DVD Review: THE DEVIL’S PLAYGROUND

THE DEVIL’S PLAYGROUND was written and directed by Fred Schepisi and stars Simon Burke, Arthur Dignam, Nick Tate, John Frawley, John Diedrich and Alan Cinis. The music is composed by Bruce Smeaton.

Australian-born filmmaker Fred Schepisi, directed only The Devil’s Playground and The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith before being lured to Hollywood where his works include Barbarosa, Iceman, Plenty, Roxanne, A Cry in the Dark, The Russia House, Six Degrees of Separation, I.Q. and Fierce Creatures. The Devil’s Playground features a young Simon Burke as Tom, a seminary student struggling with his nascent sexual yearnings and his divine calling. The seminary is lorded over by a group of Brothers who follow a harsh code of religious discipline, all the while repressing their own desires. A lyrical, mordantly funny memory film about the age-old struggles of mind, body and spirit.

The front of the packaging features the artwork you see at the top of the page and the back includes movie details, some images and list of special features. The DVD disc also features some matching artwork. Inserting the disc, the menu screen was simple and easy to navigate. The film, long out of print, is being re-released by Artsploitation Films in a new widescreen HD transfer. The picture and sound quality for this standard-definition release were really good. I didn’t have any issues with the video and audio.

Bottom line is, The Devil’s Playground wasn’t that interesting of a watch for a number of reasons. First of all, the movie is an extreme slow burn that plays like a day in the life of this young boy and the people he’s surrounded by which is more boys and men at this Catholic seminary. The story takes place in the 50’s and deals with puberty, adolescence as well as sexual curiosity and how young boys handle their “growing pains” as they become men. There’s also the Brothers who run the school and how they govern over these boys while they deal with their own personal problems. There’s an uncomfortable rebellious vibe to Fred Schepisi’s directorial debut and I’m sure it was a controversial watch back when it first released in 1976. I still think every film, good or bad, should be preserved for historical purposes, just like books in libraries. With that being said, even though this Australian coming-of-age drama wasn’t really my kind of watch, I’m sure there’s an audience out there for it. The Devil’s Playground is now available on DVD.

Distributor: Artsploitation Films

Run Time: 99 minutes

Rated: Not Rated

DVD Video: Widescreen

DVD Audio: English Dolby Digital Mono

Subtitles: English

Special Features: The extras include a featurette with Schepisi, as well as an interview and audio commentary by him.

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