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The Cricket Archives DVD Review - -

Feature 6.0
Video 9.5/3*
Audio 2.0
Special Features   0.0
Total 6.0
Distributor: Roadshow
Running Time:
Mike Bourke

* B&W Footage/Modern Footage

The Cricket Archives

Picture: B&W Footage: 9.5/10 Modern footage 3/10
Sound: 2/10
Extras: 0/10
Overall: 6/10

This DVD contains 4 episodes of the ABC TV series of the same name, and it's arrival for review was quite timely, given the immenent arrival of the Australian summer and a much-anticipated Ashes battle. This DVD is subtitled "Australian Cricket Films 1905-1961," it title that is a little misleading - a more accurate title woul dhave been "Australian Cricket On Film" etc. The DVD is not a movie subgenre that had somehow never invaded my awareness, it is in fact about how Cricket was broadcast to the masses before the advent of television (though there is a little of the ABC-TV live broadcasts of the first cricket tests to be televised).

While I enjoy watching cricket on the box - some of the time - I have to admit that I both loved and hated this DVD, and found it at least as interesting as a slice of Australian History as it was for the sport. I found myself perpetually comparing today's televised coverage with what was available a century ago, and marvelling at just how good we have it these days. Commentary was dry and boring or artificially overexcited, with nothing like the analytic depth that we are accustomed to hearing. Modern coverage lets you see every delivery multiple times from multiple angles (if warranted) and modern lenses reveal every raised eyebrow at close range. Back then, there was none of this, and as the series progresses, you can see and hear the ever-improving technology and become acutely aware of how the game itself changed as a result. As a microcosm of the Australian Culture through the first half of the 20th century, this DVD was exceptionally interesting. Even hearing how the Australian accent has changed in that time, from something with more than a little "Pommy" in the mix to the more familiar accents of today, was absolutely fascinating. In terms of the actual sport on display, there is quite enough here for cricket afficionados to enjoy as well, especially the remeniscances of Sir Donald Bradman and the coaching analyses of Jack Potter, the first head of the Australian Cricket Academy. These additional commentaries, together with more from Bill Brown, Neil Harvey, and Sir Garfield Sobers, give the impression of being recorded in the 70s on very cheap video cameras - but more importantly, they give the feeling that one has just sat down to a chinwag with people who know the game and have interesting stories to tell about their time in it. As well as the interviews, these episodes document the rise of India, South Africa, and the West Indies as teams to beware in the game.

100 years ago, film stock was quite expensive and awkward to use, and when sound was introduced, much of the old stock was deemed worthless and destroyed. Even once sound had been introduced, the soundtrack was often on different reels to the pictures and was frequently given much less care; in some cases, it has been completely lost. I knew, going in, that this was going to be black and white newsreel footage, so I wasn't expecting too much in terms of image quality. To say that I was pleasantly surprised is an understatement; the picture quality (despite not being in Widescreen, and being in Black & White) is absolutely superb.

So far, there have been a lot of positives, but now I come to the sound. And while the commentary was clear and succinct, my greatest impression of the sound was the singularly cheesy soundtrack by Garry Hardman. By the second episode, I was wishing desperately for a "Mute:" button that would turn the music off. In small doses, it might be tolerable; but when you are exposed to multiple episodes of it in a row, it VERY quickly becomes far too much and far too distracting. By the end of the fourth episode on the DVD the music was so distracting that I had to force myself not to mute the sound altogether.

There are no additional features. The closest that it comes is for the episode selection menu, where each episode is further subdivided into topics, and each is given a name.

In summary, this was an excellent DVD with unbelievably good pictures - but one that has to be viewed the way it was made to be seen, one episode at a time. I would reccommend it for anyone interested in Cricket, Australian History, or Australian Sociology.

Mike Bourke

DVD Contents:
Episode 1: 1905-1930
Episode 2: The 1930s
Episode 3: The 1940s
Episode 4: The 1950s


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