Sunday Too Far Away [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - Australia - Umbrella Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (20th March 2021).
The Film

"Sunday Too Far Away" (1975)

Foley (played by Jack Thompson) walks into town without any particular direction in life. His car was totaled in an accident and has nothing and no one by his side. He meets an old acquaintance King (played by Max Cullen) who is looking for eager men to help shear wool on a sheep farm nearby, and offers Foley an opportunity to make ends meet. He is joined by a group of men that range from young newbie Michael (played by Gregory Apps) and drunkard elder Garth (played by Reg Lye) to fulfill their contract out in the open rural outback where a farm of hundreds of sheep graze. With the group of about a dozen men living in the heat and working conditions less than comforting, tensions begin to dwell over the workers as well as arguments against the grazers who refuse some necessities from the workers. Will the men stick to their stance or cave in until they fulfill their instructed work?

Based slightly off the 1956 shearer's strike that lasted nine months and surged a movement in workers unionization in Australia, "Sunday Too Far Away" was much more based on realism rather than the retrospectively called "Ozploitation" works that were gaining ground in cinema. Directed by longtime television director Ken Hannam, the film was the first feature film production by South Australian Film Corporation, and took its stride further by submitting it to the Cannes Film Festival, becoming the first Australian film to play at the prestigious festival. "Sunday Too Far Away" certainly has its place in Australian cinema history, but it is a film that cannot overcome its flaws with a narrative that doesn't quite hit all the marks it should.

The mostly male dominated story has its place with authenticity in the way the film is directed like a documentary. The scenes of the process of sheep shearing is shown in detail and the actors had to learn basic shearing skills for the production. The scenes of disgust and arguments are also convincing with the tension created from the acting and the conditions the men are faced with. But when looking at how the backstory of Foley seems to be an important plotpoint as seen in the opening scenes, there isn't too much in terms of payoff. Where he came from, the car accident, the tension at the pub have a lot of weight but not enough to give substance to the rest of the story. The subplot of the owner's daughter Susie (played by Lisa Peers) does not seem to take things to further direction either. With the film strictly based on the 1956 strike, the strike basically happens towards the end of the film with not much to be told of the time during the strike and bigger hardships the men had to face. Strangely once the story brings higher interest in the men's actions it is where the story is basically concluded. But the strong points in "Sunday Too Far Away" is not about what isn't shown, but what is, and that is how the testosterone filled piece is divided by basic trust and money issues which is highly relatable to anyone and the strength of the accomplished performers giving it high marks all around.

Not all is strict and serious. There are a lot of comical moments in the film as well. The brawl between Foley and the cook Quinn (played by Ken Weaver) has a great payoff when he is eventually "thrown out" of the property by everyone who hates his terrible cooking. The infamous washing scene with the ass jiggling is one to certainly give fun reactions from audiences. Garth's drunken outbursts and confusion is also always awkwardly funny. Music cues can also add to the comedy and it shows that no matter how much testosterone is in the environment, there is always a place for a lighter tone with smiles and laughs. Filmed on location at Carriewerloo Station near Port Augusta, the production was obviously mostly male dominated with the cast and crew, and in working conditions that were intense for the eight week shooting period, and of all the actors, Thompson was the only one with actual experience in the field. It certainly adds to the authenticity to the production, with the grime, the sweat, the dust, all coming together on celluloid.

The first cut of "Sunday Too Far Away" was stated to be 150 minutes. For the Sydney Film Festival, the film was cut down to 120 minutes and premiered on June 1st 1975. The theatrical release version was cut down even further by the producers to 94 minutes. With nearly an hour of footage removed, it seems many of the subplots had been removed which may have given a bit more depth to the characters and their motivations, but we may never know as the original cut was never released and the premiere cut never reissued. Regardless of the cut down structure, the film was a major critical hit in its native country. It won multiple awards from the Australian Film Institute, with the Golden Reel Award for Best Feature Film, and an Honourable Mention for Reg Lye for supporting actor. Jack Thompson won the Hoyts Prize for Best Performance as well, but for the film "Peterson" rather. "Sunday Too Far Away" should be remembered for its historical status and importance, though one would like to hope a director's cut could one day be found or reassembled.

