Adventures of Barry McKenzie, The (Blu-ray Review)
Release Date(s)1972 (January 15, 2021)
Studio(s)Umbrella Entertainment (Ozploitation Classics #1)
- Film/Program Grade: C-
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: A-
[Editor's Note: This is a REGION-FREE disc.]
The Adventures of Barry McKenzie was one of Australia’s biggest box office draws in 1972 and beyond, essentially putting its film industry on the map with a straightforward, raunchy sex comedy. The brainchild of comedian Barry Humphries, who had previously created a comic strip for Private Eye magazine featuring the character of Barry McKenzie (which was a suggestion by his friend Peter Cook), the film version was viciously panned by critics. (As one put it, “A ghastly, vulgar film.”)
Barry “Bazza” McKenzie (Barry Crocker) has landed a minor inheritance, and at the insistence of his mother, he travels to the UK with his Aunt Edna (Barry Humphries) in order to gain a deeper knowledge of the world around him. There he finds his Aussie cousin Curly (Paul Bertram), and together, they get themselves into various situations all over the London, full of Fosters beer and enthusiasm for a good time. Many of the locals take a liking to Barry, including the women (aka “sheilas”), but Barry soon finds himself in the clutches of a TV producer (Peter Cook), who brings Barry on TV with disastrous results. Also in the cast are Spike Milligan, Dennis Price, Dick Bentley, Joan Bakewell, Jonathan Hardy, Jenny Tomasin, and a slew of additional walk-ons by Barry Humphries as other characters that Bazza meets along the way.
The many films released in areas of the world like Australia, which were filled to the brim with nudity, wild characters, and over-the-top comic situations, were pre-cursors to the American sex comedies of the 1980s. In the case of Barry McKenzie, there’s a purity to the madness. Most of the dialogue coming out of the title character’s mouth is mostly incomprehensible, filled with thick Australian slang, much of it likely made up for the film. And as the character moves from one situation to the next, he remains a naive but bawdy Outback bloke looking for a good time, never intent on hurting anyone or causing mischief, but leaving chaos in his wake. The overreactions to him by the cadre of oddball characters that constantly surround him is a thematic satire of the world’s reaction to foreigners, specifically British reactions to Aussies. As such, The Adventures of Barrie McKenzie is chock full of the kind of the outrageous perverted antics that films like Borat would capitalize upon many years later.
The Adventures of Barry McKenzie was shot by director of photography Donald McAlpine on 35 mm film with (what research has led be to believe were) Arriflex 35 IIb cameras, finished photochemically, and presented in the aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Umbrella Entertainment brings the film to Blu-ray with a presentation that has been “mastered from an all-new 4K restoration.” It’s a good looking presentation with mild grain and a healthy encode, though it’s obvious that a minor bit of DNR has been applied. It doesn’t hamper the entire presentation as plenty of fine detail on faces, costumes, and background objects can still be observed. Blacks are deeper with added detail in the shadows and good contrast. The color palette is awash with multiple hues, from Aunt Edna’s outfits to the various locations around London. The image is mostly stable with only mild scratches and speckling leftover. It’s likely the sharpest and cleanest presentation of the film ever released on home video.
Audio is included in English 2.0 Mono DTS-HD Master Audio with optional English subtitles. This isn’t a soundtrack that commands aural authority, particularly on a low budget, but dialogue exchanges are clear and sound effects have decent push. The music has enough backbone to it to be effective as well. All told, a solid mono experience.
The following extras are included:
- Optional Introduction by Dame Edna (Upscaled SD – 4:55)
- The Adventures of Bazza in Chunderland (Upscaled SD – 127:43)
- Barry McKenzie: Ogre or Ocker (Upscaled SD – 53:17)
- A Conversation with Barry Humphries (Upscaled SD – 20:27)
- Not Quite Hollywood Extended Interviews (Upscaled HD – 27:36)
- La Bain Vorace (Dial P for Plughole) (Upscaled SD – 11:22)
- It Droppeth as the Gentle Rain (Upscaled SD – 6:40)
- Film for Guitar & King Size Woman (Upscaled SD – 9:33)
- Barry Humphries in The Naked Bunyip (Upscaled SD – 6:36)
- “Guess Who's Mum's Got a Whirlpool” Commercials (Upscaled SD – 8 in all – 6:54)
- Beresford & Humphries Aussie Trailer Collection (HD & Upscaled SD – 16 in all – 37:27)
- Still and Poster Gallery (HD – 123 in all – 3:09)
- Theatrical Trailer (HD – 2:22)
The optional introduction by Dame Edna (Barry Humphries) comes from an Encore channel presentation of the film. The Adventures of Bazza in Chunderland is a 2007 retrospective documentary on the making of the film featuring members of the cast and crew speaking at length about the Barry McKenzie phenomenon. Barry McKenzie: Ogre or Ocker is a 1974 TV documentary, which was made during the timeframe of the sequel’s release. A Conversation with Barry Humphries took place in 2002. The Not Quite Hollywood Extended Interviews from 2008 feature producer Phillip Adams and actor Barry Crocker. Next is a series of short films made by Bruce Beresford and Barry Humphries: La Bain Vorace (Dial P for Plughole) from 1954, featuring Humphries; It Droppeth as the Gentle Rain from 1963, directed by Beresford; and Film for Guitar and King Size Woman from 1965, both directed by Beresford. Scenes from The Naked Bunyip feature Barry Humphries as Edna, as does a series of commercials for Whirlpool’s “Guess Who's Mum's Got a Whirlpool” campaign. The Beresford & Humphries Aussie Trailer Collection features trailers for the films The Naked Bunyip, Barry McKenzie Holds His Own (both the teaser and final trailer), The Great McCarthy, Don’s Party, The Getting of Wisdom, Money Movers, Breaker Morant, The Club, Puberty Blues, The Fringe Dwellers, Les Patterson Saves the World, Black Robe, Paradise Road, Mao's Last Dancer, and Ladies in Black. The Still and Poster Gallery features 123 behind-the-scenes photos, promotional photos, posters, lobby cards, promo items, and newspaper clippings. Last, but not least, is the theatrical trailer.
The Adventures of Barry McKenzie is #1 in Umbrella Entertainment's Ozploitation Classics line. The disc sits inside a clear amaray case with versions of the film’s original Australian daybill artworks on the front and back, as well as scenes from the film with speech bubbles on the interior. Everything is housed within a slipcase featuring a newer version of Umbrella’s traditional home video artwork for the film.
The Adventures of Barry McKenzie is totally outdated in nearly every way. More sensitive viewers won’t get much out of the non-PC humor, but others will laugh at the film’s utter absurdity. In either case, Umbrella Entertainment’s Blu-ray release is the best available for you to make up your own mind.
- Tim Salmons
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