Playing Beatie Bow [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - Australia - Umbrella Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (15th March 2022).
The Film

"Playing Beatie Bow" (1986)

Sixteen year old Abigail (played by Imogen Annesley) sees a mysterious young girl without shoes in the modern streets of Sydney and decides to follow her to try and help her. After interacting with the young girl named Beatie Bow (played by Mouche Phillips), Abigail is mysteriously transported back more than a hundred years back to 1873, the time when Beatie is from. The Bow family believe that Abigail is the promised "Stranger" destined to bring "The Gift" for future generations, but she is clueless as to what they are talking about. Will she find her way home back to 1986? Who is this mysterious stranger and what is she supposed to bring?

Writer Ruth Park has a long list of credits with novels as well as radio plays and magazine articles, though she was best known for her children's books. "The Hole in the Hill" (1961), "Callie's Castle" (1974), "Come Danger, Come Darkness" (1978) are just a few of her award winning works, with a writing career spanning from 1948 to 1995. Interestingly, of the numerous works she has written, only one has found its way to being adapted as a feature film, and that was the multiple award winning "Playing Beatie Bow" from 1980. A story dealing with a teenage girl dealing with numerous issues in her home life, as well as mysteriously being transported a hundred years to the past, it was a work that bordered on innocence and maturity while also incorporating fantasy and history for an easy yet thought-provoking read that has been featured in numerous English curriculums in Australia and other countries.

Director Donald Crombie's adaptation of the story brought forth the images of the Sydney of the modern era against the Victorian Era with great use of visual cues. Cinematographer Geoffrey Simpson made sure to capture the different visual traits, with the glossy and bright colors of 1986 Sydney, with the world of 1873 as muddy brown and saturated with darker tones. The opening sequence showing teens at a rollerrink and living in a modern apartment contrasts greatly against candle lit homes without modern plumbing in the later time slip. As for the mysterious time slip itself, the only special effect that is used is a very simple one with a crossfade from the modern street slowing turning into a cobblestone road and the buildings changing. There are no elaborate visual effects or cuts used, keeping things fairly simple. Like the main character of Abigail, the audience is instantly transported back without reason or an explanation, as they are along for the journey together.

The character of Abigail is played well by Imogen Annesley, a sixteen year old who is living with her single mother after her father left them for another woman some time back. She strongly feels hatred against her father, and when her mother admits seeing him a few times recently with thoughts of getting back together, Abigail strongly suggests to her that the father shouldn't get a second chance. She certainly has pain from the family breaking up once, and is not ready to look for forgiveness. In addition, she has a distaste for men in general, pushing away the local boys her age who have any interest in her. Annesley doesn't go overboard with emotions, but instead keeps them on a fairly grounded level as a teenager that is going through emotional trauma while also finding her voice. It also helped that Annesley was the same age as the character of Abigail in real life. The story is not only her journey from one time period and finding her way home, but also about finding herself and coming to terms with what the future lies ahead. The transformation of Abigail while in 1873 is what the audience follows, as well as how she affects the people in the past. Beatie, who imagines herself to follow in her mother's footsteps and live a standard life as a housewife and mother eventually, is seeded with the notion that women can receive an education and could continue working in education as well. Beatie's brother Gibbie (played by Damian Janko) is weak and is kept in quarantine, which he is awaiting his own passing sometime as he reads the Bible for comfort. But Abigail sees nothing wrong with him physically, and pushes him to live life rather than waste it stuck in a closed-off bedroom. Judah (played by Peter Phelps) is the oldest brother, who is set on marrying Dovey (played by Nikki Coghill) catches Abigail's eyes in a way she had never felt. It is through him that she experiences love for the opposite sex for the first time, though she knows that it is something she cannot have, as he is already taken and in love with someone else, and that she cannot have a relationship if she wants to return to her original time. But it is with her begining to understand what love and desire is, what it means to control oneself, and also to respect others in the process that shapes her into quite a different person towards the latter portion. The influence she has on others and the influence that others have on her are the core of the story rather than the time traveling aspect, though there are hijinks and happenings along the way. The brothel scene, the Chinese laundry basket, the house fire, there is a lot to enjoy in the runtime.

