Tuesday, February 23, 2021

THE ADVENTURES OF BARRY MCKENZIE (1972) (Umbrella Entertaunment Blu-ray Review)


Label: Umbrella Entertainment
Region Code: Region-Free 
Rating: R
Duration: 113 Minutes 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: Bruce Beresford
Cast: Barry Crocker, Barry Humphries, Peter Cook, Spike Milligan, Dick Bentley, Dennis Price, Avice Landone, Jenny Tomasin, Mary Ann Severne

Ozploitation comedy The Adventures of Barry McKenzie (1972) stars Australian crooner/entertainer Barry Crocker as the Fosters beer swilling Barry 'Bazza' McKenzie, an rather unsophisticated bloke who is a send-up of the ocker variety of Australians, an ocker being slang for an unsophisticated and uncultured person. As such Bazza is a simple man with simple tastes, a foul-mouthed and wrong-headed guy who never seems to take of his hat, spouting offensive, often racist language, but somehow comes across as a charming fella with no verbal-filter. The film is based on an outrageous comic strip created by writer/actor Barry Humphries, who appears in the film in drag as Bazza's auntie Dame Edna. Edna I do believe  was already a famous character in Australia pop culture, known as Australia's Most Famous Housewife and appearing on TV and in commercials. 

At the start of the film Barry's father has died and during the reading of the will he inherits two-grand, the only stipulation is that that he must immediately travel to England to further "the cultural and intellectual traditions of the McKenzie dynasty", for what that's worth. Much to the chagrin of fun-loving Bazza his dear old bespectacled Aunt Edna volunteers to chaperone his journey abroad, she having been kicking around the idea of travelling to England to reconnect with Australian ex-patriots the Gorts, who now reside in merry old England. Mr. (Dennis Price, Twins Of Evil) and Mrs. Gort (Avice Landone, Blood Satan's Claws) are not too thrilled with the idea of receiving  the McKenzie clam, but they take advantage of the situation to try and marry-off their single adult daughter Sarah (Jenny Tomasin, The Trouble with Spies) to Bazza, in an effort to latch onto the McKenzie family fortune.

Arriving in England Bazza quickly re-connects with another group of ex-pats, childhood friends Curly (Paul Bertram, Dark Age) and Lesley (Mary Ann Severne, Run Rebecca, Run!), immediately setting out to experience what the big Brit city has to offer a young ocker. Along the way he is fleeced by "pommy bastards", that being Aussie slang for a Brit, as well as being bamboozled by a rock band, taken advantage of by a TV commercial director, exploited by a TV producer, sought after by the authorities, and he ends up temporarily locked in the loony bin. Bazzo is also set upon by a bevy of gorgeous lookers attempting to de-cherry the vacationing ocker, among these sweet Brit birds is the libidinous Caroline Thighs (Maria O'Brien, When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth), who tells the Aussie, "I'm kinky for beef...and not of the tinned variety". 

It's a fun enough low-brow adventure but it is far too long at almost two hours for what it is. The flick was the directorial debut of Bruce Beresford, who would later go onto direct the gritty ozploitation heist flick Money Movers (1978) before moving onto a more reputable films like Driving Miss Daisy (1988). The film plays out in an episodic way that lacks a plot, coming off as a loose series of comedy sketches than an actual film. It is also chock full of colorful and offensive Australian slang, which on the surface is rather rude, but the movie is not mean-spirited, so that sort of softens the blow. I think it's more a film depicting a wrong-headed every-man who simply does not know any better, with Bazza being a reflection of a certain type of person who might not even exist in reality for all I know, it's all seems very exaggerated to me, and I am not Australian. Anyway, it's done in the spirit of fun and farce and not out of a bigoted maliciousness, so don't be in such a hurry to be offended. This is exactly the sort of non-PC comedy that could not be made  these days. I don't think the film is complete success but it's refreshing to see such unfiltered comedy-vulgarity, it brings to mind Mel Brook's Blazing Saddles (1974), though it is not of the same caliber of genius, sorry guys. The vulgar language is so colorful, and not all of it seems to be based on actual Aussie slang, it seems made to have a made-up vocabulary all it's own, not unlike A Clockwork Orange (1971) or Heathers (1989), and I loved that about it.  

Audio/Video: The Adventures of Barry McKenzie (1972) makes it's worldwide Blu-ray debut from Umbrella Entertainment in 1080p HD framed in the original 1.85:1 widescreen aspect ratio, which is being advertised as a new 4K restoration. The source is generally in very good shape with only the occasional nick, dirt or white speckle to detract from it, while the grain field is not too intrusive. I would wager that there's been some lite DNR applied to it but nothing too egregious, fine detail is modest but present. Colors don't exactly wow but they look natural, skin tones look natural, and the blacks are solid. It's not an HD stunner but it's a decent looker. Be sure to check out the over seventy screenshots from the Blu-ray at the bottom of this review. 

