Malcolm (1986)

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Released 15-Nov-2001

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Menu Animation & Audio
Audio Commentary-Nadia Tass (Director/Producer)
Interviews-Cast & Crew-Interview At AFI Awards; Popcorn Taxi
Theatrical Trailer
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Easter Egg-AFI Awards; Car Footage
DVD Credits
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1986
Running Time 82:25 (Case: 85)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (53:46) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Nadia Tass
Cascade Films
Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Colin Friels
Lindy Davis
John Hargreaves
Charles "Bud" Tingwell
Chris Haywood
Case Click
RPI $14.95 Music Simon Jeffes
The Penguin Cafe Orchestra

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (224Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio Unknown 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

    In 1986 a film was released which won every AFI award for which it was nominated, a total of eight in all. That's a lot. A film might be lucky to win one or even two AFI awards by some kind of fluke, but eight means that there must be something rather special about the movie. That movie was Malcolm (I know, I know, you'd guessed that by now).

    So what is special about Malcolm? Superficially, it doesn't sound too exciting - a movie about a shy young man who lacks social skills, but is a genius with mechanical things, who loses his job, takes in an ex-convict as a boarder, and turns to crime. Part of the joy that is Malcolm is its intrinsic Australian nature. It is an undeniable part of the Australian character to have a lack of respect for authority, and this can easily transmute into an acceptance of the idea of robbing banks (after all, banks are a form of authority...). The police (another form of authority) get short shrift, and security guards are sent up, too.

    If you only know Colin Friels from Water Rats, then you will be astonished at his performance here. Malcolm is not very bright at ordinary life, and Colin Friels captures this to perfection. Malcolm is obsessed with mechanical devices in general, and trams in particular, and he uses this to keep distance between himself and the real world, because Malcolm can't handle the real world.

    The two characters who come into Malcolm's life are Frank (John Hargreaves), fresh out of jail, and Judith (Lindy Davies), Frank's girlfriend. In many ways these two replace Malcolm's mother, who died less than a year before. Although the director and scriptwriter describe Frank as a father-figure to Malcolm, I think he is more of an older brother. Judith is definitely maternal towards Malcolm, even protecting him from Frank's occasional outburst. Malcolm rapidly becomes very close to both of them, and wants to build things for them. One of the most delightful things is a "getaway car" he builds for Frank: it may not be fast, but it can split in half to avoid pursuit! (I'm not giving too much away - it is shown in three of the four photos on the back cover)

    But it is not just the central characters which make this film work. It is just as much the surrounding people, from the lady in the milk bar to the lass behind the bar in the local pub. There is a sense of neighbourhood around Malcolm. People make exceptions for him because they know him. There are some nice cameos, too - David Johnston (with dark hair!), Ian MacFayden, the assistant director, the director's mum, even Bud Tingwell.

    Malcolm was made in Melbourne, and Melbourne residents can have fun playing "spot the location". During the commentary they mention many of the locations used. It amuses me that the outside of Malcolm's house is in Collingwood, but the inside is in Kensington.

    Amazingly, this is the first movie made by Nadia Tass and David Parker. They worked together as producers, Nadia directed, and David wrote the script and did the cinematography. They would go on to make Rikky and Pete, and The Big Steal, two other delightful Australian comedies, but I think this was their best work - isn't that sad? (That's not to say that I'm not looking forward to seeing the other films come out on DVD...)

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Transfer Quality


    The picture is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced. The theatrical aspect ratio was probably 1.85:1, judging by the slight cropping of the image on the sides.

    The image is soft, but that is fine - it suits the film, and means that there is almost no aliasing to be seen. Shadow detail is limited, especially on exteriors. During the commentary David Parker explains that they deliberately chose to film all exteriors on cloudy days, to get fairly flat light, which is not conducive to shadow detail. There are a couple of shots which appear to exhibit low level noise, but I think it is more grain due to the night time conditions. 

    Colour is mostly quite good, but there are a few shots where flesh tones come out a bit orange.

    There are a few traces of aliasing, but amazingly few, considering the numerous candidates: tram lines and wires, a cocky cage, gadgets made out of Meccano, ... There are quite a few film artefacts, but they are tiny, generally being small black or white flecks in unimportant parts of the frame. There are reel-change markings (a shame, but Australian films don't seem to get properly preserved). There are some shots with quite a bit of grain, but these are few, and not too troubling. This is not a film in immaculate condition, but it's probably the best we could expect. The display print with reel-change markings was probably the best quality print available.

    There are no subtitles.

    The disc is single-sided, double layer, in RSDL format. The layer change lies at 53:46, in a black moment between scenes.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There are two soundtracks, being the soundtrack (in English), and the audio commentary. I listened to both.

    The dialogue is easy to understand, even with those strange Australian accents. There are no visible audio sync problems on the original soundtrack. On the commentary, on the other hand, the original soundtrack (which plays quietly underneath the commentary) gets badly out of sync, especially around 54:00 to 54:20, where it is out by over a second - it is not too troubling, but it does get a bit disconcerting to be seeing Judith's mouth move and hear Frank's voice. 

    The score is unusual, and wonderfully suited to the film. A piece called "Telephone and Rubber Band" is one of the standouts. The score is part of the charm of Malcolm.

    Both the original soundtrack and the commentary are formatted as Dolby Digital 2.0 without surround encoding (they are really mono) - no surround speakers or subwoofers need apply. No loss, though - there are no massive explosions in this soundtrack.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    The menus are static, with music, but there are animated transitions between menus following a cute tram theme.

Umbrella Propaganda

    This is just a couple of trailers:

Press Kit

Parker / Tass


Audio Commentary - Nadia Tass and David Parker

    How many commentary tracks get both producers, the director, the script-writer, the cinematographer, and the builder of many of the props, all together? Well, this one does because these two did it all. It's an interesting commentary, but there are occasional lengthy gaps, and during these you can hear the original soundtrack. As mentioned, in one of the gaps the soundtrack is horribly out of sync with the film.

R4 vs R1

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

    The Region 1 release of this disc is, as yet, unannounced. Looks like you can only get this one here in Australia. Lucky us!


    A delightful Australian comedy; one I've been waiting for quite a while to see on DVD.

    The video quality is generally good, but there are flaws.

    The audio quality is good.

    The extras are extensive - they've thrown everything they could find onto this disc.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Tuesday, November 27, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDArcam DV88, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left and Right: Krix Euphonix, Centre: Krix KDX-C Rears: Krix KDX-M, Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

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