Spotswood [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - Australia - Umbrella Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (3rd January 2023).
The Film

"Spotswood" (1992)

Errol Wallace (played by Anthony Hopkins works for a consulting agency and is hired to assess the Ball moccasin company. An old fashioned company led by Mr. Ball (played by Alwyn Kurts) with the whole community of workers and friends employed, Wallace finds quite a lot to work out with the local and non-progressive factory line, as he sees many places for improvement with redundancy and cost-cutting measures. Meanwhile, Mr. Ball's young daughter Cheryl (played by Rebecca Rigg) catches the eye of young factory worker Carey (played by Ben Mendelsohn), though he has stiff competition from bullying coworker Kim (played by Russell Crowe) to deal with.

Taking place in the 1960s in Spotswood, a suburb area of Melbourne, the film "Spotswood" is not a comedy playing for major laughs, nor is it a drama playing for major emotional grips. Instead it is a light comedy-drama that is able to give smiles to audiences as well as tug at the heart a bit, and while that may seem like any old story, it's one that sticks quite well due to the different characters and the memorable quaint scenes. Mr. Wallace is the main focus, as he is basically the eyes of the audience, looking into the factory that is unlike anything he has seen before. Workers not particular about time keeping, a boss that is not focused on profit making, and a number of workers that seem to be there for the sake of it rather than being productive. If some are singing and dancing, others are focused on paricipating in slot car racing competitions, and there are pnes that are doing some work, as the factory is able to produce moccasin shoes. Being a man of math, logic and business skills, Wallace's looks of confusion on how such an environment could function is puzzling, and there are a number of great looks that Hopkins gives as he wanders around the factory and gathering the numbers. But there is drama to be seen as well, as it is shown when one of his reports for assessment of a different company, Durmack's is leaked, which called for layoffs and leads to angered protests and attacks on his home and family from the affected angry workers. While he knows the consequences of the actions, he becomes conflicted when his assessment of Mr. Ball's factory is also about seeing the individual workers and their lives rather than just the numbers and figures on paper. Hopkins gives an excellent performance as the outsider that changes throughout the story, with his friendships changing and his attitude on work in general.

He may be the lead, but the whole other story that is equally important is of the young workers at the factory and their follies. Carey is a young man who doesn't seem to fit in the factory life but he is there alongside his father Robert (played by Bruno Lawrence) to do the work he has to do. He is not a confident or strong man, as even his little brother Marvin (played by Jacob Kino) can sometimes be the smarter and cunning one, even if he is about a decade younger. Carey works alongside his neighbor Wendy (played by Toni Colette), and even though she is sending signals towards him on their bike rides to and from work or at the factory, he is completely oblivious to her, seeing Wendy as just the friend next door for all his life. Instead, he is blinded by the newly employed Cheryl (who is strangely much too young to be Mr. Ball's daugher - maybe granddaughter would have been believable). It's fun to see Mendelsohn in this early role as a clumsy and awkward young man who wants to become a man himself but is missing a few things, as well as all the troubles he goes through in the wrong ways. It's also great to see Colette in her film debut as a teenager with a number of fun lines and emotional scenes as well. Crow's performance as the sly and snarky Kim is also one to love and hate, as Carey hates him completely, but wishes he had just a bit of that dapper and strong attitude that gets him ahead in personal and professional conquests.

The script, written by Max Dunn and Andrew Knight really puts focus on characterss and interactions, rather than being just a tired old period piece or relying on gags and humor to move the story along. There are a number of great scenes with laughs and chuckles, but the dialogue as well as the performaces from each actor give the town and factory the unique charm. But other aspects of the production should not be overlooked either. The cinematography by Ellery Ryan to bring the colorful look of the town and the period out, the production design by Chris Kennedy dressing the abandoned lot as a working moccasin factory with age and life, as well as director Mark Joffe bringing all the elements together in the collaborative effort, are all wonderfully appreciated. One of the big highlights of the film comes from slot car racing. Yes, it may not seem like something all that exciting to see little cars circling a track, but the climactic scene of the factory workers coming together and racing against other teams in the competition is quite exhilirating. Not just the performances from the actors but from the set design, the editing, and the cinematography focusing on the racing and the teamwork that is as powerful as any sports related dramatic sequence could be.

