director Ann Turner, as is evidenced by the performances of the rest of the cast. Even Charlotte Rampling (The Night Porter) fails to involve us as the older English woman who functions in a sexless marriage and is drawn to the lusty young horseman , East Driscoll (Crowe). Rampling’s husband is played by another unknown face, John Rafter Lee, whose only other credits appear to be as a voice actor. Of the other supporting actors, Frankie J. Holden (Underbelly), as Alan's dad, creates a real character, while young Jake Frost, as Alan's friend Joe, impresses every time he is on screen.

     Russell Crowe's character is the focus of much of the film, being a figure of fascination for both Rampling and the boy. The monotone voice-over narration by young Outhred tells us of the charismatic attraction Driscoll has for these two, but it is rarely shown to us by the film. We are told about East Driscoll's character and lifestyle, but often what we see on screen is at odds with that information. A film should show the audience and let the audience decide, not tell us what to think. There are here overtones of the relationship between the trio that bring to mind The Go Between, but that only serves to reinforce what an inadequate piece of cinema we are watching. Only in the opening sequence, with the adolescent boy spying on a naked Crowe idyllically swimming with his horses in a river, does East Driscoll really come to life. Unfortunately this sequence is all over before the opening credits start to roll. Even a later "sex" scene between Crowe and the usually exciting Rampling fails to involve or excite.

     Technically the film is impressive and attractive. There is some lovely photography of the Australian countryside, courtesy of Director of Photography James Bartle, and the music of Not Drowning Waving is attractive and complements the images nicely.

     This is a good "story", or collection of stories, but that's what books are for. As a film, Hammers Over the Anvil is a bit of a dud, showing Russell Crowe before he went to Hollywood and honed his craft into an art.

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Transfer Quality


     The image is presented at the ratio of 1.78:1, in a 16x9 transfer. The slick states 1.85:1. The transfer is very clear and generally sharp throughout, with the Australian countryside looking beautiful in full sunlight. Detail is excellent in these daylight scenes, but there is a loss in quality in the night scenes with detail lost in the darker patches. Grain is evident but does not detract from the general quality of the image. The colour is always impressive, with, as I have said, lovely vistas of countryside while skin tones are excellent. This is apparent from the first moments when Russell Crowe's face emerges from the river's surface in full close-up. There were minimal MPEG artefacts, and only the occasional film blemish. generally the transfer and its source are excellent.

     There are no subtitles.

     The disc is a single layer disc.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     There is one audio stream, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo. The two channel stream is adequate while delivering nothing that is exceptional.

     The dialogue was clear, always easy to understand and without sync problems. There were no clicks, pops or drop-outs. There is quite a deal of obvious post-dubbing in action horse-back riding sequences, and one particular scene where the gasping breaths of the labouring young polio victim are unrealistically emphasised. I found this distracting, rather than having any dramatic effect.

     The musical score, credited to Not Drowning Waving, is unusual at times and does add some period flavour to the film.

     The stereo reproduction is quite attractive. Generally the sound is front and centre, with minimal directionality across the fronts.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


     This is basically a bare bones release.

Main Menu

     The menu is over a graphic ustiling the cover art, plus music from the film.

Umbrella Trailers

     Four trailers of other Australian films released by Umbrella : Jessica, The Getting of Wisdom, Picnic at Hanging Rock and We of the Never Never. The quality varies greatly.


    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.

    This title was given a Region 1 release a few years back in a 4x3 transfer at the ratio of 1.33:1. This release is no longer in the catalogue.


     Viewers who like "a good story" and are not concerned whether or not a film is well made will probably enjoy this rambling collection of coming-of-age encounters. The movie looks good, Australia is photographed beautifully and Russell Crowe is young, smooth and slim. No doubt that will be enough for some. Others will take the opportunity for a peaceful snooze - but wait until after the pre-credit opening sequence.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Garry Armstrong (BioGarry)
Thursday, December 23, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDSONY BLU RAY BDP-S350, using HDMI output
DisplaySamsung LA55A950D1F : 55 inch LCD HD. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS777
SpeakersVAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)

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