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Peter Weir
Rachel Roberts, Anne-Louise Lambert, Vivean Gray
Cliff Green
During a rural summer picnic, a few students and a teacher from an Australian girls' school vanish without a trace.
Rated PG.

Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 107 min.
Price: $49.95
Release Date: 4/9/2024

• Introduction from Film Scholar David Thomson
• 2003 Interview with Director Peter Weir
• “Everything Begins and Ends” Documentary
• “A Recollection” Documentary
Homesdale Feature Film
• Trailer
• Booklet
• Blu-ray Copy


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver
-Sony UBP-X700 4K Ultra HD Dolby Vision Blu-ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


Picnic at Hanging Rock: Criterion Collection [4K UHD] (1975)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 2, 2024)

Peter Weir’s career as a filmmaker started in 1968 and led to a series of fairly undistinguished efforts for seven years. However, that changed with 1975’s Picnic at Hanging Rock, a mystery that helped give the Australian cinematic scene international attention.

Set on Valentine’s Day 1900, students and staff from a small Australian girls’ boarding school take an excursion to the nearby natural formation called Hanging Rock. Bizarrely, three of the pupils – Miranda (Anne-Louise Lambert), Marion (Jane Vallis), and Irma (Karen Robson) – vanish.

A fourth girl named Edith (Christine Schuler) returns from this jaunt in a panic. This leads to attempts to locate the missing people, one that becomes an obsession for a young visiting Englishman named Michael Fitzhubert (Dominic Guard).

Given that plot synopsis, one might expect Picnic to offer a firm thriller, perhaps one that walks down a supernatural path. Actually, I guess the story overview doesn’t imply anything non-human in terms of the girls’ disappearance, but the movie’s evolution definitely hints in that direction.

In most hands, this would lead to a spooky piece with a variety of jolts. Instead, Weir gives us what I’ll call an “art house thriller”, one that tends to avoid genre tropes.

This seems especially true during the movie’s first act. We get a gauzy vibe that implies the film will offer a “coming of age” story about same-sex romance.

This gradually dissipates, especially after the girls vanish. While Weir doesn’t create an abrupt change of tone, matters turn less dreamy as the film progresses.

That works, as it takes Picnic into deeper spaces. Though no literal ghosts appear in the film, the disappearance of the girls haunts various characters in a similar manner and also disrupts their lives.

Weir also likes to taunt the audience with genre expectations. As the story evolves, he devotes a lot of time to weird evidence and theories but he refuses to provide actual answers.

While the film’s lack of a concrete solution to the mystery seems likely to annoy many, I think the film becomes more interesting because of its vague nature. Most movies spell out everything and wrap it up with a tidy bow, so the loose finale makes Picnic more memorable and affecting.

All of this leads to a fairly powerful drama. More “arthouse” than usual for the thriller genre, Picnic turns into a quality character piece with mystery overtones.

Note that this Criterion release features a Director’s Cut of Picnic that Weir authorized in 1998. It loses about seven minutes from the 1975 theatrical version.

The Disc Grades: Picture B/ Audio B/ Bonus B

Picnic at Hanging Rock appears in an aspect ratio of 1.66:1 on this 4K UHD Disc. This release often looked stunning, but I thought it could seem a bit too stunning at times.

By that I meant the image seemed to have undergone some “updating” that took it away from how it would’ve looked in 1975. Sharpness seemed very satisfying, at least, as the movie delivered consistently strong accuracy.

No issues with jagged edges or moiré effects appeared, and I saw no edge haloes. Print flaws remained absent.

However, very little grain appeared here, and some elements could feel too “smoothed out” and without the natural depth I’d anticipate. In particular, faces tended to seem without the appropriate detail.

The palette tended to lean toward a bronze-infused amber, with some blues and greens as well as a smattering of deep reds. The disc duplicated these tones in an appropriate manner, and HDR gave the hues extra impact.

Black levels appeared deep and dark at all times, and shadow detail was also strong. HDR added punch to whites and contrast. Superficially, this became an appealing presentation and one that didn’t actively bother me, but I still question if some “tampering” took it too far from the 1975 intentions.

Whereas the 1975 version of the film came with monaural audio, the 1998 “Director’s Cut” featured here apparently replaced that with a multichannel mix. Via a DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack, we got that here.

For the most part, the soundfield appeared fairly subdued, as much of the non-musical aspect of the movie essentially remained one-channel – or at least “broad mono”.