"Spotswood" might play things safe, yet everything works very well that there is little to fault with its execution. Like many of the Ealing Studios comedy films that looked at the working class society with a fun mirror, "Spotswood" is like an Australian equivalent, and there is a lot to love about it, Filmed in 1990 in Melbourne, the rough cut of the film was screened at the American film market in early 1991 where it was bought by Miramax for American distribution. This would be the first Australian production to be distributed by Miramax. But there was also a request from Miramax for changes, as they requested additional content, and that leads to spoilers:

Miramax had an issue that the character of Wallace had too sudden of a change of heart to save the moccasin factory, so they requested a sequence of Wallace meeting Ball privately to give business advice on how to save the company. In addition, they requested a scene at the end of the film showing that the one person that would lose a job was Kim, as he would be working as a business consultant alongside Wallace. Miramax gave the production some extra money, and the actors had to come back months later for the sequences, including Hopkins who returned to Australia for the scenes.

The deal with Miramax came alongside Hopkins having an international breakthrough in "The Silence of the Lambs", which opened in January 1991. The film's first screening was at the BFI London Film Festival on November 20th, 1991, followed by a general Australian theatrical release from January 23rd, 1992. While it had attention having Oscar nominee (and in a few months the winner) Anthony Hopkins in the lead, as well as the homegrown humor, the film didn't quite live up to expectations where it grossed $1.5 million, while having a budget of more thant $3 million. As for Miramax's distribution in America, this came with a number of other changes. The title was changed to "The Efficiency Expert" which was understandable, as the town's name would not have communicated anything specific with the plot. In addition, they decided to trim more than six minutes of footage from the Australian version and a few other changes being made. Released on November 6th, 1992, the film barely made a blip on the few American screens in which it played. Even with Hopkins' star power could not bring audiences in stateside. Though audiences may not have flocked to it, the film did receive a number of positive notices critically. It was nominated for nine AFI awards and won three, with Production Design, Costume Design, and Cinematography awards.

While the film was a period film, there are quite a lot of points that are still relevant all these years later. The business aspects still apply, as well as the community nature of local businesses, and awkward love stories are as timeless as can be. With great performances, great characters, and a fine story told, "Spotswood" is a little film that didn't quite make its impact on its original run, but deserves to be seen by more people.

Note this is a region ALL Blu-ray


Umbrella Entertainment presents two versions of the film on the disc. First is the original theatrical cut in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio in 1080p AVC MPEG-4. Second is the alternate US theatrical cut in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio in 1080p AVC MPEG-4.

For the theatrical cut, the original film elements were scanned at 4K resolution and restored, and the results are splendid. The film had quite a rich color palate, with the browns and earthy tones of the moccasin factory interiors, blue skies reflecting the outdoor sequences, and the restoration brings them fully to life with excellent detail. Skin tones look natural, dark hues look excellent as well as bright spots, and there are little if any damage marks visible for a truly clean looking appearance. Film grain is still visible and digital clean-up has kept the image looking filmic throughout. Absolutely a stellar transfer to be found here.

The US cut may not have the same treatment, but seemingly comes from an HD master, though curiously in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio. For most shots the image is cropped from the edges of the widescreen frame, though at times there is more information to be found above and below, from an open matte. Colors do not have the same vibrancy here in comparison to the remaster, though the image looks quite good throughout. Considering that there have been transfers of alternate cuts on other Umbrella releases coming from dated VHS sources of low quality, this is a major difference in image quality for this transfer. There are also few damage marks to be found, though less film grain in comparison to the remaster.