Note this is a region ALL Blu-ray

Video

Umbrella Entertainment presents the film in the theatrical 1.85:1 aspect ratio in 1080p AVC MPEG-4. Digitally restored by the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia, this is a great upgrade from the older DVD edition released by Umbrella Entertainment years back. The golden hues of the outback, the reddish tones of the sunburnt skin all look great. Detail is also very strong, as well as looking relatively clean throughout. It is by no means perfect though, as there are some minor instances of damage visible from minor flickering and color instability, minor speckles and other imperfections can still be found. Colors can look a bit washed out in certain sequences, with the overall look having a brownish hue. On the positive side there is no artificial sharpening or digital noise, leaving a very film-like quality to the transfer.

The film is the uncut theatrical version with a runtime of 95:02, which includes some restoration credits at the beginning and end.

Audio

English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono

There are two lossless audio tracks provided, with a new 5.1 remix and the original 2.0 mono. The 5.1 track is a very subtle one, keeping all dialogue in the center channel and using the left and rights for the occasional music cues for separation. Rears are almost entirely silent and even the music and effects working in the left and right channels are still close to the center. For both tracks, dialogue is clear and easy to understand, well balanced against the music and effects, with no issues of dropout, hiss, or other anomalies. The 2.0 track is the more natural sounding track, but the 5.1 is fair, if not too significant. Note that the disc defaults to the 5.1 track, and the only way to access the mono track is to press the audio key during playback as there is no menu option for the audio.

There are optional English HoH subtitles in a white font which are easy to read and well timed.

Extras

"The Making of Sunday Too Far Away" featurette (23:33)
This vintage featurette explores the first film by the South Australian Film Corporation with behind the scenes footage of the production, interviews with the cast and crew, and insights into some of the difficult portions, such as the opening car crash. This was produced at the time of filming in 1975 rather than a retrospective piece and is a very fascinating look into the production process of many of the fairly young crew, including the legendary stunt coordinator Grant Page" discussing about the brawl sequence and the multiple tries needed for the opening crash, with outtakes of the time the car didn't flip over as planned. This featurette was previously on the Umbrella Entertainment DVD release.
720p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, in Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Jack Thompson in conversation with David Wenham, 2019 (47:53)
In this Q&A from the 2019 Asia Pacific Screen Awards in Brisbane, actor David Wenham moderates a post-screening Q&A with Thompson. They discuss about the significance of "Sunday Too Far Away", Thompson's shearing skills and work before his time as an actor, behind the scenes anecdotes, working on "Wake in Fright", "Breaker Morant", as well as his then upcoming film "Higher Ground", and more.
in 720p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Original World Premiere Programme from 1975 (1:53)
The program booklet is here, which is in an automated slideshow but can also be skipped from page to page manually by remote. This was previously on the Umbrella Entertainment DVD as DVD-ROM content.
in 720p AVC MPEG-4

Stills Gallery (5:51)
An automated slideshow gallery with posters, behind the scenes stills, and production photos. This was previously available on the Umbrella Entertainment DVD.
in 720p AVC MPEG-4

Theatrical Trailer (3:30)
The original theatrical trailer, remastered and looking as good as the feature itself.
in 720p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.85:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles


The National Film and Sound Archive of Australia posted on their YouTube channel a clip of the "digitally restored" version of the film. Unfortunately, it is the ending scene which is a bit of a spoiler and also note the transfer is in an open matte 1.33:1 aspect ratio rather than the theatrical 1.85:1 ratio. In addition, the colors seem to be quite different from the more vibrant and cleaner look of the Blu-ray's transfer, so note that this clip below is not at all a representation of how the Blu-ray looks.


A more accurate example of the restored footage can be found here, from Umbrella Entertainment's Facebook page:




It's great that Umbrella has included all the previous DVD supplements and also added a new Q&A plus a restored trailer for the film. It could have used a commentary to go over more of the historical significance and about the shearer's strike from the history pages, but what is included on this Blu-ray is fairly great.

Packaging

This is the third release in the "Sunburnt Screens" line from Umbrella Entertainment and it has the number "3" on the cover and the spine.
The artwork is reversible, with the opposite side having identical cover art minus the "M" rating logo, and the back side replaced with original poster artwork.
Note the packaging says region B only, but is in fact region ALL.

Overall

"Sunday Too Far Away" has its strengths in the performances, though it seems to be lacking a certain level of depth to the story itself. If the said longer version of the film could be rediscovered or reassembled, it may create a newfound opinion. Umbrella Entertainment's release has an excellent restored transfer and great restored audio for this Blu-ray edition, retaining all the previously released extras and adding more to it. Recommended.

The Blu-ray can be purchased at various retailers and also at Umbrella Entertainment directly.

The Film: B- Video: A- Audio: A- Extras: B+ Overall: B

 


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