Long Way to the Top (2001)

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Released 15-Aug-2001

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Menu Audio
Interviews-Cast
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2001
Running Time 412:57 (Case: 406)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (103:13)
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By None Given
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Chris Winter
Case Slip Case
RPI $79.95 Music None Given


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.53:1
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 Yes, during some credits

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

Plot Synopsis

    How in the heck are you supposed to provide a synopsis of what is arguably the most extensive look at the history of Australian rock and roll on film? And don't get too carried away with the title - there is precious little here relating to New Zealand rock and roll. The series is currently airing on ABC Television as I write this review, so the fact that it is already prepped for release on DVD is pretty amazing. No doubt the ABC intends to cash in on the current telecasts, especially as there is an accompanying CD and book.

    Despite the fact that this stretches to pretty near seven hours of viewing, including the bonus hour of footage provided by the interview material, this is pretty compelling viewing. Put it this way: I sat down to watch this straight after reviewing Event Horizon with the intent of watching the first episode before going to bed. I ended up going to bed at 2 a.m. after watching the first three episodes. That is how compelling it is, although I have to say that the first three episodes are somewhat more compelling than the second three episodes. The actual episodes on offer are:

    The scope of the programming is highlighted by the fact that it is extremely difficult to list the people who have had interview material included here. The list is virtually a who's who of the Australian music industry and that is probably why the interest level is kept so high here. Combined with a wealth of fascinating and quite rare archival material, the programming is quite comprehensive, even if Molly Meldrum's face does appear too often.

    However, despite what is included, there are disappointments. From this programming, you would obtain the very mistaken conclusion that women have played but a minor part in the Australian music industry, which is patently untrue. Obvious names not included here are Renee Geyer, Olivia Newton-John, Marcia Hines, Deborah Conway and Sharon O'Neill, amongst a wealth of others. The result is a somewhat misrepresented perception of the impact the female half of the population has had on Australian music, other than as the screaming masses trying to pull the likes of John Paul Young off the Countdown stage. There are also some glaring omissions in the male side of things too: no mention of Jo Camileri for instance, which seems amazing given his contribution to the industry. Bands such as Jo Jo Zep and The Falcons, The Black Sorrows, Max Merritt and The Meteors, Gangajang and others represented in my CD collection are omitted too. Whilst they might have done a good job putting together the series, clearly there is a wealth of material and a wealth of bands who have made an important contribution to Australian rock and roll that are simply ignored. A few more hours of programming probably would not have gone astray here at all.

    Despite the omissions, it is unlikely that we will ever see anything as comprehensive as this series detailing the development of the Australian rock industry. As such it is an essential look that should grace many a collection. Nonetheless, I do hope that they will do an addendum to the series that will include more female representation and cover the more glaring holes in the male contribution.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The transfer is presented in the rather unusual aspect ratio of 1.53:1. Quite what point this ratio achieves, I don't really know and it is rather sad that the ABC have not gone the full 1.78:1 widescreen route with this recent series. The transfer is not 16x9 enhanced.

    Given that this series covers forty-five years of material, and much of the archival material is of an extremely rare nature, you can bet that the source material quality ranges from very good to pretty ropey. However, even the pretty ropey stuff remains worthy of inclusion simply due to the historic nature of the material. Some of the home movie footage of the 1950s and 1960s is priceless beyond belief, so as long as you are not expecting perfection in the source material here, you are fine, for there is precious little wrong with the presentation of the source material.

    Overall, the transfer is pretty good, with the recent interview material being pretty sharp and quite well detailed. The major issue for me, however, is the fact that this recent material is just a little grainy, and thus is a little disappointing. All sorts of imperfections in the archival material I can understand and accept, but surely it is not being unrealistic to expect recently recorded material to be virtually flawless? Shadow detail is not an issue here in the recent material, but obviously is seriously lacking in the archival material at times. There did not appear to be any serious low level noise in the transfer.

    With the material coming from both the black and white and the colour eras, and varying from professional quality archival material to very home video quality stuff, the colours here are pretty well all other the place too. The recent interview material is excellent, with very nice saturation and plenty of vibrancy. This material has no problems with oversaturation or colour bleed. The archival material runs from excellent, all things considered, to very average. Mostly the colour is undersaturated and not the best looking, whilst the black and white runs from a nice depth of greys to wishy washy greys. However, I found nothing here that is objectionable.

    There did not appear to be any significant MPEG artefacts in the transfer. The recent interview material seems to suffer somewhat from aliasing at times, but that is the extent of such problems in the transfer. Obviously the archival material displays plenty of film artefacts, but thankfully these do not extend to the recent interview material.

    The two DVDs making up this release are both RSDL formatted. The first DVD sees the layer change at 36:37 of episode 2 (103:13 overall) with the second DVD having the layer change at 34:06 of episode 5, being 105:46 overall. Neither are especially great, although the first DVD effort is much better than the second DVD effort. The latter is so obvious that it is annoying, coming as it does during motion that so obviously freezes, then continues.

    Regrettably there are no subtitle options on the DVD, which is not good news for our Hearing Impaired readers.

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

Audio

    There is just the one soundtrack on the DVD, being an English Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack.

    The dialogue and music comes up generally very well in the transfer and there should be no real problems enjoying what is going on here. Unfortunately, the material suffers quite badly from lip sync problems at times, but for those of us brought up on Countdown, that is not likely to be of any concern! There did not appear to be any issues with audio sync in the transfer arising from mastering issues.

    This is a wholly unremarkable soundtrack in every respect, but then again the quality of some of the archival material was always going to ensure some issues with the sound. Nice clean, clear, open sound is only the order of the day during the recent interview material. Otherwise, the sound has a slightly congested feel at times with some songs being very noticeably affected by crackle. Obviously nothing much happens in the surround channels with this one and the sub-woofer has gone on leave for the show.

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

Extras

    Given the relatively packed nature of the DVDs, just about anything is a major bonus here.

Menu

    Quite nicely done, with some decent audio enhancement to all menus.

Interviews - Cast

    These bonus interviews are added at the end of each episode and if you select to play the episode from the menu, these will play straight after the episode credits. You can select to play the individual interviews from a separate menu on each DVD too. The interviews offered are:

    Most of these are quite interesting and well worth watching. They obviously come from a significant amount of material that was recorded but not used in the episodes. I would have thought that there was plenty more material available, and it would have been nice to see some more of it too. The material is presented in the same way as the main programme.

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.

    Since this is a peculiarly Australian series, the likelihood of this ever getting released in Region 1 is probably quite low, even though it would probably be of great interest to music fans in that market.

Summary

    Long Way To The Top is about as good as we can expect from this sort of series, even though it is anything but complete (and is the reason for the loss of the half star on the plot rating). The source material limitations are quite obvious but overall this does not in anyway detract from the enjoyment to be had here. Personally, I would recommend that this be included in every collection, as it is an important look at a very important part of Australian cultural history. Since this is being reviewed on the same day as the death of Ted Mulry and a few days after the death of Shirley Strachan, it is a very poignant reminder of the timeliness of the series.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Sunday, September 02, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-515, using S-Video output
DisplaySony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-795
SpeakersEnergy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL

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Comments (Add)
What the... -
Very innacurate history -