They're a Weird Mob (1966)

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Released 13-Jun-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Dolby Digital Trailer-Egypt
Main Menu Animation
Scene Selection Animation
Featurette-Making Of-The Story of The Making of They're A Weird Mob
Gallery-Photo
Theatrical Trailer
DVD Credits
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1966
Running Time 107:25
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (82:49) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Michael Powell
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Walter Chiari
Clare Dunne
Ed Devereaux
Chips Rafferty
Judith Arthy
John Meillon
Slim De Gray
Alida Chelli
Anne Haddy
Tony Bonner
Jeanie Drynan
Charles Little
Graham Kennedy
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $24.95 Music Alan Boustead
Walter Chiari
Reen Devereaux


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (320Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement Yes
Action In or After Credits Yes

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

Plot Synopsis

"The Classic Original Aussie Hit Comedy"

    Nino Culotta has packed his bags, set sail and landed in a brand new land. It's not exactly what he had planned, though. Having accepted his cousin's invitation to join the writing staff of a brand new Italian language magazine based in Sydney, Australia, Nino has travelled half a world away to make a name for himself as the sports editor for the La Seconda Madre (The Second Mother). Things don't exactly go according to plan, however, as soon after landing in Sydney, Nino (Walter Chiari) discovers that his entrepreneurial cousin's magazine has folded and he has shot through, owing money to creditors everywhere. Arriving at the now defunct magazine's headquarters and bearing the same last  name as the former proprietor, Nino finds himself in an awkward position. Left with no employment prospects, unexpected debt and a somewhat limited command of the English language, Nino faces an uphill battle and he soon finds that as a new Australian battle is part of the national lexicon.

    Unable to use his writing skills to earn a living, Nino looks to the local paper to gain employment, and despite his expertise being as a writer, it's the job of a brickie's labourer that catches his eye. Not the most glamorous of careers, but a job is a job and there are always bills to pay. While sleeping in the abandoned offices of the former La Seconda Madre, Nino begins his new career as a bricklayer. The next thing that Nino learns about Australia is the concept of hard yakka, as the work as a brickie on a building site will indeed take it out of you. Still, Nino throws himself into the work, and receives much encouragement from his new boss Joe (Ed Devereaux) and his fellow workmates. The one thorn in Nino's side is Kay Kelly (Clare Dunne), landlord of his cousin's business and the daughter of influential construction magnate Harry Kelly (Chips Rafferty). Although working his fingers to the bone to repay the debt that his cousin has incurred, Nino cannot gain the sympathy of the seemingly cold-hearted Kay. Still, Nino perseveres on with his new job, earning enough to save a bit of money and pay off his cousin's debt.

    Eventually, Nino moves out of the former magazine headquarters and into a spare room at his employer's home. Having paid off the bills of his cousin, Nino is free to enjoy life in his new-found home, but something is missing. After a chance meeting with Kay at a Sydney restaurant, Nino begins to think that he has found the one thing missing in his life, and Kay just may be the one to fill in the missing piece.

    This film struck a chord with a generation of Australians, both native born and new immigrant. Having seen a huge influx of migrants from Europe just after the war, Australians became used to the many different nationalities that made their way to our far-flung shores. However, it was later, in the mid 50s, when there was a pronounced increase in migration from the Mediterranean countries of Europe, primarily Italy and Greece. Having a different physical look and seemingly unusual cultural, dietary and linguistic characteristics to many of the other previous migrants to Australia, many of the nation's populace looked askance at these 'New Australians' as perhaps a group of people at best not suited to this nation and its way of life and at worst an unsavoury lot not to be trusted at any cost. That said, there was also another type of Australian that understood the newcomer's plight and was committed to one of the major tenets of Australian culture: You have to give a bloke a fair go. This film is a story of the 'fair go', and how a generation of 'New Australians' were embraced as part of society as a whole.

    The book this film was based on was not actually written by Nino Culotta, although it did bear his name. Instead, They're a Weird Mob was written by author John O'Grady under the pseudonym of Nino Culotta. Whatever the author wished to call himself, his work was a great success and was able to encapsulate much that made up the psyche of the nation of Australia. Its almost schizophrenic combination of xenophobia and the 'fair go' mentality, its adherence to the ceremony and authority of Mother England yet its almost genetic disdain for authority and pomposity, its overly 'blokey' culture yet its acceptance of women as equals in law (Australia gave women the right to vote in the late 1890s while the U.S. didn't allow women the vote until 1920). All of these idiosyncrasies were played out in the book and this film brings them all to the screen. As expected, it wasn't an Australian that headed up the production of this film, but rather an Englishman in the form of director Michael Powell. Michael had been responsible for some classic films such as The Thief of Bagdad in 1940, A Matter of Life and Death (aka Stairway to Heaven) in 1946 and Black Narcissus in 1947, but this film, made near the end of his career as a director, would be one of his most memorable.

