The Right Hand Man [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - Australia - Umbrella Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (29th April 2022).
The Film

"The Right Hand Man" (1987)

In a stagecoach accident, Lord Harry Ironminster (played by Rupert Everett) is injured badly that his right arm has to be amputated. In addition, his father (played by Tim Elliott) is killed instantly. Harry has a love for his horses and riding, but the loss of his arm as well as complications he is facing with diabetes has stopped him from enjoying what he once loved. When he encounters the rugged horseman Ned (played by Hugo Weaving), he finds the perfect person to help him as a servant and friend. In addition, there is Sarah (played by Catherine McClements), the daughter of the town doctor and a young woman with deep interest in science, who starts to care more for Harry and his condition.

"The Right Hand Man" was a book written by children's and young adult novelist K.M. Peyton in 1977, taking place in 1818 in Essex and London. English actor Steven Grives obtained the rights for an adaptation, though it took nearly a decade until a film production would be greenlit, though it would not be set in England but on the other side of the world in Australia. The timeframe was moved up to the 1860s and quite a few other changes were made, including making it more adult oriented with the love triangle, a time period that focused on changes due to the industrial revolution and the end of class structure with progressive ideals. Adapted by screenwriter Helen Hodgman in her only credited role, the film version of "The Right Hand Man" had some good ideas but didn't have enough power to connect everything together.

While the setting was changed to Australia for the film version, one particular issue is that there was very little of Australia in the finished film. Yes, there are the Australian accent from some of the characters and the rugged roads and landscapes are of Australia, there is not a single Aboriginal character in the film, and little to showcase more of the outback or the coastlines of the country. Instead the focus on the characters are with the upper class that ride the stagecoaches and the lower class with the ones that drive the carriages and the jobs in between. With the many other changes made to the story, there could have been more representation of the land and the culture which seems like a missed opportunity. The story's core is with the emotional journey taken with the three main characters. Harry, the upper class lord who has status as power, but is handicapped with his health and is of concern from his mother (played by Jennifer Claire) who no longer sees him as a strong heir to the family. Ned, the coach driver who doesn't always play by the rules but has great skills as a driver and caretaker of horses. Sarah, an intelligent woman who falls in love with not only Harry, but with Ned as well. The emotions of the trio has its issues. The relationship between Harry and Sarah is a bit on the empty side with not a lot of emphasis placed on their time together and what made them fall for each other. It's easy too see Sarah falling for Harry as she sees an opportunity to help not just in standard nursing, but in research and development for helping the suffering of diabetic issues, even suggesting that Harry should go to England with her for better care. Actually the more interesting relationship comes from Harry and Ned, which has some homoerotic undertones ever so slightly with some of their conversations and scenes together, but the film only hints rather than showing anything. There are some fantasy sequences with the sexual encounters between Harry and Sarah that are tastefully done as well as with Sarah and Ned, though none between Harry and Ned. That may have been a difficult sell for a feature film at the time back in the mid-1980s, but it would have been a believable asset. Without it, the triangle seems incomplete and the non-jealous nature of the three make things seem unusual as well. There may be some "Jules & Jim" (1962) influence in the trio of friends that become much more, but "Jules & Jim" has a lot more substance with the characters and their connections where each quirk and interaction make the connection stronger. In a future example, "Y tu mamá también" (2001), which beautifully illustrated a love triangle between a woman and two young men against a backdrop of politcal change was a brilliant balance of sexual tension and awakening for both the characters and the world setting. "The Right Hand Man" doesn't quite gel as well as it could have.

The performances are fine though. Everett has a good presence as the one armed lord, able to command in the scenes of frustration and anger. Weaving is excellent with his presence and shows his leading man talents very early on with his expressions. McClements, in her first acting role does a fair job, but her character does seem to be a bit lacking, even though she has a very central role in the emotional core. On the positive side, it is very progressive to see a female character in this time period who was not the standard nursing female and was one that was well educated due to her father's work, even if there was a little distance between them. There is also a good scene in which she and Harry's mother exchange thoughts on a woman's duty for a man which Sarah sees quite differently. In addition, the stuntwork with the stagecoach scenes are quite impressive and director Di Drew and cinematographer Peter James are able to capture some great looking sequences with action and with the landscapes of the rural country. But there seems to be more focus on the style rather than the characters and it essentially cannot connect the audiences to the characters very well.

