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Sunday Too Far Away
cast: Jack Thompson, Max Cullen, Reg Lye, and Peter Cummins

director: Ken Hannam

92 minutes (M 15+) 1975
Reel DVD Region 0 retail

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Gary Couzens
Australia 1955. Foley (Jack Thompson), a former gun - champion - sheepshearer agrees to become part of a shearing team put together by his friend Tim King (Max Cullen). Also on the team is the alcoholic Old Garth (Reg Lye). As the season wears on, Foley faces a challenge from Black Arthur (Peter Cummins) and has to prove he's still the best...
   Sunday Too Far Away was Ken Hannam's feature debut, after much work for British TV in the 1960s. Although he made other films of interest (the atmospheric thriller Summerfield and Dawn! - a biopic of Olympic swimmer Dawn Fraser among them), Sunday became a classic of the Australian New Wave of the 1970s and contains possibly the definitive Jack Thompson performance. It certainly has its flaws, notably a character-driven narrative that becomes episodic and a tacked-on ending dealing with the 1956 shearers' strike. (John Dingwall's original treatment gave equal time to the strike, which would have made for a three-hour film. Hannam's original cut, never publicly shown, ran half an hour longer than the present version, which was shortened by the producer.) But its strengths are very strong: Hannam and Dingwall have made a simple, solid study of men at work: their machismo and camaraderie, in a world where women are virtually absent (a barmaid, the farm-owner's daughter). Among the rest of the cast, Reg Lye is very moving as Old Garth.
   Given the complex production history, you'd think there would be material for a fascinating making-of documentary or commentary. But this DVD is very poor: full-frame, from a print that has clearly seen much better days. The sound is the original mono, and in parts - notably the shearing scenes - sound effects tend to drown out the dialogue. (To be fair, this may be a problem with the original film.)
   There are no extras, unless you count a trailer for the 1985 film Playing Beatie Bow, which is also out on DVD itself. This is one of Reel's series of 'Classic Australian Cinema' on budget-priced DVD (Storm Boy is another) but it's not an auspicious start. Roadshow's excellent DVD of Newsfront shows what could be done with Australia's rich cinematic heritage, so let's hope someone in the near future gives Sunday Too Far Away the special edition it deserves.

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