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For a film about ballroom dancing this one certainly has a broad appeal. It’s not all tights and vaseline smiles, though there’s plenty of that thrown in, naturally. What we do see is a well constructed tale of triumph, with the obligatory potholes thrown in along the way.

Ballroom dancer Scott Hastings only ever wanted to win the Pan Pacific Title and seemed set to do so when he and his talented partner, Liz, were dancing like crazy. But Scott got a little too creative for his own good, costing the duo a lead-up title and forcing to Liz to give him the sequined boot. Then along came a lowly amateur named Fran in true Dirty Dancing style, keen to dance with Scott and take a wild stab at winning the championship. Families inevitably get in the way and the pair must show a steely resolve to make it through, leading to a flashy yet predictable climax.  

What makes the film stand out are the brilliant characters, lead admirably by Australia’s own Paul Mercurio. The supporting cast, which includes Gia Carides, Tara Morice and Bill Hunter, more than hold their own, providing just the right amount of laughs and emotion. It may be the weaker of the three Luhrmann films so far but it definitely showcases his talent, something that caught the eye of Tinseltown all those years ago. And what astute judges they are, at least in this case anyway.

Strictly Ballroom: Special Red Curtain Edition

Video
Big Baz’s creative juices have given this film a slightly off-centre look, which is intentional and not at all a distraction. Grain is seen throughout the film serving an aesthetic purpose such as during news segments, while the brilliant colours of real life ballroom dancing competitions are translated particularly well into this film and the DVD. Put simply, Strictly Ballroom has never looked better.

The film is presented in 1.85:1 and is 16:9 enhanced, the original aspect ratio coming up a treat in terms of black levels, sharpness and detail. Your mind will be forever focused on the film and its meticulously planned shots rather than any faults in the transfer, such a good thing for a basically visual film such as this one. There are a small number of artefacts dotted around, not surprising considering the age of the film, but they don’t distract the viewer from the action at all.

Audio
Where would a ballroom dancing film be without any music? Silly question, so thankfully this disc includes a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix just for the score alone. There’s not a lot of surround use as expected save for the ambient sounds placed carefully throughout. Where this film sounds really good is when the musical numbers and orchestral score kicks in. David Hirschfelder hits all the right notes throughout, giving the speakers a nice little workout and the audience’s ears quite a treat. My subwoofer dozed off on a couple of occasions only to be woken by a couple of deep bass requirements by the score, so on the whole there’s not a lot of rumbling to listen to. Nevertheless you couldn’t get a better sounding track for this film.

Strictly Ballroom: Special Red Curtain Edition

Extras
Not sure whether this extras package really warrants the Special Edition tag, but I suppose this is all that was available without creating anything new (after all, the Behind The Red Curtain disc in the box set more than makes up for that lack of new material), hence the “special” title.

First up is the commentary track with Baz Luhrmann, costume designer Catherine Martin and choreographer John O’Connell. These guys have obviously been working with each other for quite some time and have a great rapport, even though they run through the film and it’s details in a very haphazard way. It’s quite an interesting track to listen to, particularly as you hear the three recall various details they had forgotten about the film over the years.

We are also treated to a 30-minute documentary entitled, Samba To Slow Foxtrot. This piece on ballroom dancing and it’s inspirations was made way back in 1985, and it shows. The visual quality is predictably sketchy, though the content is still quite interesting. Worth a look mostly for dancing fans.

Lastly, there is a design gallery which covers the whole production in photos, regrettably over a very short running time. It is divided into five sections and includes an interesting commentary from Baz Luhrmann.

Strictly Ballroom: Special Red Curtain Edition

Overall
Luhrmann’s first major film has been given a great treatment on DVD and fits perfectly alongside the other two films in the Red Curtain Trilogy box set. A great little story that has a broader appeal than some may first think, the whole package is quite impressive and well worth a look even if you’ve never even heard of the title. But be sure to pick up the Red Curtain Box because that’s the only place you’ll find this disc, for the time being at least.


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