The film was shot from October 1985 for a 10 week period in Bathurst, New South Wales, but it took almost two years until the film saw a theatrical release in Australia, which came in the fall of 1987. The film's debut was at the USA Film Festival in Dallas, Texas on April 12th, 1987, followed by a release in Italy of all countries on July 10th, 1987. The US theatrical release by FilmDallas Pictures opened in September 1987 in Los Angeles and in October 1987 in New York to mixed reviews. The Australian theatrical release by UAA came on November 19th, 1987 in which the film also failed to find critical appraisal or an audience. The AU$5.5 million budgeted film did not make a profit in its theatrical run. "The Right Hand Man" certainly looked good and had some good ideas, but the overall film lacked substance and didn't explore the emotional depth as well as it could have.

Note this is a region ALL Blu-ray


Umbrella Entertainment presents the film in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio in 1080p AVC MPEG-4. The film has been newly restored in HD and the transfer here is quite good. At times breathtaking, even. The film has a very thick appearance, with a golden brown hue over the image, with bold colors representing the rugged rural world of Australian in the 1800s. Colors are stable throughout, with mostly darker hues looking great. While the image has been cleaned, there are still a few minor marks of speckles and debris that can be spotted, while film grain is kept intact. Detail is good, though it can depend on the scene, with some looking pin sharp while others are above average. Overall, it is a very pleasing look and a good job by Umbrella Entertainment.

The film's runtime is 99:57.


English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo
The original Dolby Stereo track is presented in lossless form. Stereo separation is used mostly for music and effects, with the score by Allan Zavod coming in effectively and subtly, plus the effects with the stagecoach scenes. Dialogue is mostly centered but there are a few moments of slightly panning dialogue. Dialogue is clear and well balanced against the music and effects throughout, with no instances of hiss, pops, or dropout for a clean and stable audio track.

There are optional English HoH subtitles for the main feature in a white font.


Audio commentary with Producer Steven Grives and film buff Paul Harris
In this newly recorded commentary from 2021, Grives recollects the production with the help of moderator Paul Harris. From Grives' move from England to Australia, organizing the production and gathering the funds, memories of the cast and the director, having to buy the horses and train them for six months, the lukewarm reception, and much more are discussed. While a good amount of information is said, the conversation starts to hit some dry spots about halfway through and towards the end.
in English Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles

"A Conversation with Steven Grives and Catherine McClements" (31:06)
In this new conversation presented with audio only against a still image of McClements, Grives is talks to McClements in a remote call as they reminisce about the making of the film. Discussed about are the character of Sarah, the love triangle aspect, modern and progressive ideas presented in the period setting, the film being McClements' very first acting job, the awkward scene with the monkey, as well as two of the horses named Napoleon and Blackie being killed in an accident on set. With the way they speak it seems like they are able to see each other and the sound quality is that of a Zoom or Skype call so it's a curiosity as to why this is presented in an audio only form here on the Blu-ray.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles

Theatrical Trailer (2:33)
The original Australian trailer, which has been remastered though it still has some minor scratches and scuffs. The trailer has also been embedded below, courtesy of Umbrella Entertainment.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.85:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles

While it is great that Umbrella Entertainment was able to provide newly created extras with the commentary and conversation, it's unfortunate that the director couldn't give some insight with a new interview or participate in the commentary. This was Drew's first theatrical film after a number of televsions works, and her career has continued in film and television and she is still active to this day. Everett and Weaving would have been interesting to hear from as well, with the film being an early point in both of their careers. Maybe there is none in existence, but there is no behind the scenes footage to be found here, whether in video form or even in a stills gallery. In addition, the Grives and McClements conversation mentions the death of two horses in an accident during production but is not mentioned at all in the commentary and there seems to be no mention anywhere I can find on the production about the incident as to what exactly happened and what was at fault.


This is #9 in Umbrella Entertainment's "Sunburnt Screens" line. The cover is reversible, with the opposite side having identical front cover art but without the M rating logo. The opposite side of the inlay also has the American theatrical poster art by FilmDallas Pictures.


"The Right Hand Man" is a disappointment with a lackluster love story at the center, though the visuals are quite impressive and there are some good performances to be seen from the leads. The Umbrella Entertainment Blu-ray features a very good transfer for audio and video with some good extras, though even the extras felt a little short in content as well.

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


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