STUDIO: Warner Home Video
MSRP: $19.97
RUNNING TIME: 179 Minutes

The Pitch

The Thornbirds was a successful mini-series, but there’s no room for a sequel. I know! We’ll pull a Shadows of the Empire and make a movie about an unaccounted for gap of time in the original series!”

The Humans

Richard Chamberlain, Simon Westaway, Zach English, Olivia Burnette and Amanda Donohoe, fresh from the Lair of the White Worm.

When hats collide.

The Nutshell

Taking place in the middle of the original mini-series, The Missing Years begins with Father Ralph De Bricassart helping out Jewish exiles during World War II. The Holy Roman Church doesn’t approve of his use of church funds for this purpose, so he is shipped back to Australia and the very same farm where he violated his sacred church oath not to have sex with attractive farm babes.

Back on the farm, Meggie Cleary O’Neill (the woman with whom Ralph impaled with his spear of destiny) is struggling to run the farm by herself in the midst of a two year drought. Her ex-husband returns under the false pretense of wanting to reunite. Only after Meggie has a miscarriage does he reveal that all he wanted was to help raise his son, whose existence Meggie kept secret. He takes the boy with him and Meggie looks to Father Ralph for help in getting custody of her son back.

Richard Chamberlain – Voted People’s sexiest man alive for ten years running

The Package

An unnecessar and crummy sequel to a “classic" mini-series probably doesn’t deserve special treatment, but I’m sure there’s some soap opera fanatics who love this film and will feel a little cheated by this DVD release. The video transfer is wildly uneven and the picture becomes washed out at seemingly random times. Some parts of the transfer contain huge amounts of grain and artifacts and become clear an instant later. The audio is in Dolby Digital Stereo and sounds good for a TV movie.

The disc has no extras. Not even a chapter insert is included – the chapters are printed on the backside of the cover and the DVD comes in a translucent case. Scene selection is a blessing for this one though, unless you’re a masochist or a CHUD reviewer and take on the entire three hour film in one sitting.

Oh look, the Allies are putting on a fireworks display!

The Lowdown

The Thorn Birds was a successful mini-series adaptation of the novel when it debuted in 1983. Jump forward to 1996, when network executives presumably had a drought of ideas and needed a way to exploit a past success. It was in the fertile minds of these network executives that The Thorn Birds – The Missing Years was born. They assembled their greatest soap opera writers and got to work.

I have never seen the original Thorn Birds mini-series, but I am familiar with it thanks to the hilarious musings of C-list comedians on VH1 clip shows. Even though I haven’t read the novel the original series was based on, I think it’s safe to assume that the events chronicles in The Missing Years probably weren’t part of the original narrative. This film feels like something that aired on the original Family Channel in between reruns of Rin Ten Ten – Canine Cop.

Unbeknownst to Luke, Father Ralph was a master of teras kasi.

The entire film is a rehash of generic soap opera plots all the way up to its thrilling finale, in which Father Ralph must resort to fisticuffs with a man to save Meggie’s son. Ralph is reluctant to fight because he’s a priest. Why the sudden pangs of conscience? You’ve broken that “no sex” rule a couple of times with Meggie, surely punching out an Australian sheep shearer for the fate of a young boy isn’t as bad as that. After the finale, everything must wrap up and revert back to the status quo so that the ending of the original mini-series isn’t mucked up. So not only is the film bad, but it’s entirely pointless in the rich mythology of the Thorn Birds series!

3 out of 10