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Peter Allen - The Boy From Oz
Umbrella Entertainment/AV Channel . R4 . COLOR . 57 mins . G . PAL


Peter Allen hailed from rural outback Australia, Tenterfield in New South Wales to be exact, and had a yearning to perform from a very early age. In 1959 he moved to Sydney and formed the Allen Brothers with Chris Bell. They went on to receive success on Australian television during the early ‘60s, but they soon became over exposed, being used for television commercials and such. This was not the direction in which Peter wanted to head and the Allen Brothers travelled to Asia, performing mostly for US troops stationed there. In 1964 he was spotted by American actor Mark Herron, the future husband of Judy Garland. After seeing him perform, Garland invited Peter and the trio he was currently performing in to tour with her around the world. She obviously saw his talent, but Garland had an ulterior motive for Peter, marriage to her daughter Liza. This happened in 1967, but it wasn’t to last, the divorce coming three years later. Small note to Liza if she happens to be reading this, if you marry straight guys you will stand more chance of keeping them!

Allen then developed a highly individual cabaret act and focused more on songwriting, penning some memorable hits for artists such as Olivia Newton John and Helen Reddy. Allen had been writing songs with Jeff Barry and they penned the Grammy Award winning and chart topping I Honestly Love You for Livvie along with the Helen Reddy hit I’ve Been Wanting You So Long, but it was his collaboration with Carol Bayer Sager that spawned more success. With Sager he wrote the hits Don’t Cry Out Loud for Melissa Manchester, Arthur’s Theme for Christopher Cross and his own signature song, I Go to Rio. The latter was seen by most as a novelty song, but the feeling of “one hit wonder” soon vanished when people discovered his back catalogue of songs.

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Aussie Aussie Aussie!

He was now recognised as a consummate performer and established songwriter, but he still had one dream to fulfil, to perform with the famous Rockettes at the Radio City Music Hall. This he achieved with several sell out performances of his autobiographical show. He went on to achieve more chart success with hits such as I Still Call Australia Home and Tenterfield Saddler. 1988 saw him perform on Broadway in the musical Legs Diamond which turned out to be a huge flop.

Allen was diagnosed with HIV and sadly passed away from an AIDS related illness in 1992. His final performances were ironically enough on his home soil in Sydney in January 1992. Four years after his death in 1996, The Boy From Oz video was released to pay tribute to the performer, this release is that same documentary. It led to the stage show of the same name being written by Nick Enright, which opened in Sydney in March 1998 to rave reviews. The show is currently on Broadway starring Australia’s own Hollywood star Hugh Jackman and is once again receiving rave reviews.

This documentary, narrated by Jack Thompson, takes a good look at the performer's career along with his beginnings in Tenterfield. It features performances of the songs I Still Call Australia Home, I Go to Rio, Arthur’s Theme, Tenterfield Saddler and I Honestly Love You. Along with archival and rare footage there are also performances from Judy Garland, Bette Midler and Liza Minelli, as well as interviews with Harry Connick Jr., Lily Tomlin, Carol Bayer Sager, Bernadette Peters, Ann Margeret and Lana Cantrell.

This story offers many highs and lows and gives a great insight into the man and his music. The flow is not terrific in places, however anyone with a basic knowledge of Allen’s career shouldn’t have too much trouble following this story.


Being a collection of archival footage, the most recent being 1992, the picture quality is generally poor. Grain is a constant problem along with all the other video nasties that are expected. It is presented in full frame and has a generally washed out and aged look. Overall it doesn’t do the performer justice, although considering the age of the source material it is a welcome release for fans, no matter how poor the visual quality is.

Audio is supplied in English Dolby Digital stereo and this is of similar quality to the video presentation. Clarity is generally fine, but there is a lack of quality overall with some distortion in areas. It is sufficient, although by no means of a high standard and this is no doubt due to the source material used.

The extras for this release are minimal, with the only inclusions being a selected discography which entails two text pages and Umbrella Propaganda which features four teaser trailers for the releases Paul McCartney – Paul is Live in Concert, The Carpenters – Close To You, The Songmakers Collection and The TAMI Show.

Overall this is a reasonable tribute to Peter Allen that most fans should enjoy. It is let down by poor video and audio and very few extras, however die hard fans will find it worth seeing. For those with a video copy of this release already, there is little need to replace it as the quality is not much better.

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  •   And I quote...
    "This 1996 documentary on the Aussie icon is entertaining, but is lacking in picture and sound quality."
    - Adrian Turvey
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