Review for The Dish, 2018 Reissue
There’s a little bit of basic programming in my brain... “If x = favourite movie then buy x on Blu-ray”. Alas, the movie industry doesn’t agree with my personal favourites all the time, so I have to venture onto Blu-ray.com, just to check whether the movie I’m considering double-dipping on actually has a Blu-ray to double-dip to. One day there will be a Titan A.E. Blu-ray! That’s the problem with the more obscure, non mainstream titles. It’s very unlikely that a major distributor will revisit them, and you have to hope that a smaller, niche, boutique label will take a chance on them. It took 17 years after its DVD release for The Dish to get a Blu-ray release from Roadshow Entertainment in Australia, a film that I love, but alas when I got my pre-ordered disc last May, all wasn’t as it should have been. It turned out to be mastered from a digital streaming version, and was a pretty poor upscale at that. Kudos to Roadshow for listening to feedback, and they quickly recalled the title, and promised a re-release, committing to doing one of Australia’s most beloved comedies due justice. It’s been 7 months, and the re-issued version of The Dish is now here on Blu-ray. Is it really HD this time?
The Parkes radio telescope in Australia has the singular honour and responsibility of receiving the television pictures of Neil Armstrong’s moonwalk and transmitting them throughout the world. As such, it has become a point of national pride for Australia and the focal point of the country. The town of Parkes host the Australian Prime Minister and the American ambassador as the town focuses on the Apollo 11 mission. At the dish itself, responsibility for the radio reception falls on the small team running the project. Cliff Buxton is the head of the team, who with his assistants, Mitch and Glenn and with the aid of NASA’s representative, Al Burnett, they must make sure that nothing goes wrong with the dish. It’s hard enough getting such a motley assemblage of abrasive characters to work together, but then things start to go wrong.
A victorious fist-pump and a sibilant “Yes!” has to be somewhat tempered with the acceptance that Roadshow Entertainment probably didn’t have the dosh to go back to the original negative and do a full 4k restoration the way the big studios do to their perennial money-spinners. The Dish is in proper 1.78:1 widescreen 1080p high definition this time, and you can see that in the comparative sharpness, clarity and detail when compared to their first effort. But when you look at the colour timing (towards the yellow), and the odd moments of print damage, signs of age, it seems that they used the same HD master as the DVD.
So the Dish isn’t HD as in the latest titles on Blu-ray HD, but rather the soft, intermediate HD of the un-restored catalogue titles on Blu-ray HD. It also doesn’t start off too promisingly. The opening credits overlaid on the print give that sequence an added softness, which is then followed by a montage of archive TV and film footage. It isn’t until the film starts in earnest that you can see the benefit of the Blu-ray transfer, and that really is just an incremental, if tangible increase in detail and clarity. The lack of processing means that you get the full film experience, the grain and the slight wobble, and detail levels are better (Glenn’s jumpers are no longer flat), and some of the background text is legible. But dark detail is lacking, and there is that overall softness. Still, it is leaps and bounds ahead of last May’s effort, and it is certainly preferable to the DVD. And at this stage, it’s probably as good as this film will ever get.
You have the choice between DTS-HD MA 5.1 Surround English and DD 2.0 Stereo Audio Descriptive English, with optional Hard of Hearing English Subtitles. The Dish is a dialogue heavy film, but the surround is effective if subtle, making the most of the ambience, and of course that delightful period soundtrack. There are no problems with dropouts or glitches.
The disc autoplays an Australian anti-piracy thank you before booting to the animated menu. You get one disc in a BD Amaray by the way.
You can’t throw away that UK DVD though, as that was a cornucopia of space-age extra features. You’re not going to get those gorgeous documentaries and info-bites again, especially not on a single layer Blu-ray, but Roadshow have doubled down on this disc nonetheless, getting the audio commentaries the second time around. This time you can hear Rob Sitch and Santo Cilauro talking about the directing, and in the second commentary you have Jane Kennedy and Tom Gleisner talking about casting, music, and archival footage.
The Dish on the Dish is the making of featurette which runs to 11:21 and is in 576i format, as are the trailers; the theatrical, two TV spots, and the trailer for The Castle.
The Photo Gallery is a 7:01 slideshow which is presented in HD.
If at first you don’t succeed, huh? I absolutely love The Dish. It’s one of my favourite films. I am so glad that Roadshow Entertainment acknowledged their initial error and did what they could to rectify it. It’s as good as you can expect from a small, catalogue title like this, and this time it is genuine high definition. Of course the technical aspects are just part of the equation.
The Dish is a charming film, with a tender-hearted story built around a pivotal event in human history. The sheer magnitude of the moon landing is only emphasised even more by looking at it through the eyes of the characters in this film. The small town sensibilities and quirky inhabitants show the sense of wonder that the world truly felt. This is a gentle comedy where the characters and their interactions are the cause of hilarity as they try to fit into a suddenly large world. The Hawaii Five-o theme played instead of the American National anthem is a case in point.
This film is also an education in the sense of wonder at our achievements that is so unfashionable nowadays. Cliff is initially detached and seems to delegate the project onto his staff but Cliff’s disillusionment fades as he gets wrapped up in the events as they unfold and experiences how his co-workers feel about their position in the scheme of things and gradually his own sense of pride and awe returns. I was genuinely moved at the recounting of the Apollo 11 mission and if what I felt watching this was any indication, then July 20th 1969 must have been truly an epochal event where for once the world was one. The story is a mouth-watering flavoursome dish, pun intended, which everyone will enjoy.
We can all dream of our favourite films getting wodges of money thrown at them, and getting the full 4k works, re-mastered audio and video, but the real world is never that profligate, and settling for the best that can be afforded is a compromise that has to be made. The Dish is now finally good enough to watch in high definition, although you’ll have to keep two discs on your shelf, the Blu-ray for the AV quality, and the DVD for the extras package. What are you waiting for? Get importing!