Australia-based Umbrella Entertainment continue to build upon their Ozploitation Classics label with Brian Trenchard-Smith's Frog Dreaming (also known as The Quest and The Go-Kids), a charming little film that was released during the wave of '80s kids adventure films, such as The Goonies, The Neverending Story, and, of course, E.T. Speaking of Spielberg's extraterrestrial masterpiece, E.T. star Henry Thomas also leads the cast of Frog Dreaming. Honestly, I had never seen or even heard of Frog Dreaming before Umbrella's Blu-ray arrived at my door, but as a fan of films like the ones I mentioned above and Trenchard-Smith's other works (Night of the Demons 2, Dead End Drive-In), I knew I was in for a delightful treat.
Frog Dreaming tells the story of Cody (Henry Thomas), a 14 year-old American boy, whose parents have died and who now lives in Australia with his guardian, Gaza (Tony Barry). Cody is a typical boy with an adventurous spirit and imagination to match. After discovering the desiccated body of a homeless man in a nearby abandoned quarry-turned pond, Cody and his close friend Wendy (Rachel Friend) learn of an ancient Aboriginal myth known as ‘Donkegin’, which sparks an interest in Cody that will not let him rest. Using his cunning and intelligence, Cody crafts an improvised scuba helmet and dives into the murky depths of the pond in an attempt to uncover the mystery the monster that lurks within it.
This Aussie gem is a film that any kid growing up would love to live, and after viewing it, I found myself wishing that I'd seen it as a child, so that it would have joined my current regular rotation of nostalgic favorites. Frog Dreaming has a little something for everybody and, much like many '80s adventure films, it's impossible to dislike and still holds up to this day. There's an endearing coming of age story, solid acting, as well as immense tension and thrills. Not to mention, Trenchard-Smith really shows filmmaking finesse with skilled pacing and development. There's also a refreshingly inappropriate sense of humor throughout the film, which I greatly appreciated. In addition, the filmmakers made great use of the film's rather small budget with impressive special effects and production quality. I must also shine a light on the unsung heroes of the film industry for their work on the film, with a script by Everett de Roche (Patrick), production design by Jon Dowding (Mad Max), scoring by Bryan May (Road Games), costume design by Aphrodite Kondos (Turkey Shoot) and cinematographer John McClean. All of their talents combined helped create a vastly enjoyable viewing experience. Frog Dreaming is an atmospheric '80s adventure tale that really deserves the same cult following that other films of its kind have accrued over the years.
Umbrella takes the honors of giving Frog Dreaming its Blu-ray debut, and the results are phenomenal. Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, the release boasts a very handsome visual presentation with no noticeable issues. The remastering offers magnificent depth and clarity, with colors bright and nicely balanced. The same amount of praise can be heaped on the Blu-ray's English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track, which is clear and free of any sort of age-related imperfections.
Like most Umbrella releases, extra features are plentiful, beginning with an audio commentary with director Brian Trenchard-Smith, editor Brian Kavanagh, costume designer Aphrodite Kondos and Not Quite Hollywood director Mark Hartley. The commentary track offers up all kinds of behind-the-scenes knowledge for longtime fan and new viewers alike, giving a comprehensive history on the film's creation and delayed release. Of course, no Ozploitation Classic release would be complete without extended interviews from Not Quite Hollywood, this one featuring interviews with de Roche, Thomas, and Trenchard-Smith as they discuss shooting underwater, injuries on set, filming in Australia and much more. A new feature titled "The Depths of a Legend: Looking Back on Frog Dreaming" sees Trenchard-Smith interviewing Thomas, running approximately 30 minutes, the two look back on their experience making the film, which results in quite a pleasant and memorable interview. Another new feature titled "The Go Kids," includes interviews with Rachel Friend and Tamsin West, who played Wendy and Jane in the film respectively. We're also treated to "The Dream Quest," which is a 5-minute look at the filming locations. Rounding out the special features are a theatrical trailer and an image gallery.
Once again, Umbrella Entertainment gives an underrated and widely forgotten Aussie classic a chance to be discovered (or re-discovered) with their extraordinary release of Frog Dreaming, a film that perfectly captures the infectious spirit of childhood determination, coupled with an overwhelming sense of discovery. Highly recommended!