Blood Oath (Prisoners of the Sun) (1990)
Main Menu Audio
Dolby Digital Trailer-Egypt
Featurette-The Film's Journey
Featurette-Behind The Scenes
Featurette-Ambon POWs Remember
Audio Commentary-Stephen Wallace (Director)
Audio Commentary-Brian Williams, Denis Whitburn & Anne Bleakley
Featurette-Ray Martin Interview with Russell Crowe & Bryan Brown
Music Video-Memorial Day-30 Odd Feet Of Grunts
|Year Of Production||1990|
|Running Time||104:19 (Case: 108)|
|RSDL / Flipper||RSDL (88:39)||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Stephen Wallace|
Roadshow Home Entertainment
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (320Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (320Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (320Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.78:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||Miscellaneous|
|Subtitles||English for the Hearing Impaired||Smoking||Yes|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||Yes|
Sometimes in life there are happy coincidences, and Blood Oath (aka Prisoners of the Sun) has one of those within it. A movie that would have probably been lightly scrubbed and tossed out on some awful 4x3/Full Frame low budget release had it not been for the fact that a certain Kiwi (aka Russell Crowe) just happened to make his first-ever movie appearance in this drama had nothing to do with it.. naturally. Instead, that happy coincidence means that this piece of Australian film history has been given the proper attention it deserves and it almost looks every inch as good as it did originally (almost, but not quite). Probably the strangest twist of fate regarding this movie is that Crowe's appearance in the movie was just providence and it was the casting of Jason Donovan that drew the media's attention when it was released. Strange how things work out.
The movie itself is of some significance, too. Apart from Judgement at Nuremberg and a couple of other movies of minor note, I can't recall too many other treatments on the subject of war crimes. Definitely not the most attractive of subjects, since the unwarranted slaughter of innocent civilians, or in this case captured soldiers of war, might make for powerful viewing, but it is not a subject that most people care to dwell upon. It is therefore all the more significant that movies like this have been made so at least some attempt is made to dramatise the unthinkable.
Blood Oath is the story of the massacre of over 300 soldiers confined to a prisoner-of-war camp on the island of Ambon, an island set to be the springboard for the Japanese invasion of Australia during World War II. Now the war is over and the Australians want blood for the crimes committed against their troops, so begin setting up a War Crimes Court. Brian Brown plays Captain Cooper, assigned to prosecute the Japanese prisoners responsible for the alleged atrocities. His major problems are that he lacks a credible witness to the crimes and the paper trail that might have convicted the perpetrators is missing. According to the Japanese, all documentation was destroyed in saturation bombing raids undertaken by the Allies. Assisting Cooper is Lieutenant Corbett (Crowe), who helps collate the mountain of physical evidence and attempts to locate missing officers and possible witnesses. The defense council, Mr. Matsugae (Sokyu Fujita) is having his own problems since the prisoners don't trust him and mounting a credible defense against such distrust is difficult.
On the other side of the fence (literally) are the prisoners, lead by the inscrutable Captain Ikeuchi (Tetsu Watanabe) who maintains strict discipline over his men and reaffirms their loyalty at all times. Cooper though, even as he wades through the mountain of evidence is more interested in prosecuting the supreme commander of the island during the period the crimes took place, Vice-Admiral Baron Takahashi (George Takei), who is finally located and brought to the island to stand trial accompanied by an American, Major Beckett (Terry O'Quinn) who seems to have another agenda in securing the Vice-Admiral's innocence. This places him in conflict with Cooper, who tries every trick he knows but fails to land a conviction because of the lack of hard evidence that places Takahashi at the scene of the crime at the time. After failing to get his first conviction, he then changes tack, concentrating on the deaths of four airmen, whose beheaded bodies are found in a new grave. From there on, he prosecutes this case with great vigour.
The whole movie is about revenge, mistrust, frustration and pity and is a damned fine drama. I thought some of the acting was a touch over-the-top, and the violence of the Aussies against the Japanese prisoners a bit easy (I have no doubt they were much more brutal) but that's the nature of the making of a movie with an M rating. The Japanese may have been roundly condemned for their atrocities in World War II, but you get the feeling they were never properly punished and this movie tends to reinforce that belief. We also tend to forget that they never signed the Geneva Convention and their own military indoctrination was exceedingly brutal - this is not an excuse for their actions, though. All-in-all, this is a very worthy addition to any collection, with excellent source material available on the DVD and a very entertaining movie to boot.
