The Lighthorsemen (Magna Home Ent) (1987)

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Released 10-Sep-2001

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category War Main Menu Introduction
Menu Animation & Audio
Scene Selection Anim & Audio
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Featurette-Making Of
Notes-The Horses
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1987
Running Time 124:18 (Case: 131)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (56:45) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Simon Wincer
Studio
Distributor

Magna Home Entertainment
Starring Jon Blake
Peter Phelps
Tony Bonner
Bill Kerr
John Walton
Gary Sweet
Tim McKenzie
Sigrid Thornton
Anthony Andrews
Case Click
RPI $36.95 Music Mario Millo


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
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

    The Lighthorsemen recounts the tale of the charge of the lighthorse against the Turks and Germans at Beersheba in Palestine during World War I. The story follows a band of four mounted infantry (they are different to the traditional British cavalry) during the lead-up to the campaign and then the attack against Beersheba. This story has been done before, most famously in the 1941 film 40,000 Horsemen. The Aussies were under the command of the British during this campaign and much like the story told in Gallipoli, the Brits had little idea of how to use the troops to their potential and early losses were suffered.

    Peter Phelps plays new recruit and city boy David Mitchell, and it is he that gets injured and subsequently falls for lovely nurse Anne (Sigrid Thornton). The rest of the unit is played by John Walton, Tim McKenzie, and Jon Blake in his last role before he was seriously injured in a car accident. The story follows the skirmishes and tactical manoeuvring before the British decide to commit to a full-scale and surprise assault on Beersheba instead of Gaza which the Germans were expecting. The famous charge of the lighthorse of course takes place in the final moments, and features some of the best horse footage filmed (over 300 horses were used in filming).

    As usual with any locally-made film recounting a tale that has been etched into the Australian psyche (Gallipoli, Phar Lap, or even more recently The Dish) there is a touch of that strange phenomenon known as 'cultural cringe' present. For some reason, we Aussies always seem to have a need to prove ourselves to the world and to let ourselves know that we really are up to the standard that the rest of the civilised world achieves. Must be a leftover from our convict past I think. There are small doses of cultural cringe scattered throughout The Lighthorsemen. If you can overcome them, then this isn't a bad account of what is a significant story in the history of Australians at War.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The cinematography for this movie was done by renowned Australian cinematographer Dean Semler (Dances With Wolves). Unfortunately, this transfer does not do justice to his photography at all and if it were my work, I'd be downright disappointed. There are plenty of problems, including MPEG artefacts, telecine wobble, poor shadow detail, film artefacts, and more grain than the whole of the Sinai desert.

    From an original theatrical aspect of 2.35:1, this transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. It is also 16x9 enhanced.

    The level of sharpness is not high. It often does reach decent levels, but then plunges back into the depths of haziness. Whenever the camera pans across the desert landscape (and this happens often), the whole background merges into a mess of out-of-focus scrub and dirt. It really is off-putting. Good examples of this occur at 19:35 with truly jarring effect and no focus across the background scrub and at 23:30 as the dirt between the actors' feet moves in and out of focus. These are but two examples of a problem that occurs very frequently and is just about the worst I have seen of its type.

    Shadow detail is also a problem, though thankfully there are not many dark scenes. Take a look at the shadow cast by the tent at 11:08-11:30. There is awful shadow detail and a whiff of MPEG artefacting that makes the shadow seem like it is part of a different shot to the rest of the background. There is also some telecine wobble that makes you feel like you're on a boat. Other problems with shadow detail crop up in the first hospital scene at 29:50-31:00 where the characters are poorly defined and have large amounts of solid black on their faces, and also at 70:00-70:10 in the command tent. Overall, the picture is muddy and hazy and loses much detail. At 115:50 there is almost total blackness on the face of the actor. I think his facial expression is important to the storyline, but you can't tell because you can't see it.

    Ah grain, glorious grain, and I'm not talking about the sand that makes up the desert. Grain is present in some form in almost every shot. Some shots are worse than others, but overall this would be considered a poor effort. There is no low level noise.

    Colours are a real mixed bag. Wishy-washy at times, though with little chance of oversaturation as there is not a great amount of vibrancy in any of the colours. Being set in the desert, we mostly get yellows and browns. The sunset and hospital scenes are the best efforts with some nice rich oranges, reds and greens.