But the weakness in the film adaptation may be the overall simplicity of the plot while the time travel aspect is basically not explained. But not every time travel film needs a scientist and a time machine, and like many stories in the timeloop genre, there doesn't need to be a rational explanation, but keeping in part with the childlike innocence of "what if?" here. As the original story was made for children and so was the film, the predictable nature and the few risks taken are not exactly to surprise anyone. Though there are some minor differences between the original story and the film adaptation. The novel had the father move to Norway, but this is not mentioned at all in the film. Abigail's given name is Lynette in the book, but changes her name to "Abigail" to distance herself from her father, while the name "Lynette" is never mentioned in the film version. But overall the theme, the Sydney setting, and the characters were basically kept intact faithfully.

The South Australian Film Corporation's production opened theatrically in both Australian and the United States on August 7th 1986. With a budget of $4 million, the film was unfortunately not a box office hit, grossing only $97,000 in Australia theatrically. In the United Kingdom, the film was released with the odd alternate tile of "Time Games", making no connection to the original book. In Japan it was also retitled, as "Love Time Fantasy". The film has been shown in classrooms over the years alongside reading curriculums, but it never quite achieved any sort of "cult" status and more of memories. Umbrella Entertainment previously issued the film on DVD in 2017 with a dated 4:3 transfer and without extras, but thankfully they've been able to give the film a much needed upgrade to HD with this newly remastered widescreen Blu-ray edition.

Note this is a region ALL Blu-ray


Umbrella Entertainment presents the film in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio in 1080p AVC MPEG-4. The restoration looks absolutely great here, wit hthe distinct cool and bright color palate of the 1986 sequences looking crisp and clean, while the darker tones of browns and blacks are much more pronounced in the 1873 sequences. The image has been cleaned, with no major damage marks to be found and colors being well balanced throughout. A solid transfer from Umbrella Entertainment here.

The film's runtime is 91:29.


English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo
The original stereo track is presented lossless. The music and effects are well positioned in the left and right channels for depth and sound very good throughout with the various cues. Dialogue, music and effects are well balanced throughout, with no particular issues such as dropout or distortion, leaving a very clean audio track. Although the dialogue track sometimes feels a bit off balance, as when enabling Pro-Logic the dialogue doesn't always entirely fold towards the center. Considering the older DVD release only had a mono track, this is great that the theatrical stereo track was restored for this Blu-ray release, though it could have been a bit better balanced.

There are optional English HoH subtitles for the film in a white font. They are well timed and easy to read. Although there seems to be one minor issue with the subtitles, in which the subtitle track has an "F" bomb coming from Beatie Bow in one scene although she says something else entirely. There is the one instance of Abigail saying the "S" word once and is properly subtitled like the rest of the film.


Interview with actor Peter Phelps (Judah) (13:04)
Phelps recalls the production and his role in this new and exclusive interview. Discussed are getting the role, practicing the Scottish dialect with a dialect coach, working with the cast and crew, the theme of the story, recollections of the set and more. The questions are in an intertitle form, though in one instance Imogen Annesley's name is mistakenly spelled "Imogren" in one.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles

Interview with cinematographer Geoffrey Simpson (24:08)
Simpson talks about his early career as well as the film's production in this new and exclusive interview. Talked about are his work on documentaries in the early days, about the original novel, working with Crombie, the production process, the look of the film in the two time periods, memorable scenes, and more.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles

Restored Theatrical Trailer (2:08)
The original theatrical trailer looks just as good as the main feature in a restored form, although the audio is not as good, sounding very flat and filtered.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.85:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles

The interviews are very nice to have, though the extras do feel a bit light as there could have been more topics to discuss as well as other figures to be interviewed. Mouche Phillips, Nikki Coghill are still active as actresses and it would have been nice to hear thier voices. Imogen Annesley and Donald Crombie have been out of the spotlight for some years so they may have been harder to track down. As for topics, the adaptation of the book, information on Ruth Park and the novel itself and the 2021 stage adaptation would have been interesting as well, but they are not to be found here.

A clip of the unrestored version of the film, courtesy of Umbrella Entertainment.


This is #18 in Umbrella's "Sunburnt Screens" line of Blu-ray releases. The inlay is reversible, with the opposite side having identical coverart except for the "PG" rating logo being removed, and for the back cover being replaced with the original theatrical poster art.

The packaging mistakenly states the runtime as 88 minutes.


"Playing Beatie Bow" is a fairly faithful adaptation of the time travel children's book, but it's more on the predictable side. A good theme, good performances, but overall a fair work that still works after all these years, the Umbrella Entertainment Blu-ray gives the film a good HD upgrade with a pair of new exclusive interviews. Recommended.

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


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