    At the time, few people realized that Australia could be a place to film motion pictures of a quality that were world class, but also films that would be accessible and enjoyable for the local market. With an experienced director on board and the workable budget of AU$600,000 (probably about $3 to $4 Million in today's dollars), the producers were left to cast the film, and the main role of Nino fell to versatile actor Walter Chiari. A singer, dancer and composer as well as an experienced actor, Chiari brought with him a heightened sense of believability in his performance and we see sincerity rather than idiocy in his performance. It could have been so easy to have gone the way of vaudeville with this film and played the main character as a wog buffoon rather than the intelligent portrayal we have here. Not that we don't have many a funny scene here with poor Nino at a loss to understand some of the Australian speech and customs, but these ring true rather than being just the means to get a laugh.

    Almost 40 years on, there is still something here that all can enjoy and relate to. Whether you're a native born resident of this fine country or if your one of those 'New Australians' such as myself, you're probably bound to see something of yourself in this picture and if my experience as an immigrant to this country is any indication, it's almost all good. An important statement in Australian filmmaking and highly recommended.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video transfer here is better than that seen on the VHS version that was released many years ago, but it is not the best it could have been as there are several issues that affect the quality of the image seen on this disc.

    The main programme is presented in 1.78:1 which is quite near to what was probably its intended theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The program is 16x9 enhanced.

    The sharpness of the image here is of some concern. This is largely due to some out of focus issues mainly to the right of screen throughout the film. I am not 100% sure as to whether this is due to the manner in which the film was transferred to video or if it was inherent in the original film itself, but the final result has the appearance of the film being shown on a screen that isn't quite straight and is in fact too far back at the right and too far forward at the left. The main clear section of the image seems to fall just to the left of centre for much of the program. Prime examples of this can be seen at 8:46, 50:21 and 53:26 although the effect is somewhat evident throughout the picture. This does not render the film unwatchable, but it would have been nice to have the image just that little bit clearer. If this is a fault in the original print then there is probably little that can be done for now, but if it is a transfer flaw then it really is a shame. Shadow detail is average throughout the film. There is much daytime footage, but the few night and darker scenes provide only a workable level of detail. I had no issues with low level noise.

    Colour's use in this picture is quite natural and captures very well the image of a sunbathed country. The colours are bright and vibrant within the limitations of the colour film available during the mid 60s and suit the film well. Colour's commitment to this disc seems to be very good and we have a bright and vibrant image here.

    This disc is transferred at an average of 5.75 Mbps and while not near Superbit levels, it is more than adequate in giving us a decent transfer of what's on the disc. I had no problems with MPEG artefacts during the program. Despite repeated attempts to deport edge enhancement for unaustralian activities, he has eluded the authorities and makes an appearance (several) here with examples at 32:42 and 40:21 amongst others. There are quite a few film artefacts seen on the print used to commit the film to DVD, most of which are various nicks and flecks that litter the screen throughout. We see some obvious reel change burn marks at 17:21-17:28, 34:44-34:51, 53:06-53:14, 72:40-72:47 and 91:11-91:18. Another noticeable film related artefact is a major difference in the film stock used for a particular scene. This is found in Chapter 6 where Nino is at the beach being 'rescued' by the lifesavers. In some of these scenes, the film takes on a very different look and is not nearly as clean and vibrant as the scenes before and after it. Shadow detail is diminished and the whole picture takes on a look we see in deleted scenes on some DVDs. These scenes are found at 46:16 to 46:18, 46:27 to 46:30, 46:34 to 46:37, 46:47 to 46:52 and 46:58 to 46:59. These scenes, with their muted colour and pronounced grain were quite distracting and stood out markedly. They only affect the above scenes and thankfully don't occur elsewhere, but there is definitely something amiss here.

    There is only one subtitle option available here, that being an English subtitles for the Hearing Impaired stream. This was quite accurate and conveyed the meaning of the dialogue on screen very well without being 100% word for word. Still, very close.

    This disc is formatted RSDL with the layer change taking place at 82:49, which is between Chapters 9 and 10. This was a fairly jarring and noticeable layer transition that stands out like the proverbial. A much cleaner change could have been employed as this one is quite distracting. If you have a player that renders layer changes invisible then this one will be a good one to put said player through its paces.

