Color, 1986, 85 mins. 55 secs.
Directed by Mario Andreacchio
Starring Cassandra Delaney, Peter Ford, David Sandford, Garry Who, Don Barker
Dark Star (Blu-ray) (US RA HD), Camera Obscura (Blu-ray) (Germany RB HD), Umbrella Entertainment (Blu-ray & DVD) (Australia R0 HD/PAL), Vanguard Cinema (DVD) (US R1 NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)
The so-called "Ozploitation" part of the New Australian Cinema wave that kicked off in the 1970s and ran for nearly two decades couldn't have a more representative example than Fair Game, one of the continent's purest drive-in offerings with a wicked local twist on the familiar rape-revenge formula. Touted at the time as an action thriller in the vein of Mad Max, the film did only modest business on its original release and first greeted U.S. viewers on VHS. Since then its reputation has grown thanks to its colorful mixture of exploitation elements, not to mention its clear influence on Death Proof including a precursor to the ship's mast scene and the use of vehicular mayhem to stand in for sexual assault.
At a remote outback wildlife reserve, Jessica (Delaney) is left to her own devices with just her dog for company while her partner is away. At night, a trio of repugnant poachers -- Sunny (Ford), Ringo (Sanford), and Sparks (Who) -- trespass on the land to kill and bag kangaroos, and they even terrorize her on the road to the nearest supply shop for a sick laugh. The local lawman, Frank (Barker), has a cavalier "boys will be boys" attitude about their behavior, and things quickly escalate from taking unwelcome Polaroids to outright home invasion and (thankfully fake) animal abuse. Over the course of several days the two opposing forces keep antagonizing each other until things become homicidal in a desperate fight for survival.
A dusty, nasty, gritty piece of work, Fair Game really puts its cast through the wringer with the actors performing the lion's share of their own stunts, including a curtain-raising, George Miller-style triple vehicle showdown that finds them swerving and leaping around right in front of the camera. Though the structure can get a bit repetitive in the middle with a string of various back and forth jabs between the four main characters, it's handled with raw efficiency by director Mario Andreacchio who's better known for his far more wholesome Aussie kid-friendly TV work. The insistent synthesizer score by Ashley Irwin has taken its fair share of hits over the years, though it does kind of work in an unnerving, very '80s sort of way if taken in the right spirit.
Though neglected in the U.S. for the most part except for a short-lived and very mediocre 2000 DVD release from Vanguard, Fair Game has fared far better in Australia with several editions including restored Blu-ray and DVD presentations in 2018 from Umbrella. That Blu-ray features a DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo track (no subs) nicely replicating the very active original Dolby Stereo mix (a rarity for a film of this caliber at the time), plus a thorough audio commentary with director Mario Andreacchio and writer Rob George. Video extras include an extended interview with Cassandra Delaney from Mark Hartley's essential 2008 documentary Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation! (15m24s), an on-location chunk of video coverage (3m39s), 1985 TV behind the scenes reports from NS9 Action News (36s) and ADS-7 State Affair (2m21s), a lengthy VHS-sourced behind the scenes compilation by filmmaker Dean Bennett (52m1s), the Australian trailer, an image gallery of press kit material and other odds and ends, an archival video of storyboards (8m5s), and a reel of Andreacchio short films (89m30s) including Vandalism, Break-In, Taken by Storm, Abduction: Who's Next?, and Under Pressure.
In 2020, Camera Obscura brought the film to German Blu-ray in a two-disc edition featuring English and German DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo options with optional German or English subtitles, plus the audio commentary. The transfer appears to be from the same source but has a few unexpected variables; some scenes look identical apart from some very slight shifting in the framing by a few pixels, but others have color timing that looks a notch more vivid with deeper blacks. This version also features a longer black fade-out at the end and comes in 7 seconds longer than the Umbrella. Video extras carried over from the Aussie release include the Delaney interview, the two TV news reports, the quick extra behind the scenes bit, the trailer, and storyboards, while you also get a different, expanded 90-image gallery. Disc two features Not Quite Hollywood in its entirety (with optional German subtitles), making what appears to be its German home video debut, along with its trailer. The mediabook packaging also features a booklet with German liner notes on this film and Ozploitation in general by Pelle Felsch and Lioba Schlösser.
In 2022, Dark Star brought the film to American Blu-ray for the first time as both a standard edition and a limited 2,000-unit edition embossed and spot gloss slipcover designed by Benjamin Marra. It looks identical to the Camera Obscura release, which is good news, and runs slightly longer (86m7s) due to the addition of two new logos at the beginning. Audio options include the excellent DTS-HD MA 2.0 English stereo track and a lossy 2.0 Dolby Stereo option with English SDH subtitles. The audio commentary reappears here along with the extended Delaney interview, the on-location segment (now 3m50s at NTSC speed), the two State News segments and a TV spot, the theatrical trailer, and the five Andreacchio short films, now more logically separated (with a play all function) instead of edited into one reel. Interestingly, there's also an alternate censored version of Abduction: Who's Next? (15m12s) tucked away in there as well. Finally the disc closes out with a storyboard gallery (now step-through), an ad and theatrical program gallery, and bonus trailers for Mother Schmuckers, The Last Matinee, The Passenger, King Car, and PVT Chat.
Dark Star / Camera Obscura (Blu-ray)
Reviewed on December 29, 2020.