Interview with David Stevens re "The Sum Of Us" (1994) and review of the three existing DVD editions (Australia 2001, USA 2003, and Australia 2008).

NB: On 24th May 2016 “Olive Films” will release a high definition widescreen (1.85:1) transfer to Blu-ray (no extras are listed):    

DVD edition comparisons:

(2001) The “Kaleidoscope” Australia region 4 DVD-5 (single layer) edition of The Sum Of Us was released in November 2001 after weeks of delay. It was one of the first DVD’s to be manufactured locally by Shock Record’s "Kaleidoscope" video branch and its technical quality matches their very poor promotional performance as a company.

-       For starters they got the left and right audio channels reversed – which is just careless, and the "extra feature" interview with actor Jack Thompson had very poor audio and unnecessary film inserts. The aspect ratio was 4:3 full-screen. The video transfer quality was terrible and both the colour and contrast were appalling.


(2003) The MGM USA region 1 DVD (double sided, single layers) of The Sum Of Us was released around June 2003, and there are significant improvements over the Australian (Shock) version:


-       much better picture quality in both definition and contrast (making you wonder if Shock hadn't just used a videotape source.


-       the audio is very much cleaner - with no sign of the slight buzz that is on the Shock version. AND the MGM version has the left and right channels in the correct order.


-       it's a double-sided disc with one being a 4:3 full-screen aspect ratio and the other side is a zoomed 16:9 anamorphic widescreen version – to perfectly suit the viewer’s choice on either 4:3 or widescreen TVs. The original film format was a standard 35mm and so it was closer to 4:3. The cropped widescreen version still works well, but you know you’re getting 25% more original filmed detail in the 4:3 full-screen version.


-       the scene chapter marks are much more carefully placed.


-       the USA theatrical release trailer is included as an extra (in 24fps progressive scan)


-       So all in all they've done very well and it was worth the wait.


(2008) The Roadshow Australia region 4 DVD-5 (single layer) edition of “The Sum Of Us” was released in May 2008. Even though this DVD’s packaging states that it is widescreen, it is in fact 4:3 fullscreen, and it is obviously a new transfer from a very good quality film, which lets us view a few percent more of the original image and has much better colours and contrast than the MGM edition. So this edition is now the best I reckon – even though there are no extras (aside from a very clever menu design).  With the rapid take up of widescreen high definition TVs, and DVD/Blu-ray players which can “upscale” to take full advantage of that definition, we can easily accept that the best way to view any film is in its original aspect ratio, and that will mean that the image will be either “pillarboxed” to accurately use the full height of the screen, or letterboxed to accurately use the full width.



Interview with playwright/screenwriter David Stevens 11th July 1994 in Brisbane, Australia for community radio station 4ZZZ’s “Queer Radio” program:


photo of David Stevens by Robert Green from 1995 Currency Press reading script of The Sum Of Us plus DVD frame grabs

Hear John Frame’s 11th July 1994 recording of the Queer Radio interview with David Stevens – playwright and screenwriter of “The Sum Of Us”. Recorded in the Brisbane Hilton to cassette tape using the Sennheiser MKE2002 binaural stereo microphone system, on the dummy head. This system gives genuine surround sound when using non-enclosed headphones – you will be sitting in a close circle, with me to your left, David left of centre, Shane right of centre and Iain to the right. This is the first celebrity interview I was involved with, and while I’m happy to take full credit for the recording, I only ask a couple of minor questions - the interview was expertly prepared and conducted by Queer Radio’s Iain Grey and by Shane McConnell.

David Stevens is an acclaimed multi-talented actor/writer/director with a wealth of life experience. He spent many years in Australia and wrote “The Sum Of Us” as a tribute to the aggressive tolerance of the Australian people and he explains exactly why. The play was published in 1990 and by the time the film was released in 1994 there had been 60 productions in North America, yet David said this was the first time he witnessed Australian actors in the roles. David said he was enormously happy with the casting of Australian acting icon Jack Thompson as "Dad" - describing Jack's performance as "a triumph". He also believed Russell Crowe to be a rising Australian acting icon, who turned in the best "Jeff" performance he'd witnessed. David thought it very important that these actors are able to present the dialogue in its native Australian tongue "with all of its natural rhythms and natural attitudes".

The Sum Of Us was groundbreaking in that it achieved what its writer hoped, in being a financially successful bigger-budget film in which the audience (whether straight or gay) decidedly "wants the boy to get the boy".

The film's look, feel, language, sound and music are all genuine Australiana. I also found the slightly surreal moments were a pure joy on the big screen and that there's not a wasted word or image throughout. I've enjoyed rewatching The Sum Of Us on DVD many times. It makes me totally proud to be a gay Australian and my parents are every bit as supportive as Jeff's Dad - but part of that process included taking my mum to see The Sum Of Us at the cinema in '94, after which she gave me a big hug and a kiss and told me that she is very proud of her openly gay son.

David tells us about the background for the father character, Harry:
  "I didn't invent this character out of my mind - I mean, I'm not that clever. The first incident was a direct personal experience: When I was a young man (I was about seventeen at the time) I had occasion to spend the night in bed with a young Cockney boy from the East End. Fast asleep in his arms in the morning, his mother came in, tapped me on the shoulder and said "Do you take sugar in your tea?". Which was a bit of a shock to me because I came from a very right wing family - my father was closer to Genghis Khan than to Harry. My father never accepted my sexuality.

  But then when I came to Australia, I had a number of close friends. My friend John Barningham (who died of AIDS) - his father and mother were absolutely accepting of John's sexuality. His boyfriends were welcomed into the house, they shared the same bed, and Mother brought them tea in the morning and Dad would sit down and discuss the meaning of life with them. So speak as you find - I don't claim that everybody is like this, but drama is in the "particular" for me. There are people like this."

Read my review 2 comments here and here

David Stevens 11th July 1994 (27 minutes, 128kps stereo, 26mb mp3)

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