FAIR GAME (1986) Blu-ray
Director: Mario Andreacchio
Umbrella Entertainment

"Now, the target is kangaroos. Later, the prey will be human…" in the 1980s Ozploitation rape/revenge thriller FAIR GAME, on region free special edition Blu-ray from Umbrella Entertainment.

A wildlife sanctuary in the outback run by Jessica (Cassandra Delaney, PLEDGE NIGHT) has been targeted by a trio kangaroo hunters – smooth Sunny (Peter Ford, GALLIPOLI), hotheaded Ringo (David Sandford, HOME AND AWAY), and oafish Sparks (Garry Who, DEAD END DRIVE-IN) – who have been trespassing on her land and killed her animals. Since they perform a service for the surrounding farms, deputy Frank (Don Barker, THE TIME GUARDIAN) dismisses Jessica's repeated requests to lay formal charges against them. The trio thinks that terrorizing Jessica is all in good fun, even going so far as to leave Polaroids of her sleeping to let her know they have been inside her home. When she retaliates by sneaking into their camp and welding their guns together, they show her they have more firepower by chasing her through the outback, strapping her to the hood of their truck "The Beast" and raping her. With her home destroyed, her car wrecked, her animals dead, and the hunters in between her and town, Jessica must fight back by luring them into her booby-trapped homestead.

Although a relatively late entry in the Ozploitation genre, FAIR GAME proves that the Australians were still capable of sleazy and rip-roaring action fare. Although it does have elements of the rape/revenge film, it has less in common with I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE than the 1988 Aussie thriller SHAME, particularly with its town of unsympathetic male authority and the hunting trio's incredulousness at a woman who has the tenacity to fight back. The film fortunately elides much of the visual depiction of the protagonist's rape, favoring suspense and vulnerability as she makes her way across wide open spaces with the possibility that she is being observed through the hunters' rifle scopes, and of course some great action set-pieces with plenty of gunfire, pyrotechnics, deadly booby traps, and the demolishing of the homestead. Although Delaney is not given much to work with other than being victimized and getting angry, she retains audience sympathy with her own stunned reactions not only to the violence inflicted upon her but even to that which she exacts upon her tormentors. While Sandford and Who are suitably odious and over-the-top, Ford's characterization is the most interesting as he seems more mature and level-headed than the other two but really only prefers that their campaign of terror against Jessica is done with "finesse", making his character ultimately the most repugnant of them. Although not photographed in scope like its primary Ozploitation forebearer, the film is strikingly lensed by Andrew Lesnie who would go on to multiple award-winning assignments for Peter Jackson including the LORD OF THE RINGS films and KING KONG. Only the synthesizer scoring of Ashley Irwin – who would score several DTV erotic thrillers in the nineties before going on to work as a music arranger for the Academy Awards – is disruptive in its incessant bombast. The film was the feature debut of Mario Andreacchio who had made several short films and videos before and has subsequently worked in television and family films like ELEPHANT TALES and THE DRAGON PEARL. His only other Ozploitation release was the Anthony Ginnane aboriginal supernatural film THE DREAMING (which was issued on DVD a few years ago by Scorpion Releasing in a double bill with the coming-of-age outback adventure THE INITIATION). Not to be confused with 1991's FAIR GAME, a trashy Italian film that pitted Trudie Styler against a black mamba.

Unreleased theatrically in the United States, it was first released in 1986 by Charter Entertainment and then in 2000 on VHS and DVD by Vanguard Cinema. Typical of their releases, it was a poor PAL-NTSC fullscreen transfer with no extras. Umbrella Entertainment's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.85:1 widescreen transfer on the other hand is derived from a new 2K master. Although some white specs remain and an in-camera vertical negative scratch in one shot is more noticeable here than before, the film looks great here, retaining the warm bias of the outback settings as well as tanned, mud-stained, and sweaty skin, while shots composed in depth (usually against a striking cloudscape) have an added sense of dimension. The opticals of the opening and end credits – set to a ridiculously uplifting song by Keren Corby – are softer and grainier. The Dolby Stereo mix is presented in a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track boasting clear dialogue, directional engine sound and gunfire, as well as the distracting synth score. There are no subtitles.

Extras start off with an audio commentary with director Andreacchio and writer Rob George (THE RIVER KINGS) who discuss their previous short video work, the origins of the story in a distressing encounter George had while driving a dark highway at night with another driver playing chicken, as well as the subsequent credits of many of those involved including stunt coordinator Glenn Boswell (THE MATRIX). Most interesting is their discussion of the way they visually set up objects and places that would come into play later in the film during a montage of tension-building shots around the homestead used to suggest a lurking presence, as well as discussion of the film's stunt sequences. This is yet another Ozploitation film that has been able to make use of the hours of accumulated interviews by Mark Hartley for his documentary NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD, including here an extended interview with actress Delany (15:24) who reveals that she was attracted to the project because it was action with a female lead, and that the cartoonish aspects of the villains and the action made it seem less exploitative to her. She also reveals that her nudity during the scene when she is strapped to the hood of "The Beast" was not in the script, and that Andreacchio asked if she would consent to do it. Although we are not able to confirm it, she claims that the nude shots during this sequence were added for video and were not present in the theatrical version.

"On Location with FAIR GAME" featurette (3:39) is a montage of behind the scenes video focusing mainly on the destruction of the house scenes while a pair of short TV news segments from NWS9 Action News (0:36) and ADS-7 State Affair (2:21) also focus mainly on the action, with the latter mentioning the film as the first in a slate of films for production company Southern Films International. "Behind the Scenes with Dean Bennett" (52:01) is an assortment of camcorder documentation of the shoot from stunt performer Bennett. The editing is ragged but it does become interesting as we watch the blocking and rehearsal of stunts, seeing just how much involved the actors themselves rather than doubles as well as showing Delaney and her co-stars gearing themselves and each other up for action. Also included are an extensive image gallery (24:18) and storyboard (8:05) montage as well as the film's theatrical trailer (1:03). The disc also includes an assortment of Andreacchio's short films (89:30) which are mostly extended PSA-type films like "Break-In" (1983) and "Abduction... Who's Next?" (1984), as well as explorations of issues like "Vandalism" (1981), "Under Pressure" (1986), and "Taken by Storm" (1984), the latter framing the issue of beach erosion as a noir detective story. In spite of the to-the-camera addresses like "this is what s/he could have done" the dramatized parts of the films reveal the visual dynamism that would mature in FAIR GAME. The reverse side of the cover is identical to the front without the Australian rating classification sticker. (Eric Cotenas)