Mad Dog Morgan (1976)

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Released 30-Apr-2001

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Western Biographies-Cast & Crew-Philippe Mora and Dennis Hopper
Filmographies-Cast & Crew-Philippe Mora and Dennis Hopper
Trailer-McLintock; Art Deco Detective; Carnival of Souls (1962)
Gallery
Featurette-To Shoot a Mad Dog
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1976
Running Time 98:39 (Case: 102)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Philippe Mora
Studio
Distributor
Motion Prcture Prods
Select Audio-Visual Distrib
Starring Dennis Hopper
Jack Thompson
David Gulpilil
Frank Thring
Michael Pate
Wallace Eaton
Bill Hunter
John Hargreaves
Martin Harris
Robin Ramsay
Graeme Blundell
Gregory Apps
Liza Lee-Atkinson
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $24.95 Music Patrick Flynn


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.93:1
16x9 Enhancement
Not 16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 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

    Daniel Morgan doesn't start off mad, rather, he gets pushed into madness. After coming to Australia in the mid 1800s from Ireland, Daniel Morgan (Dennis Hopper: Speed: 1994, Apocalypse Now: 1979, Easy Rider: 1969) moves to the New South Wales / Victoria Riverina area and becomes part of the gold rush that has taken place there. While visiting the local Chinese district, Morgan witness a bloody massacre of the Chinese and anyone in their company. When he barely escapes with his life, the images of the horror he has seen slowly torment him and he soon begins the descent into madness.

    After being arrested for a robbery and sent to prison, Morgan is victimized under the supervision of the sadistic Sergeant Smith (Bill Hunter: The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert: 1994, Strictly Ballroom: 1992, Gallipoli: 1981). Flash ahead years later and Morgan is released from prison and with few prospects before him, he turns to a life as a bushranger. Having been shot by bounty hunters, Morgan is aided and befriended by a local aboriginal named Billy (David Gulpilil: The Tracker: 2002, Dead Heart: 1996, Crocodile Dundee: 1986, The Right Stuff: 1983) and after recovering Mad Dog Morgan comes out with a vengeance madder than ever. With the bounty on his head getting larger by the day and with Detective Mainwaring (Jack Thompson: Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones: 2002, The Sum of Us: 1994, Breaker Morant: 1980) hot on his tale, Daniel Morgan is driven further and further to desperation and madness.

    Filmed in the mid seventies, this film (also known as Mad Dog) is not only an interesting document on the life of what has to be a fairly forgotten Australian folk legend (especially in the historical shadow of Ned Kelly, who used to use "On for Dan Morgan!" as a sort of battle cry), but a testament to the filmmaking prowess of Australians in a time when the talent of this country was not the flavour of the month worldwide. Directing a feature film for the first time, Philippe Mora (Communion: 1992, Death of a Soldier: 1986) does a fantastic job in capturing not only the method acting genius of Dennis Hopper but the raw state of transition in Australia during the mid 1800s from a prisoner's island to a fully-fledged nation. This is an absolutely fascinating motion picture with some very good performances from some of Australia's best actors such as John Hargraves and Frank Thring in supporting but important roles. Cinematographer Mike Molloy captures some great images of Australia on film (see 18:50 and 24:34 as standout examples) with the camerawork simply stunning.

    This film is a rare treat that for some reason has not factored into the recollections of Australian film lore. This reviewer would have thought that a film such as this would have stood up with some of the early Australian classics such as Newsfront and Picnic at Hanging Rock. Instead, this seems to be a forgotten classic which is sad as it is quite an interesting film.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Despite the DVD's cover proclaiming that the disc is "Digitally remastered from original negative", this transfer has serious problems.

    While the original theatrical aspect ratio of this title is 2.35:1, we have it presented in 1.93:1. There is no 16x9 enhancement. The image is mostly cropped from the left side and it seems fairly unnatural at times with some action missing on the left side and some of the credits not being in full view.

    The image presented on this DVD is diabolical in the extreme. We are presented with almost no degree of sharpness of image at all (see 14:09 as an example). Throughout the entire feature, the image is faded and blurred with little detail being available to any reasonable degree. Shadow detail is very lacking throughout the feature with 33:51, 77:57 and 81:59 being examples of how bad it does get. Low level noise is not evident as the resolution of the image is so poor as to render the artefact of low level noise almost unnoticeable.

    The quality of the colour quality is fairly poor with most of the colour in the images being washed out to sometimes a sepia hue. This fading is quite pronounced during the entirety of the feature with 76:09 being a prime example. There is also a problem with the colour bleeding away from the image such that the proper colour seems to ghost the image it is supposed to inhabit. An example of this can be seen at 72:01.

    While normal transfer problems such MPEG artefacts and aliasing appear to be missing from this title, the main problem with the image committed to this DVD is film artefacts. The screen is littered with them from the onset. These consist mostly of black nicks and scratches which can be quite bad (see 5:40) and some other equally bad marks such as those seen at 53:24, 59:06 and 77:01. These go beyond the normal range of acceptable nicks and scratches and become quite distracting at times. There is also a yellow hue that is centred mid-image throughout the feature.

