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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Family > Great Depression > Documentary > Music > FIlmmaking > Exploitation > Martial Arts > Blaxp > Caddie (1976)/Leonard Cohen – Bird On A Wire (1974)/Machete Maidens Unleashed! (2010 w/The Muthers)/Ship To Shore – The Complete Series (1993/Umbrella Region Zero/Free DVDs)

Caddie (1976)/Leonard Cohen – Bird On A Wire (1974)/Machete Maidens Unleashed! (2010 w/The Muthers)/Ship To Shore – The Complete Series (1993/Umbrella Region Zero/Free DVDs)


Picture: C+/C/C+/C     Sound: C+ (Caddie: C)     Extras: B-/D/B/D     Main Programs: B-/B-/B/C+



PLEASE NOTE: These DVDs can only be operated on machines capable of playing back DVDs that can handle Region Zero/0/Free PAL format software and can be ordered from our friends at Umbrella Entertainment at the website address provided at the end of the review.



And now for more interesting releases from the great Australian home video company Umbrella, including more gems you may not have heard of…


Now 35 years old and counting, Donald Crombie’s Caddie (1976) is a famous and one the more successful melodramas to come out of the country as it experienced two cycles at the same time in its cinema: Oz-Ploitation and period costume dramas, of which this one takes place starting in 1925.  Helen Morse (Agatha, Picnic At Hanging Rock) is the title character, a woman who leaves her husband to find a better life and cannot take his abuse anymore, so she goes and brings her very young son and daughter with her.


From there, we follow her plight for what turns out to be the next 35 years and how she handles there troubles, including The Great Depression and how it hits Down Under.  One of the better such dramas of its cycle, Crombie (The Killing Of Angle Street, The Irishman) makes this very believable, adding social relevance most stuff similar productions would skip and the period look and feel is impressive, especially when you find out how little money they had.  There is also some great supporting talent including Jack Thompson, Jacki Weaver, Takis Emmanuel, Melissa Jaffer, June Salter, Ron Blanchard, Drew Forsythe, Lucky Grills and other cast than fits naturally into the era.


Yes the melodrama can become too much, yet it tends to be more realistic and offer less phony appeal to pity than so many similar films, no matter when they are set, so I can say the film holds up well, especially in this longer uncensored I had not seen before.


The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image has some good color and is stylized for the period, so I have to attribute some of the DVD’s softness to that look, which is meant to be somewhat nostalgic and similar to other films in the cycle.  Director of Photography Peter James pulls off some impressive work considering this was made 50 years after the fact.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono unfortunately has some slight distortion throughout and that makes some dialogue hard to hear, but whether that is from the age of the material or it being too cleaned up, I could not tell.


Extras include the original theatrical trailer, an On Location: Making Of piece that adds new narration to footage shot by the crew as they made the film that is terrific and never long enough and a feature length audio commentary track by Crombie and Producer Anthony Buckley.



Tony Palmer’s Bird On A Wire (1974) is not the original version of the awful Mel Gibson/Goldie Hawn comedy, but a documentary film about the singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen, who we covered once before in this impressive Under Review installment that covers his career from birth to 1977:





Bird has been issued in the U.S. by the same company, while Umbrella has picked it up in Australia and follows Cohen through a 1972 European tour with its ups and downs.  This includes several performances with his band (Jennifer Warnes was one of his female back-up singers) and this it he longer 106 minutes version in which Palmer offers as much insight as he can by just filming every moment he can the best way he can and the results are as much a portrait of the man as the period, which is a plus for the film.


I like Cohen, but am not a huge fan, yet we can see why he is so appealing to people who like music, especially music about something and to agree with my fellow writer, it is amazing he has been so hugely successful without any hits or big commercial successes.  Now you have two DVDs to look at to introduce yourself to him that treat the man and his work well. 


The anamorphically enhanced 1.66 X 1 image was shot on film (35mm or 16mm) by Director of Photography Les Young (The Swordsman, Sweet William, Terror, What’s Up Nurse?) and the work is very impressive, up there with the better Rockumentaries of the period which this film would qualify because it has just enough of an edge and fits in thanks to Palmer.  Color and definition are lacking a bit and maybe this should have been 1.33 X 1 if the original source was, but being a PAL DVD, we know the problems are not NTSC related.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono has some good sound for its age, likely recorded on magnetic tape, but not too compressed.  There are no extras.



You can read about more of Palmer’s films at these links:


All My Loving (on The Beatles)



Fairport Convention & Matthew’s Southern Comfort



Space Movie




A new documentary by Not Quite Hollywood (reviewed elsewhere on this site) Director Mark Hartley, Machete Maidens Unleashed! (2010) tells the great story about how the Philippines suddenly became a paradise to low-budget filmmakers staring in the 1960s when producers found they could make the most violent and sex-filled action, exploitation and genre films there for next to nothing.  The result was a filmmaking boom that actually reached its peak in the one atypical production that is an outright classic: Francis Coppola’s Apocalypse Now in 1979.


Before and after, it was sexploitation, torture, cardboard monsters, Blaxploitation, martial arts and the inevitable descent into comedy.  Roger Corman was one of the big independent producers taking full advantage and it is amazing how many hits were made there in its heyday.  This is the uncut, unedited version of the documentary and it is definitely worth your time.


The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image offers various aspect ratios to accommodate all the different types of film footage (including many trailers) throughout and the quality is usually good, though the newer HD-shot interviews can be some of the softest footage.  The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is only a little better than the Dolby 2.0 Stereo as this is a combination of simple stereo interviews and mostly monophonic sound film clips, but the mix is nice and clean with some newer music sounding the best by default.


Extras include a feature length audio commentary track by Harley and the crew, 56 minutes of more stories from the interviewees with little overlap, 64 minutes of trailers to the films discussed, a trailer for this documentary, Oath of Green Blood short, Up From The Depths monster test reel footage, several still galleries, two Fantastic Fest pieces involving these releases and a bonus DVD with a one of the films discussed: Cirio H. Santiago’s The Muthers (1976), with the great Jeannie Bell, Rosanne Katon, Trina Parks and Jayne Kennedy that you have to see to believe.  Glad they included it.



Finally we have Ship To Shore – The Complete Series (1993), a children’s adventure show that lasted only 27 half-hours but was enough to become a favorite to some as a gang of pro-environmental children foil the adults around them in all kinds of ways in a comedy show that has some energy to it and is child-friendly enough to recommend.  We have seen this before, but there is more of a joy here than in the many U.S. counterpart shows (when they even surfaced) since the 1980s, so you would have to compare this to shows by Filmation and Hanna Barbera in the 1970s to understand what is good here.


Set up on a nearby island, the show reminds me of the Famous Five series of theatrical and TV productions we recently covered and may be inspired by them in part.  The unknowns (to those outside of Australia and not of that period) have chemistry and had this show been imported to the U.S., I think it could have been a decent hit had it been handled correctly.  If you are looking for a show with the attitude of a film like say, The Goonies, this is one to try out.


The 1.33 X 1 image has aliasing errors throughout and is another show that was shot on film (35mm in this case), but finished in post-production (credits and the video masters to the TV stations) on analog videotape.  Even doing this in the professional version of the PAL format causes this and the show should be remastered for High Definition (I hope they did not throw out the film prints!) for Blu-ray down the line, but it is a nicely shot series.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo is simple, but fares as well as any of the audio among these releases.  There are no extras.



As noted above, you can order these PAL DVD imports exclusively from Umbrella at:





-   Nicholas Sheffo


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