Thursday, April 22, 2021

SUNDAY TOO FAR AWAY (1975) (Umbrella Entertainment Blu-ray Review)


Label: Umbrella Entertainment / Sunburnt Screens
Region Code: B
Rating: M
Duration: 95 Minutes 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono, 5.1 Surround with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1)
Director: Ken Hannam
Cast: Jack Thompson, Max Cullen, Reg Lye, Philip Ross,, Graem Smith, Peter Cummins, John Ewart, Lisa Peer

Set in the rugged Australian Outback during 1955 the 70's Australian New wave film Sunday Too Far Away (1975) follows professional sheep shearer Foley (Jack Thompson, Wake In Fright), whom the film sets up as the top-shearer for miles around. This particular shearing season he takes on a new gig with a start up crew put together by his mate Tim (Max Cullen, X-Men Origins: Wolverine), and the film basically follows their exploits throughout the sheep-shearing season. 

The sheep ranch they're working is run by a Mr. Dawson (Philip Ross, The Fourth Victim), an uptight, hovering rancher with a gorgeous daughter named Shelia (Lisa Peers, Alison's Birthday). He seems to be more worried about the shearer's mangling his rams than he does them diddling his daughter,  scared to death that the rookie shearer Jim the Learner (Graem Smith) might accidentally lop off his prize-winning ram's tallywackers while shearing them. While he might be right about that concern, his presence is so off-putting that the guys have a meeting and vote to ban him from being in the barn while they're shearing. The crew settle into their bunkhouse where Foley is bunked with an aging drunkard named Old Garth (Reg Lye, Dracula), who use to be a top-shearer in his prime but has fallen into the bottle in a hard way. The hard-drinking Foley respects Old Garth but starts to loathe the red-nosed boozer after having to share a room with the empty bottle clanking codger, perhaps seeing his future self reflected in the old man. 

Foley is use to being the top shearer on the crew, but a newcomer named Arthur Black (Peter Cummins, Mad Dog Morgan) arrives and gives him a run for that title, which conjures up some fun good-natured competition between the men. We also and some fun comedic moments as the men try to get rid of their cook Ugly (John Ewart, Razorback) who is a mean-spirited behemoth with a taste for essence of lemon and no skills in the kitchen, resulting in some fisticuffs with Foley, who is outmatched but given the edge because the cook is fall-down drunk. 

This Australian slice of life is quite wonderful in it's understated way, peering into the world of hard working, hard living, hard drinking men. It's not a movie that's dark or mean-spirited, it's just a movie about a group of average blokes earning a living. It does touch on the shearer's strike of '56, which in this theatrical cut is given short shrift, relegated to a bar room scrap between union shearers and scabs, and few lines of text at the end. Apparently the original cut was two and a half hours long and dealt more significantly with the strike and the outcome, but what we get here the edited down theatrical cut.

Audio/Video: Sunday Too Far Away (1975) arrives on region-B Blu-ray from Australian distributor Umbrella Entertainment as part of their Sunburnt Screens imprint. This is 4K restoration sourced from the original 35mm camera negative, and it carries a natural layer of course film grain throughout, exporting fine detail in the sun-crisped images of the sweaty, hard working sheep shearing men and the rugged landscape. There's a golden sun-drenched patina to the film, things are very earthen looking, not a lot of bright colors outside of some red shorts worn by a couple of characters. Audio comes by way of English DTS-MA 2.0 Mono and 5.1 Surround with optional English subtitles, both options are solid, and I preferred the directness of the original mono mix. 

Umbrella come through with a handful of cool extras beginning with the 27-min archival TV documentary The Making of Sunday and a 47-min Jack Thompson AM in conversation with David Wenham, post-screening of Sunday Too Far Away, recorded at GOMA, 2019. The disc is buttoned-up with the Original World Premiere Programme from 1975, which I thought was a cool inclusion, plus a 6-min Gallery of still and movie posters, and a 4-min Theatrical Trailer for the film.

The single-disc release arrives an an oversized clear keepcase with with a reversible sleeve of artwork. The riverside features the same artwork without the unsightly Australian ratings box, the disc itself features an excerpt of the same key art. This is number three in the Sunburnt Screens imprint and the spine and the front of the wrap are numbered as such. 

Special Features: 
- The Making of Sunday - archival TV documentary from 1975 (24 min) 
- Jack Thompson AM in conversation with David Wenham, post-screening of Sunday Too Far Away, recorded at GOMA, 2019 (47 min) 
- Original World Premiere Programme from 1975
- Stills Gallery (6 min)
- Theatrical Trailer (4 min) 

The Sunburnt Screens imprint continues to impress with both the semi-obscure (to this American fella anyway) selection and the strong technical merits of the restorations. Umbrella's continued celebration of Australian cinema with  both the premium Ozploitation Classics and Sunburnt Screens editions are top-notch and well-done, I do hope they keep both lines going for a very long time, they have yet to disappoint. 

Screenshots from the Blu-ray: