Windrider (Blu-ray Review)
1987 (June 2, 2021)
Umbrella Entertainment (Ozploitation Classics # 4)
- Film / program rating: B
- Video quality: B-
- Audio level: C +
- Category of extras: B
[Editor’s Note: This is a Region-Free release, NOT Region B as stated on the packaging.]
During the 1980s, many films came out in the teen comedy scene, some being hotter than others when it came to content. All of Summer school at valley girl at The last American virgin had their chance, and while not all of them were successful, many are now considered cult classics. Wind runner, on the other hand, is one that many haven’t seen, mainly because it doesn’t have a lot of followers outside of Australia. It’s perfectly generic, but in a charming way that only movies from this era can be.
Stewart PC Wilson (Tom Burlinson) is a young day executive in his father’s business. During his rest hours, he is a world-class windsurfer, eager to prove himself in the next Windsurfing World Championship against a rival, but equally talented, windsurfer. However, after meeting a beautiful, young rock singer named Jade (Nicole Kidman), who watches him perform a perfect 360 degree windsurfing move, the two fall in love. As the championship draws closer, PC begins to wonder if he should hang up his board for good and grow up, despite encouragement from Jade and her father to continue, leading to a final windsurf showdown.
Wind runner is familiar ’80s territory, drawing parallels to other similar stories in Risky business, Top Gun, True Genius, and A crazy summer, Just to name a few. His story is mostly about PC (Tom Burlinson) transforming from a self-centered jerk into a more balanced person. It takes little detours with often not very funny gags and stale comedic relief from her beach mates, as well as the laid back, cannabis-smoking group members of Jade. The film sparked slight controversy due to a few nude scenes featuring Nicole Kidman, who had grown in the eyes of viewers after appearances in films like Christmas bush and BMX Bandits. Upon the film’s release, she told reporters she was perfectly comfortable with it, but later said she felt exploited. Whatever the real situation, it ultimately didn’t matter. Wind runner bombed upon release in the United States and was quickly forgotten by most.
We previously reviewed the Blu-ray version of MVD Rewind Collection from Wind runner, which featured a nice transfer of a theatrical print. The new Blu-ray release from Umbrella Entertainment, as part of their Ozploitation Classics line, seems to use the same master, but with gentle filtering to smooth the grain. The bit rate is also a bit higher than that of the MVD version, so it makes the most of it. The rest of the presentation is the same, right down to the crushed blacks and the occasional print damage. The color scheme offers a nice variety of hues, from PC office building interiors to sunny beaches with clear blue skies and pretty skin tones that aren’t too warm. Brightness and contrast levels are also acceptable. Remaining damage includes scratches, stains, change signals, and streaks, the latter of which are more noticeable in some shots than others. There is also minor instability from time to time. Which presentation is superior is up for debate. Most will not approve of the heavy grain of the MVD presentation as they might perceive it as “noisy”. Others may like the Umbrella version because it tones it down a bit and looks slightly softer in comparison. Both look good, but your mileage may vary.
For audio, there is a DTS-HD Mono English 2.0 Master Audio track with optional SDH English subtitles. The MVD version featured an English mono 2.0 LPCM track with no subtitles, which means this version has a slight edge. It’s a fairly flat presentation with little to no enlargement. Some dialogue overlaps a bit, but there is no obvious distortion. The music selection goes well, but the sound effects tend to have little to no life, including crashing waves and the screeching of PC tires at a brake light. Like its video counterpart, it could use some improvement, but it works for handy presentation without any major interference.
The following extras are also included:
- Audio commentary with Vincent Monton, Every De Roche and Mark Hartley
- Running Hot: Thoughts on Windrider (HD – 5:09)
- Nicole Kidman Music Promo (SD scaled – 1:11)
- Young Days Music Video (SD scaled – 1:41)
- Extended, uncut bedroom scene (SD upscaled -: 40)
- Windsurfing promo (SD enlarged – 2:51)
- Photos and promotional gallery (HD – 48 in all – 2:31)
- TV spot (SD upscaled -: 27)
- Theatrical trailer (HD – 1:47)
The audio commentary with director Vince Monton and writer Everett De Roche, hosted by filmmaker Mark Hartley, is a lively conversation as Monton and De Roche recollect the film as Hartley asks questions and receives many interesting answers. There is also Running hot, which presents sequences of interviews with Monton and De Roche taken from interviews filmed for the Not quite Hollywood documentary (a new addition); a brief musical promo featuring “Nicole Kidman” (Lisa Hill in fact) singing the song Running hot; a music video promo for the song Young days by Boyd Wilson; a slightly extended love scene between JC and Jade, from VHS; a windsurfing promo on a rock version of Toccata and Fugue in D minor; and an animated image gallery containing 48 behind-the-scenes images, posters, newspaper clippings and magazine articles (including all stills from the MVD Rewind release). To round things out, a “TV spot”, which is more likely an Australian VHS preview for the film, and the trailer for the film. The only thing missing from the MVD version is a folding poster. The film’s press kit and script are not included in the original Umbrella DVD release. The disc sits inside a transparent amaray case with double-sided artwork. The inner sleeve features a director’s note and the outer sleeve features the Australian movie poster on the front and the US poster on the back. Everything is housed in a cover with the same new artwork as the MVD version.
Wind runner may seem quite toothless at first glance, and it is, but the more you look at it, the more you look at it. There’s nothing too aggressive about it, but once you’re on the PC side and want it to be successful, you’ll find yourself trapped. Umbrella’s Blu-ray release of the film raises the bar set by the release of the MVD Rewind collection, but who delivers the best transfer is up for grabs.
– Tim Salmon
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