Sunday, July 09, 2006

The return of Number 96!




In a few hours time, Australian DVD retailers will begin unpacking cartons of Umbrella Entertainment's salute to "Number 96", Australia's cult TV soap opera hit, that ran from 1972 until 1977.

In 1993, I seriously began work on a book about "Number 96". It was to have been a social history of the groundbreaking show. The writers' workshops always tell you to write about what you know - and US TV shows, such as "Batman" and "Star Trek" were (and are) well served by a plethora of fiction and non fiction based on those phenomena. Although my "Number 96 Memories" proposal and sample chapters were well received by a big publisher in 1995, when push came to shove the marketing department was against the concept proceeding to contract. If any publishers are still game, I still have all my interview tapes of the cast and crew. Sigh...

Umbrella is presenting "Number 96" as a two-disc collectors' edition. It will feature a brand new 16:9 transfer of "Number 96: The Movie" - yes, in 1974 Australian audiences were able to see their favourite black & white TV characters, uncut and uncensored on the big silver screen, in full colour! While the movie is not the best example of what made the TV series so great, the movie's advantage is that at least it has an ending. Had Umbrella released selected TV episodes instead, new viewers would have been left hanging by the, um, cliffhangers. That's the problem with soap operas on DVD.

The movie will have an audio commentary with my wonderful friend, Elaine Lee, who played Vera Collins; the show's creator/screenwriter David Sale, who generously shared so many amazing anecdotes about the show with me while I was writing my book (and beyond); and TV soaps expert Andrew Mercado. Andrew and I saw "Number 96" as youngsters in our respective home states and we found out about each other's passion for the show only after I did an appearance on "Tonight Live With Steve Vizard", a special 1993 reunion episode about the soapie. I'm so jealous that it was Andrew who got the gig to put together this DVD set - but that's showbiz, of course, and he's worked really hard to see his own dreams become reality. I can't wait to hear the commentary; it's gonna be as hilarious as the movie's reflection of Aussie life in the 70s. (Wait till you see some of the costumes and hairstyles. What were we all thinking in the 70s?)

The other disk will contain a classic documentary on the TV series, restored with all three introductions (one almost lost from the archives forever, but now restored to its rightful place), plus rare Logie footage of the annual "Spirit of 96" train journey, and a newly prepared featurette. And David Sale and Johnny Whyte's original draft screenplay of the film in DVD ROM format.

You might even recognise the villainous Tracey Wilson (Chantal Contouri) in the DVD's archive footage of the Pantyhose Strangler storyline. That's also Tracey/Chantal in the picture above, disposing of the pesky "Number 96" Historian once and for all...

1 comment:

Therin of Andor said...

Comments have been playing up today!

I'm receiving emails that people are finding their copies of the DVD. A few have complained, expecting a boxed set of the movie, both docos and all 1218 episodes. (Please realize that many, many b&w episodes have been lost forever; the old master tapes perished 20 years ago.) If the twion pack sells well, there may well be some episode releases.

Andrew and the gang were on Network Ten's evening news on Monday night, and "Mornings with Kerry-Anne" (Nine Network) and 2BL on Tursday.