The Last Wave [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - Australia - Umbrella Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (10th October 2020).
The Film

"The Last Wave" (1977)

David Burton (played by Richard Chamberlain) is a lawyer based in Sydney that has been having some unusual nightmares that he can't quite explain. Around the same time, he is given the task of defending a group of Aboriginal men on trial for supposedly killing another Aboriginal man outside of a pub, whose death was ruled as a homicide but with mysterious circumstances surrounding it. Talking to the men, they claim they didn't kill the man and are innocent of the crime. But when he meets one of the accused, Chris (played by David Gulpilil), things turn stranger for David, as Chris was a figure that appeared in his recent dreams. Coupled with unusual weather happening in the country, David feels something, but cannot explain the connections to all the events.

"The Last Wave" has the usual elements of horror and suspense - a mysterious death, unexplained dreams, paranoia, tribal mysticism. Yet is does not particularly fall into these genres and is a unique film, taking inspiration from various genres and sources. Filmmaker Peter Weir's previous film "Picnic at Hanging Rock" (1975) was a huge critical hit worldwide as an adaptation of the 1967 mystery novel of the same name. The mysterious and dreamlike tone of the film is carried over to "The Last Wave" but the two films couldn't be any more different. "The Last Wave" is based in modern Australia rather than a period piece. The screenplay was an original written by Weir, Tony Morphett, and Petru Popescu. The look is much darker visually as well.

The central focus in "The Last Wave" deals with the personal struggles and awakening of the character of David. He's a lawyer with a fairly successful life socially and domestically, having a job as a lawyer and having a loving wife Annie (played by Olivia Hamnett) and two children, and also a good relationship with his father (played by Frederick Parslow). The nightmarish dreams he has been having lately is not something completely new, as his father would tell him, but ones that would occur ever since childhood, including a foreshadowing of David's mother's death and thoughts of him being kidnapped. The images he sees with the overtaking of water ravaging the city, people drowning, Chris standing in his home with a mysterious emblem, and others are given without explanation as dreams are, but the images are drawing closer and closer to reality for him. How David acquired the power to possibly foresee the future is unexplained, though the spiritual elder Aboriginal Charlie (played by Nandjiwarra Amagula) senses something within, and possibly something with David's ancestry. Although his job is just to defend the five men accused of killing a person, the case goes much deeper than that for David, as he confronts his past and present to find the meanings of the future. Will everyone die in a massive tidal wave? How did the Aboriginal man die? What are the secrets that lie beneath the city? "The Last Wave" has a large amount of questions and mysteries that unfold, yet they are never fully solved and left more to the interpretation of viewers. From Aboriginal legend to White guilt, climate change and the disruption of nature - there are elements of all weaved throughout the narrative.

Water is something very often seen throughout the film. The sudden rainfall in the opening scene, the overflowed bathtub in the Burton home, the flooded city with the car submerged in water, etc. Even when Chris and Charlie are invited into David's home and David offers an alcoholic beverage, they request just water. The most essential element for life is also one that causes extreme incidents and even death. The sudden rain in the opening sequence causes a panic and even glass windows breaking and injuring the school children, and the heavy rainfall in the city causes accidents and traffic jams, and most devastatingly, the murdered Billy died from drowning. In the twenty-first century there have been a record number of hurricanes, typhoons, and cyclones worldwide, tsunamis in the Indian Ocean and in Japan that caused an incredible amount of deaths and damage. Though "The Last Wave" might be interpreting myths and legends, there is truth that man and nature's balance has been getting worse over the years. The film doesn't preach how these impending disasters are the fault of man, and instead shows a bridge between cultures and times which cannot be fully explained.

With the success of "Picnic at Hanging Rock", Australian cinema was given a boost and financing from not only Australia but from overseas. "The Last Wave" received financing from the Australian Film Commission and the South Australian Film Corporation, plus from Janus Films and United Artists. Hollywood actor Richard Chamberlain was brought as the lead for international appeal, and David Gulpilil, the most recognizable Aboriginal actor from "Walkabout" prominently appears in a crucial supporting role. Blending a modern set drama with supernatural elements of Aboriginal mysticism, it was certainly something very Australian in nature while appealing to international audiences. The film premiered at the Paris Film Festival and at the Tehran Film Festival on November 5th, 1977, where it won the Golden Ibex prize at the latter. It was given a general Australian release in December. At the 1978 AFI awards, it won two out of seven nominations, for sound and cinematograpy. In addition, Chamberlain won Best Actor at the Sitges International Film Festival and Weir received the Special Jury Award at the Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival. Though critically it was a hit, it would not repeat the massive success of "Picnic at Hanging Rock", and it would take a year later until an American release, in December 1979. Though United Artists partially financed the film and released it theatrically in Australia and the UK, it backed out at the last minute in America, which then the distributor changed to the smaller World Northal, changing the title to "Black Rain" for some odd reason. Over the years, "The Last Wave" has only gained in status with its unique tone and performances, leading Weir as one of Australia's great auteur directors. The film may not have easy answers, but continues to be mesmerizing and thought provoking all these decades later.

