> Neighbours Defining
Moments DVD by
I've seen it all now... Just when the proliferation of Rainbow
DVDs seemed to strain credulity as to the breadth of
the digital revolution, Neighbours bursts onto shiny
discs in Australia in a deluxe new package of classic episodes.
Proof, when it was seemingly desperately needed that Neighbours
merchandising needn't begin and end with bad board games and
pulpy annuals... So, is it any good, I hear you ask?
set comes in a standard clear Amaray case, with synopses of
the episodes printed on the inside. While in most cases they
adequately allow the episodes to be enjoyed in isolation,
some will leave less seasoned fans scratching their heads
trying to remember all the situations and running plots. Perhaps
in future an additional recap sequence could be prepared for
each episode, or onscreen introductions relating relevant
information could address this problem.
moving introductory menus are impressively produced, with
their use of the 1992-1995 closing credits backdrops lending
them a nice feeling of authenticity. The menus feature some
aptly chosen clips from the episodes, backed by the "Sad
Occasions" version of the theme music. Extra content
is particularly scant, in the form of a very basic photo gallery,
which features a random grab-bag of blurry stills in no real
order or theme, in a slightly squashed ratio. Surely a few
brief soundbite interviews or original Network 10 trailers
wouldn't be too difficult to collate for future releases?
. . .
Left: Disc Menu. Right: A shot from
the bonus photo gallery
UK fans, the release offers a rare chance to enjoy the episodes
as orginally broadcast in Australia, with full-length versions
of the last two closing themes never heard on the BBC, original
sponsorship logos, and advertisement break idents. A culture
shock indeed, but an interesting sideways take on Neighbours
as many of its fans know it.
. . .
Left: Qantas sponsorship logo from 1994.
Right: Commercial break logo
transfers are generally impressive and crisp, with only minor
MPEG blocking visible, usually on the older episodes. The
post-1999 episodes are presented in full 16:9 digital widescreen,
and for obvious reasons, look the best of the bunch by far.
Presumably to curb manufacturing costs, the episodes are presented
on a single layer disc and a second dual layer disc. At times,
the bitrate (image resolution) could be higher, as squeezing
10 episodes onto a dual-layer disc is ambitious within today's
quality constraints and the limitations of the technology.
While it's less economical to manufacture, putting seven episodes
each onto a pair of dual layer discs would be far more satisfactory
for future releases.
To be honest, picking isolated episodes of serial drama and
presenting them standalone is a thankless task, highlighting
the general lack of incident and neat closure generally found
on home entertainment. The episodes chosen are, perhaps inevitably,
a mixed bag, but have sufficient variety to ensure that fans
of all eras can find something to enjoy. The central theme
of births, marriages and deaths is a sound one, though certain
installments like Todd and Jim's deaths badly whet the viewer's
appetite for a main course that never comes. If anyone seriously
wants to see Beth and Brad clown around in a registry office
over the resolution to the climactic Julie/Fiona catfight
over Jim's corpse, I'd imagine they're a rare soul indeed.
So, our eclectic line-up reads...
295: Daphne and Des' Wedding
Episode 523: Scott and Charlene's Wedding
Episode 544: Daphne's Baby
Episode 690: Daphne's Death
Episode 724: Madge and Harold's Wedding
Episode 1563: Christina's Baby
Episode 1721: Todd's Death
Episode 1904: Jim's Death
Episode 2068: Brad and Beth's Wedding
Episode 2290: Mark and Annalise's Wedding
Episode 2965: Helen's Death
Episode 3708: Libby and Drew's Wedding
Episode 3740: Madge's Death
Episodes 3920 and 3921: Libby's Baby
yet? Weddings are traditional Neighbours highlights,
one assumes. It's what the show does best. Yet somehow, all
the featured weddings seem the poor relations of the more
dramatic offerings. As occasional milestones, they are a welcome
break from the normal business of suburban strife, yet strung
together, they seem repetitious and overly similar. None of
them are particularly bad, but they're generally unrepresentative
of the show and its characters. The exception to the fairytale
gloss is Annalise and Mark's aborted wedding, but it plays
on too small a canvas with too few players to convince. That
said, the moment where Mark changes his mind is surprisingly
engaging, mainly due to some taut direction and well-chosen
births are mixed too, though Jamie's birth has some wonderful
comedy, including the ever-excrutiating Eileen Clarke on top
form, and Madge's aghast horror at Henry's new girlfriend,
Melanie Pearson, a hilarious grotesque with a foghorn laugh
and zero tact. Compare the humour to Andrew's birth and learn
the subtle difference between trying and succeeding. The latter
washes over the viewer seemingly in slow motion, unfunny set
piece following unfunny set piece. When Christina bemoans
how long it's all taking, the viewer is left agreeing for
all the wrong reasons.
are something Neighbours generally does its audience
proud with, and these are the strongest episodes by far. Daphne's
demise is surprisingly emotive even after so long, with a
real sense of darkness hanging over the characters, in spite
of the almost burlesque antics of Charlene and Jane avenging
Daph with some frankly bizarre self-defense elsewhere.
death is a great example of just how daring and confident
was in 1992-1993, with a sense of conviction and truth
that today's producers could learn much from. Director Steve
Mann makes it a visual tour-de-force, with unsettling monochrome
flashbacks and deft visual tricks, such as the ghostly reflection
of Dorothy in a window pane. It's a tense half hour that makes
a swift impact without ever seeming rushed, with a final scene
that just brims with adrenaline and shock, slow-motion extras
death continues in a similar vein, and works brilliantly,
since it breaks just about every established rule of Neighbours.
Jim is abandoned and dies alone, without his loved ones, before
his partner systematically and cooly dismantles his entire
legacy. It's a daringly downbeat end for such a beloved character,
and the subtle mix of black humour, airtight plotting and
logical progression takes the viewer into surpreme melodrama,
yet never loses its basic emotional impact. When Julie and
Fiona howl at one another over Jim's corpse, it's easily as
daring and dark as Neighbours ever gets.
and Madge's deaths seem remarkably similar in form, which
both settling for warm send-offs and convenient goodbyes,
reducing their central figures to almost incidental status
in the process. Both characters seem almost irrelevant at
times, making thin fillers such as Lance and Amy's bickering
schoolmates and Tad and Steph's day-to-day meanderings seem
particularly grating. Madge's manages to be the superior,
however, mainly due to the conviction of Jonathon Dutton and
Ian Smith, who really seem haunted by the inevitability of
the situation and make its inherent helplessness genuinely
Libby and Drew's wedding lends itself well to self-enclosed
viewing, with a nice community turn-out, and acts as a neat
teaser for the 2001 season finale, Libby's baby, which also
centres heavily around Stephanie and Woody's dramatic reunion.
The latter seems almost indecently recent for home release
and is probably the weakest of the bunch, failing to justify
one episode on the disc, let alone two. The DVD cuts the 2001
season finale and 2002 premiere together, which really does
bring home just how low-key a climax it was, and how simple
and uncomplicated its resolution turned out to be. Disappointing,
and far more enjoyable for the sub-plot of Woody's return
than for its main attraction, which simply treads water.
quibbles aside, this is an impressive package which offers
good value for money and a decent overview of the show's entire
history. Hopefully the market exists for a regular series
of Neighbours releases, with some extra content to
add particular incentives for fans to purchase.
DVD is presented in PAL Region 0 format, and will play on
any UK DVD player. We recommend EzyDVD.com.au,
which ships the title worldwide within 5-10 days.