Sunbury Rock Festival: 30th Anniversary Special Collector's Edition (1972)

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Released 13-Feb-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Music Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Music Video-Billy Thorpe & The Aztecs (6)
Featurette-V.D. Documentary - Down in the Clinic with Billy & The Boys
Notes-History of Sunbury
Music Video-Aztecs Live - 26 minute feature from Melbourne Town Hall
Trailer-Bouncer; Malcolm; Secret Policeman's Ball
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1972
Running Time 97:25 (Case: 95)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (85:21) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Ray Wagstaff
Cambridge Films Melb
Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Billy Thorpe
Max Merritt
Michael Turner
Phil Manning
Ian 'Molly' Meldrum
Lobby Loyde
Case Click
RPI $34.95 Music Various

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 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

    As the kids disappear in a plume of smoke on their way to The Big Day Out, there's probably one or two parents whose thoughts drift back to the early 70s. They, too, were prepared to spend the Australia Day long weekend hanging out, having a whiff of an occasional illicit substance (herbal not synthetic in the good 'ol days) and rocking their socks (and every other bit of clothing) off to the musical talents of the day at the Sunbury Rock Festival. Australia's version of Woodstock or the Isle of Wight Festival was held for 4 years from 1972 on a farm near Sunbury, a little village in Victoria, with little else of note bar the local asylum.

    The 30th Anniversary Sunbury Rock Festival DVD features a 16mm film of the first outdoor concert, held in 1972. Unlike present day music docos, where the music is edited to bits and intrusive 'helpful' insights destroy enjoyment of the performance, this film largely concentrates on the music, with long, unedited and complete footage of the bands. Interspersed between a few of the sets are fascinating footage of the crowd and locals unobtrusively interviewed by Ian 'Molly' Meldrum. These were the days of audio cassette recorders, local policemen wearing Big Game Hunter helmets, wooden stretchers and army blankets, Rubenesque young girls without topless tans and the biggest collection of tombstone, buck and missing teeth I have ever seen - yep these were real people having a real good time!

    Fans of Billy Thorpe (and the Aztecs, of course!) will like this DVD as it features 5 of his songs in the main feature together with an interview and in the extras are a further 10 tracks of his band recorded at other venues. Some songs are duplicate -, we get three versions of "Oop Poo Pa Doo" and a couple of "Some People I Know .." - but we do get an inside feature on the Aztecs filmed live in a Melbourne VD Clinic! The only other artist to feature prominently is Max Merritt (and the Meteors) who is also interviewed with Billy Thorpe by Molly Meldrum (no sexual health feature here thankfully). The music is termed Aussie Rock which is basically the classic 16-bar R 'n' B that was arising in Europe at that time delivered with the archetypal Aussie gutsiness and raw edge later typified by AC/DC. The real stars of this DVD, though, are the crowd - young bloods performing double back flips into the river, mud-fights, the stuffy high-handed dealings of officialdom, undercover cops in pink shirts and flared maroon cords and enough bare boobs and flesh exposure to wonder at the PG rating!

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Transfer Quality


    It is no surprise that, based heavily on archival material that is over 30 yrs old, most of the video footage is of poor quality. Like analogue audio recordings of the era heavy wear and tear and plenty of noise is all to evident but unlike video there is no easy way to process and clean up the recordings. Even if a major studio spent a year trying to clean up this video footage (as has happened with some of the classic films) I doubt if a clean copy could be generated. In these circumstances Umbrella entertainment has, I think sensibly, released the footage as is. Most of it is quite watchable viewed on a small domestic telly at a reasonable distance but if you put this up on your RPTV or projector be prepared for the noise-fest.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 (Full Frame) and is not 16x9 enhanced.

    The film footage is reasonably sharp and in focus but there are lapses hastily corrected by jerky manual focus pulling. Some of the night-time telephoto close-ups are very grainy but in general the daytime panoramas of the crowd aren't too bad. Shadow detail is generally poor, limited by the ambient lighting, and low-level and chroma noise is present throughout the film.

    The colours in the daylight footage have stayed impressively sharp and vivid but some of the edited-in footage of Billy Thorpe at 51:30 is extremely faded and washed out. Most of the extras footage is filmed in black and white.

    The feature was shot on 16mm film and reflecting a decent transfer by Madman, film-to-video artefacts are absent. The film footage is a more-or-less complete encyclopaedia of  film artefacts. Most of these are due to heavy wear of the archival footage with a snowstorm of black flecks and from 1 to 7 vertical lines evident throughout the film. There are reel change marks, one in Chinagraph pencil, at 53:10 and 53:16, a lamp burn at 47:03 and cracked emulsion at 47:21. There was also water damage in some of the Melbourne Town Hall footage included in the extras.

    There are no subtitles.

    The disc is dual layered (RSDL). The  transition pause is brief and unobtrusive at 85:21.

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


    The audio has fared rather better than the video but is somewhat reminiscent of the quality obtained from the old box all-in-one monophonic record players of the day. This is a bit of a puzzle as the sound quality is quite good and from the effort put into the show you'd think that at least a four-track recording would have been made.

    There is one audio track, in Australian, and recorded in mono Dolby Digital 1.0. Yep, you don't even get stereo! Through your multi-channel setup, the centre speaker alone springs to life or if your DVD player is hooked up to your Hi-Fi you'll get passable 2-channel monophonic sound. This is actually quite a novelty in these days of surround-sound and is a commendably honest feature from the DVD authors rather than synthesising effects and then claiming it to be a true multi-channel recording. There is some background tape hiss when the volume is cranked up but this isn't evident during performances.

    The dialogue was pretty clear although some of the performer's and interviewer's microphone techniques left a bit to be desired. Lip and audio synch was not a problem.

    There was no surround nor subwoofer output.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    Umbrella Entertainment are to be congratulated on the plethora of extras on this disc - never mind the quality, look at the quantity! 


Extra Aztecs

    Six extra tracks of Billy and the gang - some of which appear to be trailers made for TV. All in Black and White

Featurette - Aztecs Live

    This is a 26 minute film presented in its entirety of a performance at Melbourne Town Hall. Whilst the video quality is very poor, it is of considerable historical interest and the soundtrack is passable.

History of Sunbury

    Nine page poster presentation of the brief history of the Sunbury festival which seemingly climaxed in 1975 with AC/DC teaching the prima donnas of Deep Purple a thing or two about Aussie hospitality.

Umbrella Trailers

    Interesting looking previews for Bouncer, Malcolm and The Secret Policeman's Ball.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This a multi-region presentation and unlikely, in view of its local content, to be remastered for overseas distribution.


    This is a wart's n' all presentation of a slice of Aussie pop history and it is refreshing that the music is paramount - some of today's media 'celebrities' could learn a thing or two about unobtrusive interviews and complementary presentations rather than furthering their own career aspirations.

    The video is of poor quality but adequately evokes the atmosphere of the day.

    The soundtrack, whilst lacking the bells and whistles of today's technology, conveys the spit and sawdust atmosphere of the concert.

    The extras are plentiful and worthwhile.

    Recommended for Billy Thorpe fans or those with nostalgia for the times and music of the sunset of the hippy era.

Ratings (out of 5)


© John Lancaster (read my bio)
Monday, March 04, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba SD-900E, using RGB output
DisplayPioneer SD-T50W1 (127cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderDenon ACV-A1SE. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationTheta Digital Intrepid
SpeakersML Aeon front. B&W LRC6 Centre. ML Script rear. REL Strata III SW.

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