    There are no subtitles available on this disc.

    This is a single layered disc and as such there is no layer change issue. However, there can be some problems when attempting to review (rewind) during certain scenes as the disc will sometimes lock up or jump back to the beginning of the chapter. This of course means that one has to use either the Scene List or the time codes to skip to a certain section of the feature.

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

Audio

    We have only the one audio track available on this disc, that being English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono. There is a very annoying hum which oscillates in the background throughout this feature and is very distracting especially at times when the film requires silence. There are also some audible pops that occur during the movie with a fairly loud one at 39:06.

    Dialogue quality is representative of the overall transfer quality of this title and is lacking in clarity at times. With the various accents used in this feature (Scottish, Irish, English and Proto-Australian), clarity of dialogue is very important. The fact that there are no subtitles available on this title makes some hard-to-understand passages frustrating.

    Audio sync is of passable quality with the happenings on screen and the audio matching most of the time.

    The music score was composed by Patrick Flynn and has a fairly dated sound at times. Thankfully, the film's score is used sparingly and is not overly distracting. The occasional use of indigenous music and instruments fits in well when used.

    As the audio track is mono, there is no activity from the surrounds and the subwoofer is mostly silent during this feature.

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

Extras

    While not bursting at the seams, there are several interesting extras included with this title.

Menu

    After the normal copyright warnings and distributors logos, the start up menu is presented. The choices on offer are:

    The Scene List offers you a choice of 6 chapters with images featured in those chapters and with each chapter's title under the image. Selecting the "Next" option will take you to the next 6 chapter images. The images are quite small and fairly hard to make out. This menu is presented silent, full frame and not 16x9 enhanced.

Biographies: Philippe Mora and Dennis Hopper

    These pages are text based with biographical information on the director and main star. Philippe Mora's biography is 10 pages long with Dennis Hopper's being 4 pages long. The pages are presented silent, full frame and there is no 16x9 enhancement.

Filmographies: Philippe Mora and Dennis Hopper

    These pages are in the same style as the Biographies section with fairly exhaustive filmographies listed. Philippe Mora's segment is 2 pages long with 20 films listed. Dennis Hopper's list is 12 pages long with 129 films listed. There is no 16x9 enhancement of this silent, full frame feature.

Trailers

    There are three trailers available. Unfortunately, none are for the feature Mad Dog Morgan. Instead, we have the trailers for:

Picture Gallery

    The Picture Gallery consists of 20 images, both in black and white and in colour. The images are of the cast and crew during production, plus some conceptual drawings and also include some photos of the real Daniel Morgan which shows just how close Dennis Hopper looks to the real thing. Very interesting. The gallery photos are framed centre screen with the images taking up about 2/3 of the screen. The gallery is silent and there is no 16x9 enhancement.

Featurette: "To Shoot a Mad Dog - The Making of Mad Dog Morgan"

    This is a fascinating look at the production of the film with interviews with director Philippe Mora and actor Dennis Hopper. This doco goes into detail about the legend of "Mad Dog" Morgan and details some of the method acting devices used by Dennis Hopper, who seems to have had a good time with the film's production. Cinematography, location production, stunt work, and special effects are all covered in this deceptively short featurette. Strangely, the transfer quality of this documentary is far better that the transfer of the actual motion picture with an old but reasonably clear image to be seen throughout. There are a few minor white nicks and scratches, but nowhere near as bad as can be seen during the feature. The featurette is presented full frame with no 16x9 enhancement. Sound is in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono.

Credits

    The credits option consists of the credits for the feature film and also the credits for the production team responsible for the DVD. This is in a similar style to the Biography and Filmography sections and are not a route to the end credits of the feature. There are 8 pages of credits. This feature is silent and is presented full frame with no 16x9 enhancement.

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 this time, this title has not been released in Region 1. It has, however, been released in Region 2 U.K. as of August, 2003. The disc appears to be a bare bones affair with only the film available. All reports that I've been able to find indicate that it features a poor transfer similar (or perhaps same) to what we have in Region 4. The only plus that the Region 2 disc features is very nice new cover art, which puts our Region 4 cover to shame (not hard).

Summary

    Here we have what this reviewer would consider to be a fairly important film in the scheme of Australian film production. Sadly, no restoration whatsoever has been done to this film. This is something that should be done fairly quickly as further neglect will mean that we could lose this movie altogether.

    The video quality is appalling with artefacts littering the screen at all times and the colour fading away quite badly.

    The audio quality is very poor with a constant oscillating hum heard during the entire feature. The mono soundtrack is very flat as well.

    The extras are adequate, although a commentary with Philippe Mora and Dennis Hopper would be a real plus.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Sean Bradford (There is no bio.)
Tuesday, May 28, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPanasonic A300-MU, using S-Video output
DisplayHitachi CP-L750W LCD Projector. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RX-V2090
SpeakersVAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Michael DVD People: Is this DVD Cut? - Derek K.
Re: Is this DVD uncut? - wolfgirv
I second that opinion. Give this film a decent DVD! - Paul Ryan
New transfer? - wolfgirv