Note this is a region ALL Blu-ray

Video

Umbrella Entertainment presents the film in the theatrical 1.85:1 aspect ratio in 1080p AVC MPEG-4. A 4K restoration was undertaken by Umbrella and this Blu-ray is the first to utilize the new master. From the opening colorful scenes in the rural outback showcase a healthy look, with the bright blue skies, the browns of the sand, and the colorful wardrobe of the school children. In darker scenes such as in the caves and at night, there is great detail in the darker portions as well. Film scratches, debris, and other anomalies have been removed and film grain is kept intact. There are some inconsistencies here and there with flickering, and some minimal damage in certain portions. Some sequences have colors looking slightly washed out in comparison to others. But overall it is a very good looking transfer for the film.

The film is uncut with a runtime of 105:07.

Audio

English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono
The original mono track is presented in a lossless format. The supernatural and eerie score by Charles Wain (AKA Groove Myers) great, being well balanced with the dialogue and effects throughout. Dialogue is always clear and easy to understand, and there are no hisses, pops, or other errors with the track.

There are optional English HoH subtitles for the film in a white font. Timing of the subtitles are fine when the speaker speaks, but the subtitles sometimes disappear before the speaker has full spoken which might be slightly annoying for people that rely on captions. There are no spelling or grammar errors.

Extras

"Riding the Wave: Producer Jim McElroy on The Last Wave" interview (38:16)
In this new interview, producer Jim McElroy discusses the Australian filmmaking rise in the early 1970s, producing Weir's "The Cars That Ate Paris" and "Picnic at Hanging Rock", alongside detailed information on "The Last Wave". From Weir's writing, the music and effects work, the casting, and the release of the film are all discussed here.
in 720p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

"Lighting the Cave: Director of Photography Russell Boyd on The Last Wave" interview (24:39)
In this new interview, Russel Boyd looks back at the second film he shot for Weir after "Picnic at Hanging Rock", including the look of the film, memories of the stars, details on certain sequences and working with technical challenges with water.
in 720p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

"Richard Chamberlain: In Conversation with Paul Harris" interview (22:11)
In this new interview from May 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, Chamberlain is interviewed by film critic Paul Harris remotely via Internet video chat. Chamberlain looks back fondly on the film, working in Australia for the first time with a young crew and great admiration for his co-stars. He also discusses his role, about the underlying tone of the film, how Weir was nearly the director for "The Thorn Birds", and more.
in 720p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

"David Gulpilil: Walkabout to Hollywood" 1980 documentary excerpt (7:05)
An excerpt of a 1980 documentary that focuses on the celebrated actor who made his debut about a decade prior and became instantly one of the most recognizable Australian actors around the world. The excerpt has scenes of his life as a tribal Aboriginal, with his words narrating about himself. The full documentary will be re-released by Umbrella Entertainment in 2021. The quality seen here seems to be coming from a film source and looks rather good.
in 720p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

"David Stratton on The Last Wave" 2010 interview (3:39)
Filmed at the ACMI in Melbourne in 2010, film critic David Stratton recalls "The Last Wave", including being invited to the set, and having a memorable encounter at the dinner scene in the film.
in 720p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Gallery (3:10)
An automated slideshow with poster art, documents, the novel, press kit,
in 720p AVC MPEG-4

Trailer with Brian Trenchard-Smith commentary from "Trailers from Hell" (3:39)
Filmmaker Brian Trenchard-Smith, who cut the original Australian trailer gives a brief introduction and an excellent commentary about the editing not to give too much away but also give just enough to entice. In addition he talks about the film itself and its importance in cultural clashes and the relevance it had. This particular trailer, without commentary is not available on the disc, but has been embedded below, courtesy of Umbrella Entertainment.
in 720p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Theatrical Trailer (2:51)
The original United Artists trailer for America which sells it through a supernatural and suspense angle, interestingly doesn’t have the title or the cast and staff attached and is quite different from the above Australian trailer, which cannot be seen on its own on this disc.
in 720p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.80:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles




Prior to this Umbrella Entertainment Blu-ray, the film was previously released on Blu-ray in Germany by Koch Media, which only had a gallery and trailer as extras. It also had a 5.1 remix in addition to the original mono, though the transfer is an older one rather than this new 4K remaster. Weir has never recorded a commentary track for any film and he is conspicuously missing from the interviews. He did record an interview for the US Criterion DVD in 2001, but that has not been ported over here.

Packaging

Packaged in a clear Blu-ray case, this is under Umbrella's new imprint "Sunburnt Screens", with "The Last Wave" being #01.
The inner artwork has the same newly created artwork minus the PG rating logo on one side, and on the other side is the original theatrical poster artwork.
The packaging states "region B" only, but is in fact region ALL.

Overall

"The Last Wave" is undoubtedly one of the most important and unique Australian films during the New Wave era, crossing suburban drama with tribal mysticism. Umbrella Entertainment's Blu-ray has a great amount of newly created extras with a great presentation of the film making this highly recommended.

The Film: A Video: B+ Audio: B+ Extras: B+ Overall: B+

 


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