• Frog Dreaming (Umbrella Entertainment) Blu-ray Review

    The Frog Dreaming (Umbrella Entertainment) Blu-ray Review
    Released by: Umbrella Entertainment
    Released on: December 5th, 2018.
    Director: Brian Trenchard-Smith
    Cast: Henry Thomas, Tony Barry, Rachel Friend
    Year: 1986
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    Frog Dreaming – Movie Reviews:

    This 1986 picture from storied Australian filmmaker Brian Trenchard-Smith details the exploits of a 14-year-old boy named Cody (Henry Thomas). When his parents were killed in an accident, he was sent off to live with his father’s best friend, Gaza (Tony Barry), at his home in an Australian outback town. Here, Cody learns of an Aboriginal myth dubbed Donkegin, at which point he becomes reasonably convinced that there is a monster living in the water beside a dam not too far from the home.

    Cody befriends a girl named Wendy (Rachel Friend) and talks her into helping him sort all of this out. Together, with Wendy’s younger sister Jane (Tasmin West), they start exploring the area known as Devil’s Knob Park. Here, in a pond, they find the body of a missing fishman named Neville (Peter Cummins), after which, Wendy’s parents decide she shouldn’t be hanging around with Cody anymore. As they put pressure on Gaza to keep Cody in line, Cody meets an Aboriginal named Charlie Pride (Dempsey Knight) who helps him learn the truth about the Donkegin myth and what really lies in the bottom of that pond.

    Alternately known outside of its native Australia as The Quest and The Go-Kids, Frog Dreaming is a lot of fun in the way that the best kids’ movies of the eighties tended to be. There’s an adventurous spirit behind all of this, and it’s reasonably infectious even when being viewed as a middle-aged adult. Cody is a likeable kid, he’s really enthusiastic about trying to solve this weird mystery he’s gotten wrapped up in and as the story plays out, we want to see how he’s going to pull it off (there’s never really the matter of ‘if’ as, again, this is a kid’s movie). At the same time, there’s a palpable level of excitement to much of the proceedings, keeping the more adventurous aspect of the picture front and center for most of the running time.

    Henry Thomas, best known for playing Elliott in E.T. The Extra Terrestrial, makes for a fine lead here. He’s well cast and, like his character, likeable. He has charisma and he handles the material well. He has decent chemistry with Rachel Friend and Tasmin West, both of whom are also fine in their respective parts. Tony Barry is also fine as Cody’s guardian. No issues with the performances here, the cast members are all well-suited to their respective parts.

    Trenchard-Smith and company do a nice job with the visuals here as well, particularly in the last half hour or so of the film where things get decidedly weirder and Cody embarks on a self-devised Scuba mission. This lends the film some creative visuals and effects work and results in a few memorably odd and enjoyably quirky set pieces.

    Frog Dreaming – Blu-ray Review:

    Umbrella Entertainment brings Frog Dreaming to region free Blu-ray using an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.85.1 widescreen on a 50GB disc. Taken from a new 4k restoration, the movie looks very good here. There’s really solid depth and texture throughout and plenty of fine detail to take in during both the nicely lit outdoor daylight scenes and some of the darker interiors as well. Skin tones look good, colors look excellent and black levels as strong. The transfer is film-like throughout, meaning we get the expected amount of film grain, but the picture is clean, there’s not much in the way of print damage at all outside of the odd white speck here and there. No complaints – this is a very nice image.

    The English language DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo track on the disc is fine. Optional subtitles are provided in English only. Quality and clarity are both good here. Dialogue is easy to understand and it comes through quite clearly. There are no problems with any hiss or distortion and the levels are balanced well.

    An audio Commentary with director Brian Trenchard-Smith, editor Brian Kavanagh, costume designer Aphrodite Kondos and Not Quite Hollywood director Mark Hartley kicks off the supplemental package nicely. With this many participants on the track it would stand to reason that the talk is a busy one, and it is, but it never delves into chaos, thankfully. Trenchard-Smith leads the charge, talking about how he came on board to direct, some of the strange, quirky setups that are featured in the film and some unusual influences that worked their way into the picture. Hartley gets him engaged in a discussion about the film’s troubled distribution history while Kavanagh chimes in about his work cutting the picture. Kondos offers insight into the costumes and the look of certain characters. There’s also lots of talk here about the other cast members, the locations and lots more. These guys cover a lot of ground and clearly have a lot of fun doing it.

    Up next are thirty-two-minutes’ worth of extended Interviews from Not Quite Hollywood, including insight from Everette De Roche about writing and producing the film, bringing Trenchard-Smith on after the initial director didn’t work out and more. Henry Thomas also shows up here and offers some insight into what it was like working as a child actor on the set, dealing with some of the props, getting injured on set and more. Trenchard-Smith also shows up and lends his memories to the piece, talking about coming on board once the movie had already begun production and what it was like having to direct a bunch of kids.

    Umbrella also provides a twenty-eight-minute featurette called The Depths Of A Legend wherein Trenchard-Smith and Thomas get together at Thomas’ home to discuss their memories of making the film. Shot in 2018, this recent piece covers some of the same ground as the earlier featurettes but in it Thomas does amusingly let out that he had a pretty serious crush on co-star Rachel Friend while they were making the film together. The Go Kids: Looking Back On Frog Dreaming spends seventeen-minutes interviewing actresses Rachel Friend and Tamsin West. They share some amusing stories from the shoot as they talk about auditioning for their respective roles, how impressive it was for them to be working with the star from E.T., what it was like on set and more.

    The Dream Quest: Shooting Locations Revisited is a six-minute piece that takes us back to the locations that were used for the shoot and shows us what they look like now, as opposed to what they looked like back in the eighties.

    Rounding out the extras are a theatrical trailer for the feature, impressive galleries of behind the scenes images, home video release artwork and script pages. Menus and chapter selection are also included on the disc and if you dig around on the menu screens you might just find a couple of Easter Eggs. Umbrella has also provided some reversible cover art, with the Frog Dreaming imagery on one side and the alternate The Quest image on the reverse.

    Frog Dreaming – The Final Word:

    Frog Dreaming will provide a serious nostalgia blast for anyone that grew up in the eighties. Outside of that demographic? Well, it’s still a pretty fun watch, one that should appeal to kids of all ages even if it is very much an ‘eighties film.’ A picture that puts entertainment value front and center, it looks and sounds very good indeed on Umbrella’s Blu-ray. The impressive array of extra features are the icing on the cake. Lots of fun to be had with this one!

    Click on the images below for full sized Frog Dreaming Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. VinceP's Avatar
      VinceP -
      Bring on Cloak & Dagger.