With Anzac Day fast approaching (April 25), it is a perfect time to revisit this mini-series that graced Aussie television screens back in 1985. With each passing year, Anzac Day parade crowds seem to grow in number, and though there are fewer and fewer Anzacs left, possibly none, it only fuels our desire to pay respects to the men that died at Gallipoli on April 25, 1915. Of course, the spirit of Anzac Day has grown and the day is now about remembering all those who have lost their lives in war.
This mini-series covers the period 1914-1918, and follows the lives and fortunes of a number of young Aussies in the Australian Imperial Force, and more specifically the Australian and New Zealand Army Corp. It chronicles their experiences, their hopes and aspirations, as well as the lives of those they have left at home. This is all the more poignant right now, with our forces currently in Iraq.
The six-hour mini-series introduces us to a couple of good ol’ farm mates, Martin Barrington (Andrew Clarke) and Dick Baker (Mark Hembrow), who sign up for King and Country (far too eagerly they later reflect) where they befriend Pat Cleary (Paul Hogan) and Roly Collins (Christopher Cummins). From here it’s off for a crash course in basic military training (otherwise known as ‘How Not to Get Yourself Shot While Defending King and Country’), before being mercilessly presented to the Turks for target practice at Gallipoli.
The survivors are shipped to France where they are rewarded with a chance to basically do it all again. They do manage a little time off in London, before returning to France to get shot at all over again, only this time over a much longer period, until the Germans finally run out of cattle before the Allies, and surrender.
It's incredible how much of World War I was fought with a 'let's see who has the last man standing' mentality. It makes for infuriating viewing as so-called military strategists come up with one poorly planned counter-attack after another with almost total disregard for the lives of the men involved. It's as if they are playing with toy soldiers. "Let's just keep throwing men and machines at each other until one side has nothing left."
Of course this is a very simple version of events, and there is so much more to the story, both in reality and in this mini-series. The cast does a great job, and the story is told honestly, though there is almost certainly plenty of editorial license in the name of art and entertainment. We not only get to know the boys who are away fighting, but also the girlfriends, wives, and families back at home who await their return, often in vain.
War is never entertaining as such, but this mini-series is certainly quality viewing. There are many of Australia’s leading actors from the ‘80s involved, and the costuming and sets are great. As said, it's not necessarily 100% historically accurate (though it possibly goes close), but is great viewing nonetheless. Even the love-interest sub plot is not overly sloppy. It also makes you understand the spirit of Anzac Day a little more and appreciate what these men and women endured.
There is nothing particularly impressive about this transfer. It is in its originally shown full frame ratio and is of average quality. The image is a little on the soft side with muted colouring. There are no real problems with the colours other than that, but there is quite a bit of noise to be seen, most noticeably in the darker interior and night scenes. There is significant grain also to be found throughout.
Shadow detail is varied, but never brilliant. There are a few dirty marks and a number of negative film artefacts such as white flecks, plus the occasional white scratch mark. These are not frequent enough to cause any real concern.
There are no instances of shimmer, and no layer changes. Overall, this is an average transfer that shows its age, but is not overly problematic.
There is but one sonic option, that being an English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track that sounds a little dull and flat. There are a number of good things about it though, such as the volume and audio synch, both of which are just fine. The low-level sounds such as bombs exploding sound good with plenty of threatening rumble. There are numerous ‘far-off’ sounds of explosions and these too sound quite good. There is not a great deal of fidelity though, and the treble sounds are clipped, but this is not a major worry.
The music likewise is a little flat, but is mainly used as a compliment to the action, so shouldn’t cause any great concern. There is some noticeable separation and panning of sounds, and unless you artificially surround sound the track via Pro-logic, then there is no sound from anything other than the left and right front speakers.