The Overlanders [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - Australia - Umbrella Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (21st April 2022).
The Film

"The Overlanders" (1946)

It is 1942 and the Japanese military forces are moving southward in their occupation, in which Australia is closer becoming a target. With over a million head of cattle grazing in the north, Australia's food supply would be devastated if the Japanese were to invade. To save the cattle and the population, drovers must relocate the massive herds, which means crossing 2,000 miles of desolate and dangerous land over a period of months. This is the story of a group of men and women and their herd that defied those odds during wartime.

During WWII, the film industry in Australian was not considered "essential", and work was basically halted for the period. While there were wartime propaganda films shown, they were mostly from Britain or Hollywood, and little to be proud for their own country. The government contacted Britain's Ministry of Information, which in turn led to Britain's Ealing Studios to make a film in Australia to showcase the country's deeds during the unnerving times. They sent documentary filmmaker Harry Watt to tour the country and find a suitable subject for a feature film, and therefore came the story of the cattle drive. It would showcase the Australian landscape, positivity and a collective nature in wartime, as well as having action and danger. For the production, it was notable that most of the cast and crew were Australian, with only a handful of people including Watt coming from outside the country. Though it was technically an Ealing Studios production with their money and backing, it was essentially an Australian feature with the setting and the cast.

For the cast, Chips Rafferty took the lead as Dan McAlpine, the lead drover to head the migration of a few thousand cattle from Wyndham to north of Brisbane. With a tall presence and a commanding tone yet with heart and likeability, Dan is a solid character for the audience to root for, and it certainly helped that Rafferty had experience with cattle and riding from his time before becoming an actor. John Nugent Howard played farmer Bill Parsons, who is concerned about the situation and is willing to give a hand along with his family, with his wife (played by Jean Blue), his elder daughter Mary (played by Daphne Campbell) and their younger daughter Helen (played by Helen Grieves). It is interesting to see a cast of young and old, male and female, all pitching in to do their part as even the youngest Helen is using her skills to help in the migration rather than being a background figure in the story. Mary is just as adept on horseback as her male counterparts, and that also goes for Jacky (played by Clyde Combo), the Aboriginal man who is also helping with the crossing. The riding, the stuntwork in some of the more dangerous scenes like the stampedes and the river crossing are obviously done for real, with the actors doing some of the heavy duty in many of the sequences in rural locations, bringing out the realism and the heroism of the men and women they were portraying on screen.

While the migration story is true, the figures and the situations were given dramatic license, with the love story that brews between Dan and Mary, the dangerous situations such as on the cliffside with the cattle and near death experiences were there to enhance the drama, though these situation could have more than been possible in reality. Dramatically, the film does feature some fine performances from the actors, with the physical side taking the edge, as the emotional stories between the characters are a little on the softer side. Watt directed the film like a documentary at times with the elegant vistas of the Australian Outback, lensed by cinematographer Osmond Borradaile, the lone Canadian native behind the scenes. In addition, there are dangerous camera positions during the stampede and at the riverside, plus some great aerial shots included in the film. Exposition scenes are adequate at the start though the core is at the journey that the drovers took and their months long time together which could have gone horribly wrong at many turns, and in some cases there were cattle that didn't survive the trek.

Although this was a wartime film, there was no war seen within the film itself, but the theme of "bullocks are more important than bullets," as stated by Dan makes it clear that there was much more to war than just fighting. The story showcased some of the many deeds that Australians did for wartime efforts, and essentially became a major hit at the box office for Ealing Studios. The film premiered in Sydney, Australia on September 27th 1946 and a few weeks later for the rest of the country. It became one of the most popular films in the country with over 350,000 admissions, as well as being a major hit in the UK, where it was the eleventh most successful film of the year. Hollywood also took notice as Australia then became a sight for future productions. While there have been "westerns" filmed in Australia over the years, including "The Story of the Kelly Gang" from 1906 being the first feature length narrative film in cinema history. But "The Overlanders" reinvigorated the genre that some later called the "Meat Pie Western", and inspiring a large amount of features including the big budget "Australia" in 2008. With great cinematography and an inspiring story of heroism and danger, it's a wartime film unlike many others, and is one of the most important features made in Australia in cinema history.

Note this is a region ALL Blu-ray


Umbrella Entertainment presents the film in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio in 1080p AVC MPEG-4. The transfer comes from Studio Canal, the current rightsholder. The high definition transfer is not the best it could be, as it is riddled with speckles and scratches. The black and white image has a bit of wobble, some greyscale fluctuation, and has not gone through any major restoration cleanup. But on the brighter side, it is a filmic transfer with film grain being visible without any artificial sharpening or enhancement. While the negatives seem to outweigh the positives, the film is entirely in a watchable state and in that sense is consistent. Imperfect, but is at this time it is the best that there is.

The film's runtime is 91:44.