Whether this movie has been through a cleaning and restoration effort, or they managed to pick out a particularly spotless print, or they made a new interpositive for the transfer, this is probably the best the movie has looked in a long time. Not that there aren't problems, but overall this will make a fine addition to anyone's collection.
This transfer presents the picture in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.
From the opening of the movie, you'll probably notice the use of edge enhancement which spoils the sharpness for me. I first noticed it at 13:23 but 86:26 is probably the finest example of why not to use this particular effect. The solid line around Jason Donovan's face and the quality of the picture at this point is no better than VHS. This is pretty similar throughout with lots of very sharp and focused sections and others blurring beyond the pale. Fine detail suffers as a result in many areas, but overall the quality is quite good as some effort has been made to restore this to an acceptable level. Grain was very subdued overall although visible in most scenes. Fortunately, it never really takes hold except where there is a lot of smoke and you get that abhorrent veil effect. Low level noise wasn't an issue in my view and I saw no real blooming.
The colour overall is excellent with some real variety in the palette used. Unfortunately, there was a persistent red shift in many places that almost made me reach for the colour controls. The reds take hold from about 5:10 when you see the soil and it looks unnatural. Skin tones were often tinged with sunburn. Apart from the reds, the rest of the colours were bright and clean, although there was often excessive light which bloomed the whites on occasion.
Telecine wobble can be seen during the opening moments of the movie as well as at 63:03 and again at 101:25 during the end credits. At 63:03 you'll also see some pixelization on the guard tower. This wasn't too big an issue but if you look for it, it was there. Aliasing poked its head up now and then too; 47:35 on a car grill, 101:25 during the end credits. Moiré effects were present but not common. One typical example was on John Clark's tie at 71:45. The usual film artefacts were pleasantly subdued with only a couple of reportable instances at 47:40 and 91:48 giving rise to my assumption of a restored print at the very least. There was one other notable artefact that bears mentioning. At 90:13 there appeared to be a noticeable interlacing effect on soldiers walking in the jungle.
There is only one subtitle track on offer on this disc, English for the Hearing Impaired. The font used is very good, easily readable and apart from the longer monologues it was very true to the intent of the movie if not precise in every word uttered.
The layer change occurred at 88:39 at the end of Chapter 24. Good placement and a very quick pause that is barely noticeable.
There is only one soundtrack on this disc, apart from the audio commentaries, and it is in Dolby Digital 2.0 at a decent bitrate of 320 kilobits per second. For the vast majority of the movie, you will no doubt be concentrating on the dialogue, since it is a courtroom drama of sorts, so the lack of surround sound and subwoofer won't be of that much concern. There is quite a deal of separation across the fronts (eg: 35:45) to compensate and the quality of the audio track is exceptional for being stereo.
The dialogue is crisp and clean as you would expect from such a dialogue-heavy movie and the syncing is spotless.
The music is by David McHugh and is nicely subdued to allow the drama to unfold without becoming overbearing.
There was no surround channel or subwoofer activity noted on this disc.
|Surround Channel Use|
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
At this time, there is no Region 1 release of this movie, so we have the definitive version.
The video, apart from deteriorating at times to slightly better than VHS, has a decent overall quality. The print used and the transfer is mostly excellent (forget the colour problems, just turn down the red).
Although only in Dolby Digital stereo, you won't miss too much with a good, nicely separated soundtrack that has plenty of depth to it.
As far as extras go, this has the lot. Two audio commentaries, featurettes and so much additional DVD-ROM reading material it could keep you entertained for hours. Probably the best selection of extras I've seen on a Region 4 that is locally made in a long time.
|DVD||Rotel RDV995, using RGB output|
|Display||Loewe Xelos (81cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Rotel RSP-976. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Amplification||Rotel RB 985 MkII|
|Speakers||JBL TLX16s Front Speakers, Polk Audio LS fx di/bipole Rear Speakers, Polk Audio CS350-LS Centre Speaker, M&KV-75 Subwoofer|