These are the differences between the original Australian version and the US "The Efficiency Expert" version with the opening credits:
- In the original version, it starts with the opening credits which are laid over a black screen.
- In the US version, it starts with a text screen stating that it is in Australia in the 1960s and explains what efficiency experts do. The opening credits are laid over the scene of Wallace heading to Spotswood by car and Carey and Wendy riding their bikes to the factory.

The following are only in the original version and missing from the US version:
- The opening scene takes place at the Spotswood Youth Fellowship Social Club at night, introducing the characters of Carey, Wendy and Kim.
- Wallace arriving at the Ball factory for the first time and is about 30 seconds longer.
- After Cheryl's introduction, there is an extra scene with Carey signing the goodbye card for about 1 minute.
- While Robert is showing Wallace around the factory, there is a 5 second extension of them walking the wrong way then heading the right way.
- After Carey arrives home by bicycle and Marvin is on the roof of their house, there is a 10 second conversation scene with them.
- While Carey is stuck in a tree while it rains, there is a scene with Wendy and Marvin talking that lasts for 10 seconds.
- While Frank and Carey are picking up their dates by car, there is about 5 extra seconds of dialogue with Frank mentioning his non-existent cousin.
- There is about 10 extra seconds of conversations at the start of the slot car racing group's gathering.
- When Kim comes to Wallace's home with company information, there is about 10 extra seconds of dialogue between them.
- There is a 5 second shot of Wallace arriving by car after the office confrontation scene between Kim and Carey.
- About 20 seconds of Marvin talking to Carey and Cheryl at the movie theater.

This is exclusive to the US "The Efficiency Expert":
- There are two scenes in which Wallace talks to partner Jerry Finn (played by John Walton) by telephone, once at the office and once at home. In the original cut, the audience cannot hear the other side of the phone line. In the US cut, Finn's dialogue is dubbed in so the audience can hear the full conversations.

The trims of scenes add up, and it's clear that Miramax was trying to push focus on Hopkins, by introducing him quicker by cutting the opening scene with the younger actors, as well as deleting most of Carey's brother Marvin for some reason. But these little trims do put emphasis on the relationships between the younger characters for the most part, and they work much better when seen in full. The US version included is a good curiosity, but the preferred version should be the original cut.

The runtime for the theatrical cut is 96:46.
The runtime for the alternate US cut is 89:18.
In addition, the alternate cut can be played with an introduction by Mark Joffe, with brings the total runtime to 90:04.


Theatrical Cut:
English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo
Alternate Cut:
English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo

The theatrical cut has optional lossless 5.1 and 2.0 stereo tracks. The original stereo audio track has been spread to a 5.1 soundscape, but it doesn't sound quite as balanced as it should be. Dialogue seems to spread between the left center and right channels a bit rather than stay centered, so there is a bit of unnecessary bleeding into the side channels. As for effects and music, there is quite a bit of activity in the left and right channels, though the surrounds are not particularly frequent. The directional audio is good with setting the enclosed factory environment, and the score by Ricky Fataar sounds quite good throughout. The 2.0 also has the same issue with the dialogue not being as centered, so it seems to be an issue with the original stereo elements as well. The audio tracks themselves are quite clean, with no issues of hiss, pops, or any damage to be found. The lossy stereo track found on the US cut actually sounds balanced in terms of dialogue, but there is very little stereo separation to be heard with the music and effects in comparison to the theatrical cut's remastered audio.

There are optional English HoH subtitles on both cuts of the film in a white font. On the theatrical cut they are well timed and easy to read. But on the US cut, there is a bit of issue with the spotting, as there are a number of instances that lines from two different characters are placed on the screen at the same time in a single line, without a break to signal that it's a different person saying the second line.


