• The Last Wave (Umbrella Entertainment) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Umbrella Entertainment
    Released on: September 2nd, 2020.
    Director: Peter Weir
    Cast: Richard Chamberlain, Olivia Hamnett, David Gulpilil, Frederick Parslow, Vivean Gray
    Year: 1977
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Last Wave – Movie Review:

    Peter Weir’s 1997 picture, The Last Wave, is set in the director’s native Australia and begins when, after we see some Aboriginals produce some paintings, a schoolhouse in the Outback is absolutely pummeled by a freak hailstorm that seemingly comes out of nowhere. From here, we meet a lawyer from an unusually rainy Sydney named David Burton (Richard Chamberlain) who lives a comfortable life with his wife Annie (Olivia Hamnett) and their daughter. He is appointed by The Crown to defend a group of five Aborigine men - Chris (David Gulpilil), Gerry (Walter Amagula), Jacko (Morris Lalara), Larry (Roy Bara) and Lindsey (Cerick Lalara) - that have been accused of killing Billy Corman (Athol Compton), another Aboriginal man, outside a bar one night. David accepts the case, but soon learns firsthand that these men just aren’t going to talk to him.

    Regardless, David, who normally hands tax law but who does have a modicum of experience with Aboriginal people, does what he can to get the job done. However, he starts having strange dreams about one of the men, Chris, holding a stone covered in strange markings. The deeper he gets in this plot and the more he learns about the facts of the case, the more David starts to wonder if the men he’s to defend are on an entirely different plain of consciousness than he, which further complicates his work, all while the strange weather patterns that have been plaguing Australia continue to intensify.

    Beautifully shot by cinematographer Russell Boyd, The Last Wave, like many of Weir’s pictures, explores, in its own unorthodox way, the relationship shared between mankind and mother-nature, this time bringing Aboriginal issues into the fold as well. It’s all very effective, bringing the screenplay (which Weir co-wrote with Tony Morphett and Petru Popsecu) to vivid life with an ongoing string of powerful visuals that really draw you into the strange but compelling story as it unfolds. It’s a horror picture in many ways, but not at all in the traditional sense, focusing more the world around the central characters than on any sort of physical monster or psychotic killer of any kind. It’s also a genuinely strange picture, often dealing in abstract ideas and odd symbolism, concerned much more with atmosphere and a very controlled pace than with a traditionally tight narrative.

    The acting is excellent across the board. Richard Chamberlain is fantastic as the lead, creating a character that most of us will be able to at least partially relate to. He’s a pretty normal guy, a family man, working the day job to provide for his wife and kid and not at all prepared to be drawn into the events that take place in the film. As it becomes more apparent that he’s the fish out of water here, his performance intensifies appropriately, his work evolving along with the story itself. Olivia Hamnett is very good as his wife as are all of the Aboriginal actors, though many of them have little dialogue. David Gulpilil (credited simply as Gulpilil in the film and who has appeared in quite a few Australian classics ranging from Dark Age to Storm Boy to Nicolas Roeg’s amazing Walkabout) delivers some outstanding work in the film, completely believable in every regard even as what happens to his character in the film becomes more and more unusual.

    The Last Wave – Blu-ray Review:

    The Last Wave arrives on region B Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1.85.1 widescreen transfer taking up 28.9GBs of space on the 50GB disc. Presented “newly restored and remastered from a 4k scan” the picture quality is generally strong. There are a couple of darker scenes where the encoding struggles and we get some minor compression artifacts but otherwise there isn’t much room to complain. Detail is, overall, quite impressive and colors look to be reproduced quite accurately. Black levels are decent and there isn’t any noticeable noise reduction or edge enhancement here. The image is also very clean, showing nothing in the way of obvious print damage while still retaining a naturally grainy appearance.

    The only audio option on the disc is a 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 track in the film’s native English language. Audio quality is just fine. The track is well-balanced and clean, the score sounds good and there are no problems with any hiss, distortion or sibilance. Optional subtitles are provided in English only.

    There are quite a few interesting extra features on the disc, starting with an interview with Actor Richard Chamberlain who spends twenty-two-minutes speaking to Paul Harris of the Film Buffs Forecast. Conducted remotely in May of 2020, it covers how Chamberlain came to work with Peter Weir, what attracted him to the film in the first place, his interest in the 'side of life that isn't physical,' his appreciation of Aboriginal culture, his first impressions of working in the then burgeoning Australian film scene, having to be adaptable while working on a film, what it was like on set, what it was like working with the cast and crew, Weir's meticulous directing style, how Weir used Pink Floyd’s music to get the cast into the film’s otherworldly vibe and more.

    Director Of Photography Russell Boyd is interviewed in the twenty-five-minute featurette Lighting The Cave. In this piece we learn about what lead to his working on The Last Wave, when he was brought onboard the production, what it was about the project that captured his interest, what it was like working with Weir on this and on Picnic At Hanging Rock, the naturalistic style he was trying to use when shooting the movie, how he assembled his crew, the specifics of shooting some of the key scenes in the movie, challenges that some of the locations posed, how tricky it can be getting the right shot when you are essentially underwater and plenty of other details relating to his experiences on The Last Wave.

    The thirty-eight-minute Riding The Wave interviews Producer Jim McElroy. He talks about what drew his attention to The Last Wave, how he got his start in the entertainment industry and how he transitioned into film, the state of the Australian film industry when he helped make the picture, inspiration for the script, what it was about Weir's original concept that appealed to him, difficulties that were encountered during the production, his thoughts on the cast members that were used in the movie, how the Indigenous issues were handled, how the film was received when it debuted and the uniquely Australian nature of the finished product.

    David Stratton On The Last Wave is a four-minute piece shot at ACMI in Melbourne in 2010. Here he talks about directing a the Sydney Film Festival in the seventies just as Australian cinema was really coming into its own before then talking about writing his book titled The Last New Wave as a nod to Weir's film, befriending Weir, what it was like being on the set and how the film is very much a climate change movie.

    The disc also includes an edit from Bill Leimback's 1980 documentary David Gulpilil: Walkabout To Hollywood (Umbrella will be releasing the completely documentary in 2021) that runs just over seven-minutes. In this piece we learn how Gulpilil became a star after his appearance in Walkabout, how he tries through his work to help his Aboriginal people and draw attention to their culture, his family life, his spiritual side and how he tries to balance all of this with his acting career.

    We also get a four-minute episode of Trailers From Hell that covers The Last Wave with Brian Trenchard-Smith who talks about his credited work on the film as a promotional consultant for working on the trailer, how the film is a mood piece but the trailer is an impact piece, how and why he cut the trailer the way that he did and how he attempted, with this trailer, to bring the audience into Peter Weir's world.

    Rounding out the extras on the disc is a still gallery and a theatrical trailer for the feature. Menus and chapter selection are also provided.

    Reversible cover sleeve art is also provided, and though the main art is the same on both sides, one side has the Australian PG rating logo on it and the other side does not. A minor thing to be sure, but very welcome and worth pointing out.

    The Last Wave – The Final Word:

    The Last Wave is an excellent film, though like much of Weir’s work it is likely to alienate as many viewers as it is appeal to them. Personally, it worked really well for this viewer, and Umbrella has done a nice job bringing this underappreciated and genuinely weird work to Blu-ray with a solid presentation and an impressive selection of extra features. Highly recommended!

    Click on the images below for full sized The Last Wave Blu-ray screen caps!