English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono
The original mono track is presented in lossless form. The audio, like the video has its own issues, with some of the voices sounding a bit rough and scratchy, and music cues sounding a bit flat. Hiss and pops can sometimes be heard, though it is not too distracting and is on the minimal side. The dialogue, music, and effects are fairly well balanced throughout.

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


Audio commentary by screenwriter and film historian Stephen Vagg
Vagg discusses quite a lot of topics in this well researched commentary of one of the most important films in Australian cinema, which he immediately says is "Australian" even if it came from Ealing Studios. He discusses the Australian cinema at the time, the behind the scenes of the film, biographies of the actors and crew, the historical facts the story was based on and the logistical concerns, the post production, its highly successful release, its influence and much more. He sometimes gets a little too close to the microphone which causes a bit of distortion, especially when pronouncing "p" sounds, so be weary of listening through headphones.
in English Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles

"The Cattle Story" 1955 documentary short (10:10)
This educational documentary short showcases the lives of cattle, from its history of bringing cattle to the continent, the breeding, and eventual end at the slaughterhouse. The short comes from the National Film & Sound Archive (NFSA) which has their logo watermarked in this transfer. The audio and visuals are fair but have not had any major restoration, showing wear and tear, blurriness and a bit of vertical stretching, with crackly and hissy audio.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.40:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles

Stills Gallery (8:58)
Presented here is an automated slideshow gallery of black & white behind the scenes stills plus the color theatrical poster with the film's music looped in the background.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, Music Dolby Digital 2.0

"Kangaroo" bonus film (83:46)
"Kangaroo: The Australian Story" was a Twentieth Century Fox production directed by Lewis Milestone, starring Maureen O'Hara in the lead and was the first feature film to be shot in Technicolor in Australia. Taking place at the turn of the twentieth century, Richard (played by Peter Lawford) and John (played by Richard Boone) are swindlers who try to take advantage of the old and drunken Michael McGuire (played by Finlay Currie) for his farmland. But with his daughter Dell (played by O'Hara) taking charge of the farmland and being careful of her father's well-being, it calls for a change of plans for Richard and John, as well as jealousy coming between them. Fox was looking into producing a picture in Australia for a number of years, and with "Kangaroo", it was a troubled production from the get-go, with constant rewrites, cast and crew changes and more that made it an uneven and ultimately unsatisfying production. There were some positives to be said, such as the beautiful vistas and some of the performances including O'Hara, but there was too much emphasis on wanting to do a production in Australia rather than making a competent and unique work that used the landscape as a setting rather than the focus. In addition there were a lot of arguments behind the scenes, such as the actors being unsatisfied with the rewritten script and the director being unhappy with working in Australia, and eventually "Kangaroo" failed to connect with audiences and became a film that Fox didn't seem to care in the long run, falling into the public domain. The transfer comes from a standard definition master and it’s unfortunately poor. Due to Twentieth Century Fox not renewing its copyright, all home video releases have been substandard and this one is no exception. Colors are dull in some shots, too dark in others, detail is not very clear and there are signs of print damage to be found, though not as bad as one might think. The mono audio is fair with little depth in fidelity, but there are some hiss and crackle that could be heard at times.
in 1080i60 AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono without subtitles

Audio commentary on “Kangaroo” by Stephen Vagg
Vagg also provides another well researched commentary for "Kangaroo", even though he must admit that he does not think the film is particularly good. But in that sense, he does explain the film's flaws, the plot holes, the troubled production, and how it got there. He discusses the changes made from the original script, gives biographical information on the cast and crew, the details of the production, its lukewarm reception and much more. Another excellent commentary, but it's also one that has some issues with the audio level like the other commentary track.
in English Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles

"The Overlanders" Original Theatrical Trailer (2:19)
The original trailer is presented here, showcasing the landscape, the drama, the romance, and the stars. The transfer is fair, though it does have some wear and tear with the picture and audio quality.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles

The film was first released on Blu-ray in 2020 in the UK by Network, which only had a stills gallery as an extra. This Australian release which came over a year later is packed with much more extras, though with a supposedly similar transfer for the film itself.

Other notable clips:

The opening titles and opening scene, courtesy of Umbrella Entertainment

The original theatrical trailer for "The Overlanders"

A clip from "Kangaroo: The Australian Story", courtesy of Umbrella Entertainment


This is release #8 in Umbrella's "Sunburnt Screens" line of titles.
Artwork on the inside reveals the original poster art on one side and identical front artwork minus the G rating logo on the other.


"The Overlanders" has its nostalgic charms with the fairly simple story of a cattle drive, though the wartime nature, the exciting sequences, and great performances certainly make it stand out above many other Australian westerns. The Umbrella Entertainment Blu-ray's audio and video scores are not at the best due to the film not getting a major restoration, but it truly shines in the extras department, Recommended.

The Blu-ray is available from various retailers as well as through Umbrella Entertainment directly.

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


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