DISC ONE (Blu-ray)

Audio commentary with Director Mark Joffe, Cinematographer Ellery Ryan and Production Designer Chris Kennedy
This new commentary reunites Joffe, Ryan, and Kennedy as they look back at the film more than thirty years later. Discussed are about their favorite scenes, behind the scenes information, the casting, the sets, the look, the input from Miramax for changes, the slot car scene difficulties, and more. While there is good information to be found, unfortunately there are quite a lot of dry spots as the three resort to listening and laughing together. It might have been more crowded, but a moderator could have pointed out some information or kept them talking futher instead of fading out.
in English Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles

"Memories of Spotswood" featurette (13:34)
This featurette has new interviews with Joffe, Ryan, and Kennedy interviewed separately about the production, with some additional information as well as including some vintage behind the scenes footage and vintage interview clips from the cast. Discussed about are the script, the collaboration, the young cast, and more. The new interviews and film clips are presented in 1.78:1 while the vintage footage is in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1/1.33:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles

Archival Making-of Featurette (8:30)
This vintage EPK featurette includes clips from the film. interviews with the cast and crew plus behind the scenes footage, which were partially featured in the above new featurettte.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles

Image Gallery (7:53)
An automated stills gallery featuring production stills and behind the scenes stills, accompanied by the opening theme music by Ricky Fataar on repeat.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, Music Dolby Digital 2.0

Archival 'Oral History' audio only interview with Producer Richard Brennan by Paul Harris (33:34)
This interview excerpt, conducted by Paul Parris on May 15th, 2006 at the Screen Sound offices in Melbourne, has Brennan recalling his work on "Spotswood". From the casting of Hopkins and conversations had, bringing the film to the American film market and Miramax's advice, recollections of the cast and crew, and more are discussed. While this is an audio interview, it is presented along with stills from the film which differ from the image gallery above.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0

Film Buffs Forecast audio only interview with Director Mark Joffe (36:10)
This vintage interview with Joffe was conducted by Paul Harris, as they talk about the casting of Hopkins and his take on the character, loving the script, the set design, cinematography, working with both veteran and newcomer actors, as well as Joffe's career getting into filmmaking. The menu states that this interview's airdate was January 1991 though that seems wrong. The two discuss about the film being released after the release of "The Silence of the Lambs", which premiered on January 30th, 1991 in New York City, and they also talk about "JFK" and "Cape Fear", both of which opened at the end of 1991. I suspect this is wrongly labeled and should be "January 1992", which is when "Spotswood" screened theatrically in Australia, as Harris talks about seeing it with an audience.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles

Trailer (2:17)
A restored version of the original Australian trailer is presented here. Embedded below is an unrestored version of the trailer from Umbrella Entertainment.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.85:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles

DISC TWO (Soundtrack CD composed by Ricky Fataar)
1. "Spotswood" (2:02)
2. "Durmack's Factory" (4:14)
3. "Midnight" (2:05)
4. "Sad Theme" (2:53)
5. "Slot-Car Race" (3:29)
6. "Pentimento" (3:47)
7. "Drivin' and Jivin'" (2:05)
8. "Seduction" (2:56)
9. "Spotswood Orchestral" (3:47)
10. "Canteen Strut" (2:07)
11. "In the Rain" (0:53)
12. "Bicycle Race" (1:44)
13. "Spotswood Reprise" (1:05)
In 1992, the soundtrack album was released on CD by Picture This Records in Australia which included the 13 tracks composed by Ricky Fataar, plus four 60's pop songs featured in the film: Donovan's "Catch the Wind", The Loved Ones' "The Loved One", The La De Da's' "Hey Baby", and Bily Thorpe's "Sick and Tired". The CD included in this package is comprised only of Fataar's score compositions, so it is different from the older CD release.


This is #21 in Umbrella Entertainment's "Sunburnt Screens" line. The coverart is reversible, with the opposite side having original theatrical poster artwork.


"Spotswood" is an excellent little comedy-drama of small town community appeal with great characters, awkward moments, and a good amount of heart without being overdone. Umbrella Entertainment did an excellent job with the restoration, offering a great amount of extras including the alternate cut plus new and vintage extras. Highly recommended.

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


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