    Some other MPEG artefacts are present, such as during a close-up of the map of Palestine at 18:16 which suffers when the camera moves across it. Moving in and out of focus, it is actually unreadable at times. There is little aliasing present, but then this is not surprising considering things usually have to be sharp for that to occur, and sharp this certainly isn't. Film artefacts abound, though when they are at their worst in the desert scenes there are plenty of other problems present and you tend to not notice them.

    There are unfortunately no subtitles present.

    This is a single sided, dual layered disc. The layer change occurs at 56:45 and is reasonably placed although it is quite noticeable.

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

Audio

    The remastered audio is in much better shape than the video and actually features Magna Pacific's first dts soundtrack effort. It is let down in a couple of key areas but is certainly not the worst remixed 5.1 soundtrack I have heard.

    We have a selection of two audio tracks on this disc. They are an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack and an English 768 Kb/s dts 5.1 soundtrack. I watched the movie twice, listening to both soundtracks in full. You are unable to switch between the tracks during the film, and must navigate back to the main menu to do this. Both offer a reasonably nice depth with a wide soundstage at most times, though both soundtracks have a tendency to focus just a little too much on the centre speaker for all effects. The dts effort is not a great deal different from the Dolby Digital, other than the fact that it is mastered at a slightly lower level. Both tracks suffer from a lack of oomph at the lower end and the subwoofer use is particularly disappointing.

    Dialogue is mostly clear and there are no noticeable audio sync problems.

    The score is credited to Mario Millo. The main credits theme is quite rousing and during the charging and action scenes it is well-produced, offering a decent dynamic range.

    There is only minimal surround use, with the surrounds only sparking into life three or four times during the film. Not aggressive surround use by any means.

    The subwoofer use is very disappointing. I almost thought it was a 5.0 track instead of a 5.1 track, especially during the last horse charge on Beersheba when the majority of the thundering charge emanated from the centre speaker. This was a real chance to really show how a ground-shaking full horse charge could sound, and it wasn't taken advantage of.

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

Extras

Main Menu Introduction

    Shows the scene from the movie where the four main characters wander down to see the sunset at the beach. The footage then peels away to the map of Palestine which has the menu options on it.

Menu Animation & Audio

    Overlaid on the map of Palestine is a small window of footage from the horse charging scene. Overall, the menu is quite nicely done. Audio is the stirring main theme rendered in Dolby Digital 2.0.

Scene Selection Animation & Audio    

    Based on the range sight of the rifle that the infantry used, this is a nice-looking but truly cumbersome and frustrating scene selection menu to use. More thought has gone into making it look authentic and different than worrying about how functional it is.

Biographies-Cast & Crew

    The usual static information detailing the principal cast and crew members' film history and a few of their credits.

Featurette-Making Of

    A misleading title. Not really a featurette, but more of a slideshow. It is simply a series of still screens with text that highlight some of the production problems and logistical dilemmas facing the cast and crew. It is presented in a nice typeface that is easy to read but doesn't really add much value.

Notes - The Horses

    Another slideshow that digs a little deeper into some of the facts and figures about the large number of horses involved in the production. One vital piece of information is missing. As someone with a wife that owns four horses, I am all-too-familiar with the large amount of manure that they produce. I'd really like to know what they did with the poo from over 300 of the beasts.

R4 vs R1

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

    This title has not yet been released in Region 1.

Summary

    The Lighthorsemen is a reasonable account of one of the defining moments in Australian history, told with only a few of the usual clichés and only a hint of cultural cringe.

    The video transfer does not do justice at all to the outstanding photography of Dean Semler and is in fact quite poor. The audio is a decent effort, though not as good as a modern track. The extras are fairly poor.

    It is difficult to recommend this as an outright purchase. Perhaps an initial rental is in order to see for yourself how the video stacks up on your display.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Darren Walters (It's . . . just the vibe . . . of my bio)
Friday, September 28, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba 1200, using S-Video output
DisplayLoewe Calida (84cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationHarmon/Kardon AVR7000.
SpeakersFront - B&W 602S2, Centre - B&W CC6S2, Rear - B&W 601S2, Sub - Energy E:xl S10

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Comments (Add)
Lighthorsemen - John Chandler
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2011 re-issue - penguin (there is no bio)
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