End Play Review

Someone is killing young women, all of them blonde. Superintendent Cheadle (Ken Goodlet), investigating, suspects one or other of the Gifford brothers, who share a house. Robert (George Mallaby) is wheelchair-bound and Mark (John Waters) is a merchant seaman. One or the other is guilty, but which one? And why is the other protecting him?

All of Hexagon’s productions feature pre-credits sequences, and End Play has one of their best. A car picks up pretty young hitchhiker Janine Talbot (Delvene Delaney), who wants to go to the Kyneton suburb of Melbourne. It’s raining. Janine and the driver – whom, naturally, we never see clearly – look like they’re becoming intimate. And then she’s stabbed to death.

After this opening sequence, the film becomes more or less a two-hander between Robert and George, with visits from the Superintendent to ratchet up the tension. There are revelations and red herrings along the way, though to be honest it’s not that hard to work out who really is the guilty one. As a suspense thriller, End Play is quite talky and is certainly too long at nearly two hours, but fortunately the cast are up to the task, and there are splendid performances from Mallaby and Waters. Mallaby, who had had a brief role in Petersen, was best known at the time as a TV actor, playing a leading role in the long-running series of the 60s and 70s, Homicide (no relation to the American series of the same name). Sadly his career was cut short by a series of strokes and he died in 2004. John Waters – who should certainly not be confused with the director of Pink Flamingos – remains one of Australia’s most respected actors. End Play marked his big-screen debut, although he had worked on TV previously, particularly in a historical series called Rush.

Tim Burstall adapted Russell Braddon’s novel himself and made the film due to delays in the production of Eliza Fraser. It’s a literate script, but as I say above, rather overlong. However, he does pull off a blackly comic setpiece where one of the brothers disposes of Janine’s corpse in a cinema. (They have posters for A Clockwork Orange up outside, but that’s certainly not what’s showing. Incidentally, if you lipread Mallaby’s relooped line at 36:49, he seems to be saying “Clockwork Orange”. I wonder if it had to be changed because Burstall couldn’t get the rights to show extracts.) Robin Copping’s camerawork is up to his usual standards, though Peter Best’s use of “suspenseful” music is a little overdone. End Play did modest business at the Australian box office, but eventually broke even. I can’t trace an entry on the BBFC website, which would indicate a lack of any commercial release in the UK, though it has been shown on British TV a couple of times, in those seasons of Australian films that BBC2 used to show in the late 1970s/early 1980s which introduced me to cinema Down Under.

End Play is encoded for Region 4 and no other, and is only available at present as part of Roadshow’s 70s Australian Classics: Hexagon Tribute Collection box set. The film is transferred to DVD in the ratio of 1.78:1 (which would correspond to 1.75:1 in cinemas) and is anamorphic. The colours are somewhat more vibrant than they are in earlier films in this set. Occasionally too much so: such as the red of Waters’s dressing gown. Grain is present but acceptably film-like, and there is occasional minor print damage.

The soundtrack, once again, is available in the original mono or remixed into 5.1. As the latter is effectively mono routed through the central speaker instead of via the left and right fronts, there’s little difference between them. I’ve commented before on pointless remixes of films which were produced in, and intended to be heard in, mono, so I won’t repeat myself. My audio score would have been much lower if the original mono track hadn’t been included, and that’s the one I listened to while sampling the other. Subtitles are available for the feature but not the extras, and there are fifteen chapter stops.

The main extra is a series of interviews, rather shorter this time (10:35). Tim Burstall died during the production of this set, in April 2004, which would explain his absence. George Mallaby died two months later, but was presumably unable to contribute. So the interviewees this time are John Waters and Robin Copping. Dan Burstall, Tim’s son and the camera operator on the film, also contributes but is not listed on the packaging or the menu. Waters discusses the story, Copping and Burstall more technical issues, such as the film stock and its problems, the large set of the interior of the house where most of the film was shot, and the new camera used. We also see some behind-the-scenes footage. The interviews are, once again, presented in 4:3, with the extracts from End Play letterboxed.

The theatrical trailer runs 3:25, which like the film itself begins very well but goes on too long. There aren’t too many spoilers, fortunately. It’s presented in 4:3. The filmographies this time are of George Mallaby, John Waters, Belinda Giblin, Charles “Bud” Tingwell, Robin Copping, editor Edward McQueen-Mason and associate producer Alan Finney, with the same biography/filmography of Tim Burstall which features on all the other DVDs in this box set. The stills gallery runs 2:05 and features the usual self-navigating assortment of production pictures (most of them in colour this time), accompanied by the song from Linda George which plays over the credits. Some spoilers here, so be warned.

Roadshow often include a short film from the Australian Film Television and Radio School on their DVD releases. On this disc it’s “Nightride”, a tense and menacing little number directed by Martin Murphy in 1997 and set on a bus at night-time. It runs 10:56 and is presented in non-anamorphic 1.85:1.

End Play is an effective if overlong thriller that may be a little too slow and talky for some tastes. Its presentation on DVD is well up to the standards of the Hexagon Collection box set.

7 out of 10
7 out of 10
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out of 10

Last updated: 19/04/2018 10:27:15

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