Music became the only element that showed any obvious use of the side/rear speakers, and even that side of the track felt limited in terms of scope. While the score spread to these channels, it lacked obvious stereo separation, so the material gently filled the spectrum but didn’t bring clear localization.

At least the music attempted some utilization of those channels. Outside of a handful of elements like a yell that echoed or some directional speech, the dialogue and effects mainly remained firmly tethered to the front center.

Audio quality held up well over the last 48 years, at least. Music sounded warm and full, while effects came across as fairly accurate and concise.

Speech also seemed natural and crisp. Given its age, the audio seemed more than satisfactory.

How did the 2024 4K UHD compare to the prior Criterion Blu-ray? Both seemed to come with identical audio.

The 4K image turned into a different domain, though, and we start with the aspect ratio. Whereas the BD went 1.85:1, the 4K opted for 1.66:1.

This didn’t result in major changes in composition. It did seem odd, though, and it made me question which ratio was “original” in 1975.

Colors also changed. The Blu-ray went with more of a sandy yellow instead of the bronze of the 4K.

On the positive side, the 4K offered superior sharpness and it fixed the minor gate weave of the Blu-ray. On the negative side, the 4K felt less “film-like” and organic, largely due to the apparent grain reduction involved.

Both BD and 4K came with plusses and minuses, and I gave both “B” grades for visuals. That said, I preferred the Blu-ray just because it looked more the way I’d expect a movie from 1975 to look.

The 4K came with more obvious visual pleasures, and as I noted, it could seem stunning. However, I simply maintain a suspicion the Blu-ray better represents the movie as intended in 1975.

No extras appear on the 4K disc, but we find a mix on the included Blu-ray copy, where we open with an Introduction from film scholar David Thomson. Shot in 2014, this piece lasts nine minutes, 30 seconds.

Thomson discusses Australian cinema as well as filmmaker Peter Weir’s depiction of the land and his impressions of Picnic. Because this acts as an overview, it doesn’t work as something one should watch prior to a first screening of the film, but Thomson gives us good summary.

Recorded in 2003, an Interview with Director Peter Weir comes next. This conversation spans 25 minutes.

Weir talks about how he came to the project and its development, the source and its adaptation, his approach to the material, locations, cast and performances, photography and editing, music, and reactions to the movie. Weir provides an informative take on the production and his choices.

Created in 2014 from interviews conducted in 2003, a documentary entitled Everything Begins and Ends lasts 30 minutes, 24 seconds. It involves producers Hal and Jim McElroy, executive producer Patricia Lovell, cinematographer Russell Boyd and actors Helen Morse and Anne-Louise Lambert.

“Begins” covers the source and its adaptation, the controversial ending, Weir's work on the film, cast and performances, crew and their work, locations and photography, and thoughts about the film and its legacy. Some of this repeats from elsewhere but we still get useful alternate perspectives.

Shot by Lovell during the production in 1975, A Recollection goes for 26 minutes, 13 seconds. Here we find remarks from Weir, Hal and Jim McElroy, local Jock McClarthy, novelist Joan Lindsay, and actors Rachel Roberts and Dominic Guard.

Hosted by Lovell, we get shots of the production along with notes that echo what we heard previously. While it lacks much fresh material, the program benefits from its vintage, especially since it allows us our only chats with Lindsay.

In addition to the film’s trailer, the disc wraps with Homesdale, a film Weir directed in 1971. It fills 49 minutes, 52 seconds.

A mix of strangers come to the Homesdale Hunting Lodge, apparently for some R&R. However, the management plays insidious and sinister games with them.

That sounds like an intriguing premise for a thriller, and Weir does milk some tension and dark humor from it. However, the whole thing feels like the work of a filmmaking neophyte that it is, as it shows promise but tends to seem too unfocused to succeed, especially because it loses considerable steam as it goes.

The package wraps with a booklet that includes photos, credits and essays from author Megan Abbott and film scholar Marek Haltof. It adds value to the set.

A mystery without a solution, Picnic at Hanging Rock may frustrate some viewers. However, the film boasts enough depth and intrigue to make it effective despite this lack of ultimate clarity. The 4K UHD brings pretty good audio as well as a nice collection of bonus materials along with visuals that seemed appealing but a little too “reworked”. Picnic turns into a quality mix of character piece and subdued thriller.

To rate this film, visit the prior review of PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main