DVD Review HTF Review: Ned Kelly

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Jason Perez, Feb 26, 2004.

  1. Jason Perez

    Jason Perez Second Unit

    Jul 6, 2003
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    Ned Kelly

    Studio: MGM
    Year: 1970
    Rated: PG
    Film Length: 103 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: Widescreen (1.66:1)
    Subtitles: English, French, and Spanish
    Audio: English – Monaural; Spanish - Monaural

    Release Date:
    March 16th, 2004

    Ned Kelly, a film based upon the life of a man who became an Australian outlaw/folk hero in the late 19th century, opens with a gritty black-and-white scene of its title character being put to death
    . Immediately thereafter, the film switches to color, and we get to see how Ned ended up in this predicament.

    Initially, we see him returning to his family after a long jail term, and reacquainting himself with them. We soon learn that Ned despises the British, and hopes to help turn his country into a republic, free from their rule. For his beliefs and actions, his family becomes the subject of persecution by the local Victorian police. Ultimately, this proves to be the impetus for Ned's trail of robberies and violence through the countryside, as he seeks retribution for all the wrongs he believes have been inflicted on his people.

    Ned starts off small, pilfering horses to protest an unfair tax levied on the owners of horses that stray from their owners’ property, which benefits the rich. He soon graduates to more serious crime, which infuriates the police and causes a large bounty to be placed on his head. Since this doesn’t do the trick, the authorities slyly turn up the heat on Ned’s family to try and rein him in. Specifically, when Ned's mother (Clarissa Kaye-Mason) and sister are charged with attempted murder for defending themselves against the unwelcome advances of a police officer, Ned offers to surrender himself to secure freedom for his mother.

    The authorities, having reached their breaking point with the Kelly family, refuse Ned’s offer, which sets an even more violent chain of events in motion. In response to the authorities’ refusal, the Kelly boys and their sympathizers go on a wild, murderous rampage across the Outback. While battling the political machine, the Kelly brothers become an even bigger pain for the police, as they gather sympathy among the poor and disenfranchised, who distrust the authorities. An all-out war ensues, with the Kelly family fighting for what they believe in, and the authorities trying desperately to crush them before they can recruit any more people to their cause.

    Well, that is a synopsis of how this tale gets moving, but does Tony Richardson’s rendition of Ned Kelly succeed in telling it in an entertaining way? The short answer is no, and I will briefly tell you why I feel that way. One of the central reasons is that rock legend Mick Jagger, who played the “Australian Robin Hood”, was tasked with carrying the film on his shoulders. Obviously, this is a huge responsibility for anyone, much less an inexperienced actor, and while Jagger is still reaping huge sums of cash as a touring musician, he proved unable to portray Ned Kelly in anything other than an emotionless, one-dimensional manner.

    Mick can’t take all the blame though, and I don’t believe the equally bland writing ever did a good enough job of making the viewer understand the reasons behind Ned's call for justice. In addition, and surprisingly, Academy Award® winning director Tony Richardson never seemed to be able to get a handle on how to help the audience identify with Ned Kelly or his crew. After a while, the sum of these parts simply became tiresome, and the film as a whole also failed to convey the strong emotion of revenge, or establish the injustices done to the Kelly family, well enough to get me to care about what was taking place on-screen.

    In the grand scheme of things, this film is just not very entertaining. I also believe it fails to treat adequately with the legendary outlaw it is named after. As such, if you want to learn more about Ned Kelly and his exploits, I recommend checking out the book entitled “Our Sunshine”, which is quite interesting and a good read. Written by Robert Drew, it is based on the life of the legendary outlaw, and it will give you far more insight into his motivations than this lifeless film does.

    The original Ned Kelly, presented by MGM in non-anamorphic widescreen, is rather uneven, in terms of visual quality. To begin with, the opening scene, shot in black-and-white, as opposed to the color stock used for the rest of the picture, exhibits a substantial amount of grain, and the titles shimmer quite a bit. As mentioned, after the opening scene the film shifts to color, which appears a little dull here, though whites are clean and bright, and flesh tones are reproduced fairly accurately.

    Unfortunately, blacks are inconsistent, and lacking in definition, which swallows up shadow detail, sometimes to a great degree. For reference, this is a problem most evident in Chapters 15 and 18, where it can be tough to tell what is happening at times. Digital signatures (i.e. motion artifacts) also pop up here and there, and edge enhancement is visible in few spots, though the resultant halos are not a major distraction. On the plus side, although specks turn up on occasion, the print turned out to be pretty clean.

    Although I have certainly seen much worse, I must say that in addition to this transfer lacking the crispness and resolution of an anamorphic image, it contains a fair share of idiosyncrasies. I suppose fans of this film will be glad to have it on disc period, and it is hard to imagine that this motion picture had a large budget to work with, but its image quality is probably best described as just above mediocre nonetheless.

    The sounds of Ned Kelly are presented via a monaural Dolby Digital track, which does a satisfactory job of reproducing the source material. Dialogue, for instance, was always clear and intelligible, and the overall track is about as dynamic as one could expect from a mono recording.

    Music reproduction is somewhat of a mixed bag though, as Waylon Jennings distinctive voice comes through loud and clear, but his accompaniment is buried in the mix. Frequency response is also slightly below average in certain areas, with the gunshots in the film having only a moderate impact, except towards the very end of the film. Finally, the somewhat narrow soundstage makes the few scenes with a lot of audio information (e.g. the scenes in crowded pubs) sound both congested and bright, which can be fatiguing on a listener.

    On the whole, however, things certainly could have been a lot worse, and this release’s audio quality is slightly more satisfying than its visual quality. After all, this is a monaural track from a movie released all the way back in 1970, so I would have to say that it performs about as well as one might expect it to.


    There are no extras included.


    (on a five-point scale)
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    The story of an Irish outlaw who dared to oppose the Victorian police in Australia, and became a folk hero for it, Ned Kelly should be ripe with emotion. Unfortunately, the final product is dull and listless, in terms of writing, direction, and acting. With respect to acting, let’s face it – although it was a lot to ask, Mick Jagger just could not carry the film on his back. I guess it is a good thing he did not quit his day job!!!

    For its debut on DVD, the presentation is almost as bland as the film, featuring only serviceable image quality and absolutely no added value material, although the audio track is not too bad! Although it probably would not have swayed my decision not to recommend this film, for either purchase or rental, I think a discussion about the controversial casting of Mr. Jagger in the lead role (at the least) should have been included for fans! Anyway, if you want to see a good film about an “outlaw” who becomes a hero to the masses, leave Ned Kelly in its place on the shelf and pick up Braveheart or Gladiator instead.

    Stay tuned…
  2. john aprile

    john aprile Agent

    Nov 25, 2002
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