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

Audio

    The audio here is reasonable considering the age of the film and the equipment used to record the sound.

    There is only one audio option here, that being an English Dolby Digital 2.0 mix. Sadly, there is no Italian language option either in the audio or the subtitle areas on this disc, much to the chagrin of my mother-in-law.

    The dialogue quality is fair here, again considering the age of the film and the equipment used. I had no real problems understanding the dialogue.

    The sync for the most part is in the ball park, but it does get out of kilter from time to time, such as at 46:42 and 49:36 where things aren't right. These are somewhat isolated instances and perhaps not a real problem in the transfer from film to video. There was a fair level of re-dubbing of dialogue because of the level of background noise (such as the surf at Bondi) during several scenes. This could have accounted for some of the out of sync issues we see here.

    Music for this film comes from a couple of quarters, but the main score is credited to Alan Boustead with this score looking to be his only film composition. Despite this fact, the score suits the material well and is totally in keeping with the era and subject matter. Other contributors to the film's soundtrack are Walter Chiari who contributed the song I Kiss You, You Kiss Me and Reen Devereaux for the songs Big Country and In This Man's World. Other credits for music go to Laurence Leonard and Mikis Theodorakis.

    This film was originally recorded in mono and this Dolby Digital 2.0 mix adequately preserves the original feel of the film's sound. My A/V receiver was able to derive some limited surround sound, although this was limited to some very minor atmospheric sound. The LFE content of the the 2.0 mix is negligible and my subwoofer wasn't troubled in the least.

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

Extras

    This disc isn't bursting at the seams in extra content, but we do get a couple of worthwhile additions to the main program.

Menu

    After the usual distributor's logos and copyright warnings, we are taken to the disc's Main Menu which offers us the following:     The menus are 16x9 enhanced and often feature audio from the film.

    Selecting the Weird Features icon offers:

TV Special:  The Story of The Making of They're a Weird Mob   -   54:06

    This is a very interesting making-of documentary that was originally created for broadcast on free-to-air television. This interesting feature covers the inception of the film and its genesis, from the original novel by John O'Grady to the filming of an Australian classic. This programme features interviews with all the major contributors, from writer to director to the actors. Much of the action is obviously staged, but this doesn't detract from the overall interest in the subject matter. Featured in this as well as the film itself are some interesting scenes filmed in a Sydney that is at times unrecognizable. An interesting feature is the often visible under construction Sydney Opera House that was to become the main visual icon of Australia, but at the time of the filming of this feature and the film it was just another building under construction. While this feature is riddled with artefacts (analogue tape tracking errors, edge enhancement, film nicks and flecks), it is still nice to have this insightful look at the film at the time of its production. This feature appears courtesy of ScreenSound Australia - National Screen and Sound Archive. This feature is presented full frame and in black and white. Audio is in English Dolby Digital 2.0.

Picture Gallery   -   16 images

    This feature presents 16 images from the film and its production. Each image is centred mid screen with a caption describing the picture underneath.

Theatrical Trailer   -   2:51

    Very much of its time, this trailer leaves nothing to the imagination as to what to expect from the film. Still, this is not always a bad thing. This is presented full frame (pan & scan) with audio in English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono.

R4 vs R1

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

     As far as I am able to determine, this film is available only in Region 4, making ours the version of choice

Summary

     While this film takes place almost a full generation ago, we can still find much to identify with here. As a migrant to these fair shores, I can understand some of the feelings Nino goes through. Almost 50% of the population of Australia was born overseas and for these people, this film will be at the very least fairly familiar. For those of Italian (as well as Greek and Maltese) decent, this will be very, very familiar. Even though it was filmed in the mid 60s, it is still very much relevant to the migrant experience and a great film that continues to entertain and provoke. Highly recommend for old and new Australians.

     The video is reasonable, but suffers from some focus issues and film artefacts.

     The audio is okay, but suffers from some sync issues from time to time.

     There are a few interesting extras available.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Sean Bradford (There is no bio.)
Tuesday, October 14, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPanasonic DVD RP-82 with DVD-Audio on board, using S-Video output
DisplayBeko TRW 325 / 32 SFT 10 76cm (32") 16x9. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderYamaha RX-V2300 Dolby Digital and dts.
AmplificationYamaha RX-V2300 110w X 6 connected via optical cable and shielded RCA (gold plated) connects for DVD-Audio
SpeakersVAF DC-X Fronts (bi-wired), VAF DC-6 Center, VAF DC-2 Rears, VAF LFE-07 Dub (Dual Amp. 80w x 2)

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