Audio comes by way of English DTS-HD MA 2.0 with optional English subtitles. The Aussie dialogue sounds good, but I do appreciate the subtitles, some of that slang comes fast and furious! The uncompressed audio most benefits the score from Pete Best... no not the Pete Best who was the former stickman for the Beatles, but the guy who did the score for the Crocodile Dundee flicks. 

Extras kick-off with a vintage introduction by Dame Edna, then into the feature-length making-of retrospective 'The Adventures of Bazza in Chunderland' that was directed by Mark Hartley (Not Quite Hollywood)that gets into the original outrageous comic strip, the original short film, and making the feature-length adaptation. The main participants are writer/actor Bruce Humphries, actor Paul Betram, and star Barry Crocker, with additional talking head commentary from actress Mary Ann Severne, writer/director Bruce Beresford and plenty more, all of whom talk about the character of Barry McKenzie, and how he was a foul-mouthed innocent of sorts meant to represent the everyday working class Australian, but who can be interpreted differently, and how it certainly comes off as a bit culturally snobbish. Also discussed are the casting of various players, including crooner Barry Crocker, writer/actor Barry Humphries, Spike Milligan, Brit comedian Peter Cook, Aussie comedy legend Dick Bentley, as well as actor Dennis Price. We het a ton of great anecdotes about working with them and their unique proclivities, from bouts of depression, working alcoholism and how weird it was when Humphries transitioned from Dame Edna to his normal gruff voice in mid-sentence. There's also some humorous talk of the demand by the Australian film commission not to have any Australian offensive language or colloquialisms in it that might paint Australia in a negative light, they having apparently not read the script beforehand!  They also get into the difficulties and challenged of filming the movie in England where they ran afoul of smut-peddling gagsters and the film unions, and then into the reception and backlash of the film both at home and abroad. This is an over two-hour long doc that is well worth the purchase price alone in my opinion, in fact I think I liked it more than the actual film. As a bonus you also get Barry Humphries secret recipe for homemade chunder, Aussie slang for vomit)! 

That's not all either, Umbrella have packed in the extras on this release, we still have two more hours of extras to plow through. These include over half hour of “Not Quite Hollywood” extended interviews with producer Philip Adams and star Barry Crocker, plus vintage news footage, an archival interview with Barry Humphries, four short films, Whirlpool appliance TV commercials starring Dame Edna, a poster and still gallery, plus a theatrical trailer for the film and over a half hour of Beresford & Humphries trailers. 

The single disc release arrives in a oversized clear keepcase  with a dual-sided sleeve of artwork featuring original movie poster artwork on the front and back, on the reverse side we get a series of pictures from the film with funny quotes from the in words bubbles. This release also comes with a slipcover which has a different artwork that is stamped with the 'Ozploitation Classics' banner. Strangely the spine is numbered with the "01", but this is far from the first of the Ozploitation Classics line-up from Umbrella, but perhaps moving forward they will be giving all the titles in this line-up slipcovers similar to their Beyond Genres imprint, so that's cool. 

Special Features: 
- Optional Dame Edna introduction (5 min) 
- The Adventures of Bazza in Chunderland (2006) (128 min) 
- Barry McKenzie – Ogre or Ocker (53 min) 
- A Conversation with Barry Humphries (20 min) 
- “Not Quite Hollywood” Extended Interviews (28 min) 
- Beresford & Humphries Short Films: La Bain Vorace (Dial P for Plughole) (1954) (8 min), It Droppeth as the Gentle Rain (1963) (6 min), Film for Guitar (1966) (2 min),  King Size Woman (1965) (5 min) 
- Barry Humphries in The Naked Bunyip (7 min) 
- “Guess Who’s Mum’s Got a Whirlpool” Commercials (7 min) 
- Beresford & Humphries Aussie Trailer Collection: The Naked Bunyip, Barry McKenzie Holds His Own, The Great McCarthy, Don's Party, The Getting of Wisdom, Money Movers, Breaker Morant, The Club, Puberty Blues, The Fringe Dwellers, Les Patterson Saves the World, Black Robe, Paradise Road, Mao's Last Dancer, Ladies In Black (37 min) 
- Stills and Poster Gallery (3 min) 
- Theatrical Trailer (2 min) 

I laughed a lot while  watching The Adventures of Barry McKenzie, it definitely appealed to my love of inappropriate non-PC humor, but I also thought it was a bit of a slog in spots, that near 2-hour length is a momentum killer. Umbrella do excellent work bringing the crude ocker comedy to Blu-ray with over three hours of extras and a good looking transfer. I give it a recommend if this sort of crude comedy sounds like your cup of chunder from down under, just know that you are in for some cr
ude, low-brow humor that might trigger the PC crowd.

Screenshots from the Umbrella Entertainment Blu-ray: