Criterion revisits Nicolas Roeg’s Walkabout and presents the film in the aspect ratio of 1.78:1 on the first dual-layer disc of this two-disc set. The image has been enhanced for widescreen televisions.
The original DVD was rather awful and this new one presents a significant improvement over it. The transfer is far cleaner here, presenting less in the way of noise and artifacts, though edge-enhancement makes its presence known at times. Colours look much better here, more natural and saturated perfectly, and blacks also look perfectly deep. The source materials can limit it at times (similar to the Blu-ray) but detail and definition has still be drastically improved upon, ripples in the sand looking more natural, where the original DVD could look kind of blocky with its presentation.
The print has been cleaned up significantly, a lot of the specs and blotches having been removed, though some scratches and slight marks do remain. The transfer also manages to handle the film’s grain rather well, even when it gets heavy.
Though I feel disappointment over the Blu-ray edition it is still the better option because of the limitations of DVD and I would still recommend the Blu-ray over this DVD—the opening credits alone show far more detail and distinction in comparison with one another. But I have to admit I was actually slightly more impressed with the DVD; it looks surprisingly good and holds up rather well despite some of the source material’s flaws. 7/10
All DVD screen captures are presented in their original size from the source disc. Images have been compressed slightly to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.
The original DVD contained only an audio commentary and a couple of trailers, making for a fairly “meh” release. Criterion improves on that one by adding a few new supplements that focus on the cast members.
The first disc presents one supplement, the same audio commentary that was recorded for the original laserdisc release and then used again for the DVD, presenting director Nicolas Roeg and actress Jenny Agutter recorded separately. While it can be a touch dry at times and Roeg can ramble on it’s still a rather engaging track, with the two reminiscing over the shoot fondly. There are plenty of comments about the imagery in the film and the many themes layered on with many comparisons, specifically by Agutter, to the original source novel. Australian politics are touched on to give some context, along with aboriginal culture, and the two fondly recall working with David Gulpilil. Anecdotes are also shared by the two, most amusing of which is Roeg’s recollection of Gulpilil going to Cannes and a fear by a certain individual that the young aborigine was a “savage.” Some questions people have had about the film for years are touched briefly upon, including a hint as to why the children’s father does what he ends up doing (though it shouldn’t be a real surprise) and another key incident that happens closer to the end (and I’m trying to avoid spoilers so forgive my vagueness.) In all it’s an excellent track and I’m glad Criterion carried it over.
Criterion then adds on a few new supplements, presenting them on the second dual-layer disc.
First is a 21-minute interview with Roeg’s son Luc Roeg who played the boy in the film, with the credit Lucien John (Roeg explains somewhat in the commentary track why the boy’s name was changed.) It’s a rather personal interview as Luc recalls the shooting of the film, which he has an obvious admiration for, as he does with all of his father’s work. He begins with how he got the role, which was originally supposed to go to his older brother, and then the actual shoot, where he created continuity problems when his two front teeth fell out, calling for him to wear false teeth. He talks about Agutter and the difficult time she may have been having since her family was far away and his family was right there on set. And he of course talks about Gulpilil and his experience with him. He also talks a bit about the themes in the film, the editing, and the imagery with some strong insight. You get a sense the film was huge experience in his life and it’s something he’s obviously very proud of.
Another interview features Jenny Agutter and was recorded for what I assume was a French DVD release in 2008. With a runtime of over 20-minutes Agutter expands on her comments found in the audio commentary getting into more detail about her casting and her move to acting and the long wait for filming to actually begin, and touching more on her nude scenes in the film. She talks more about Gulpilil and a friend he had with him constantly throughout the shoot, and also what she picked up about aboriginal culture. Some things are repeated from the track but there’s enough new or expanded material here to make it worth viewing.
And the most intriguing supplement on here is the 2002 documentary Gulpilil—One Red Blood, a 56-minute documentary on the actor made in 2002. It’s a great piece filled with some great footage as it catches up with Gulpilil, documenting his day-to-day life, and reflecting back on his career through footage from his films (and Criterion managed to keep the footage here, where they usually have to edit it out for rights reasons, even managing to keep in footage from Crocodile Dundee and Rabbit Proof Fence) and interviews with those that know him. Throughout the supplements you hear mention of Gulpilil’s dancing, which is apparently what attracted him to casting agents to begin with, and here you get plenty of footage of his dancing. There’s some fantastic archival pieces, including an amusing opening from an episode of This is Your Life for Gulpilil, and they’ve also managed to dig up some great footage and photos of him in the States, and it goes through some of his key films over the years with some interesting though not surprising information on how aboriginals were portrayed and played in movies before films like Walkabout. I think what most will find fascinating, though, is the examination on how he deals with handling both the Western world and his home (which he respectively refers to as the “White Fellas’ World” and “Black Fellas’ World”.) The money he makes he shares with everyone else, and by the sounds of it he’s actually made quite a bit over the years, and people share their stories and observations on how he manages both worlds, including a story from his agent involving an overseas job and then the whole hassle of going back to his home, which is in the middle of nowhere and calls for swimming across a crocodile infested river, to retrieve his passport. He obviously doesn’t care too much for Western traditions, preferring his home. He’s annoyed that he has to pay bills, such as acting dues, because of his link to the “White Fellas’ World”, so you may catch yourself asking why does he even bother, but the answer becomes clear: He loves acting, has an intense passion for it and would probably die inside if he couldn’t do it, best shown in his disappointment over a dry spell that occurred after Crocodile Dundee. He loves his traditions and doesn’t want to lose that, but he also loves what he does and he makes the sacrifices he has to to pursue it. It’s an intriguing documentary, and the man oozes charisma, so it’s easy to get hooked to it. Easily the best feature on here and I’m happy Criterion dug it up. It has been divided into 6 chapters.
The disc then closes with the long Fox theatrical trailer for the film, half of which is made up of critic blurbs. Not carried over from the original DVD is the short theatrical trailer, which was a quick 40-second spot. Not a huge loss, though I’m not sure why Criterion didn’t carry it over.
The booklet, which is thick but only because it’s loaded with photos, contains an excellent essay by Paul Ryan on the film and Roeg’s career but is unfortunately missing Roger Ebert’s essay that appeared in the insert for the original DVD release. I liked Ebert’s essay, and I don’t believe it can be found anywhere else, not coming from his review or “Great Movies” essay, so I’m a little bewildered why Criterion chose to exclude it this time around.
At any rate, the supplements present a huge improvement over the previous DVD edition, though since it was actually cheaper and still contained a commentary it was still a fairly good value in that way. And while the interviews were a nice addition, I think the real star is the documentary on David Gulpilil. A nice collection of supplements overall. 9/10