Sleeping Dogs

Sleeping Dogs - 1977

Aardvark Films - 105 min.

DVD UPC/EAN # 013131261691 (US 2-disc set w/Smash Palace); 9315842026240 (AU 2-disc set w/Smash Palace)
Blu-ray UPC/EAN #760137120087(US); 5027035018881(UK)

Cast: Sam Neill, Ian Mune, Warren Oates, Nevan Rowe, Donna Akersten, Ian Watkin, Bill Johnson.
Crew: Screenplay: Ian Mune, Arthur Baysting (based on the C. K. Stead's novel, 'Smith's Dream'); Photography: Michael Seresin; Editor: Ian John; Music: Murray Grindlay, David Calder, Mathew Brown; Producer and director: Roger Donaldson.

Against a background of economic crisis and industrial turmoil, goading a repressive government to rule by force, an apolitical man (Neill) leaves a broken marriage to set up home on an offshore island, unaware that revolutionaries are using it to store arms. He finds out when the police come for him. Meanwhile his wife's lover (Mune), is likewise apolitical until he is unwittingly caught up in police violence at a demonstration and becomes a revolutionary. This is considered the film that marked the beginning of contemporary New Zealand cinema and lauched the careers of several film-makers and actors, most notably Sam Neill and Roger Donaldson.

Censor Rating: PG - Review Rating: B-

Sleeping Dogs
Official MP4 Trailer


New PAL copies will cost about $20nz or 10eur. New NTSC VHS copies will be about $10us.
There is a two-disc set in either R1 ntsc or R4 pal with SMASH PALACE titled THE ROGER DONALDSON COLLECTION. It is a product of Anchor Bay and contains an excellent commentary track by Donaldson, Neill and Mune. It also has one of the best "Making of" features I have even seen with a New Zealand film (65 minutes) plus the disc also has a gallery of stills and posters as well as text bios. The movies are restored widescreen 1.76:1, enhanced for 16x9 and includes restored soundtracks with Dolby Digital 1.0 or Dolby 5.1 surround - resulting in an above average visual and aural quality. There are no subtitles.

The 2-disc DVD set sells new for about $15us from various sources, but be sure to search for it by the title: ROGER DONALDSON COLLECTION. This collection is definately the way to go. The optical and sound quality approaches theatrical and the background info in the commentary and "Making of" additions is very insightful - altogether and excellent buy for the cost. For R4 PAL users - this "double feature" offering, with audio commentaries and "Making of" featurettes, is available in NZ for about $30nz.
As of January 2009, the 2-disc Collection is out-of-print. As of October 2012, new sets are selling for about $40us and used about $20us.

Aro Video of Wellington has rental copies available for New Zealand addresses

DealOZ North American price comparison site

As of 11 August 2014, both the R1 and R4 versions of The Roger Donaldson Collection Set is OOP, so remaining copies are getting harder to find and the price is going up.

Starting 17 April 2018, an All Regions Blu-ray became available in the US, UK and Canada. It contains the commentary track, that is in the "Roger Donaldson Collection" DVD shown above, with Donaldson, Neill and Mune, plus the 65 minute 2004 retrospective documentary on the film's production featuring interviews with Donaldson, Neill, Mune and Geoff Murphy. It also has a 1977 "Making of" that is a behind the scenes documentary with Donaldson and Neill (28 minutes). It has an uncompressed LPCM 2.0 spoken English track as well as a DTS-HD Master audio 5.1 mix. and has its original 1.85:1 format. It also has optional English subtitles and the theatrical trailer. There are 12 chapter divisions to the feature, 13 chapters for the 2004 documentary and 4 chapters for the 1977 documentary. First pressing only: A 32 page Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Neil Mitchell and a reproduction of the original press book. It is selling for $30-40 or 18-25#.

Blu-ray pre-orders being taken at Arrow Films (UK)

DealOZ North American Blu-ray price comparison site


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There are no known soundtrack CDs of this title.

MP3 clip from this title's soundtrack

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The first known NZ feature film to also have its own soundtrack release was the 1977 33rpm LP of Sleeping Dogs. Other titles that are on 33rpm LP and/or audio cassette, but have not yet (as of 2007) found their way to CD are: Solo (1978), Goodbye Pork Pie (1980), Battletruck (1981), Smash Palace (1981), Strata (1984), Bridge to Nowhere (1986), Queen City Rocker (1986) and The Leading Edge (1987).

Details on these rare LPs can be found at the Soundtrack LP page.


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"I think Sleeping Dogs has something important to say about New Zealand. Civil liberties are declining fast in this country. Although there haven't been any events as violent as those in the movie, there have been plenty of indications in the last few years that N.Z is becoming a constricted democracy. In N.Z, as in other countries, there are people who are prepared to have total disregard for the rights of individuals, people who feel that the end justifies the means. If Sleeping Dogs has a lesson, it is that we should beware of giving anyone too much power in the belief that he won't abuse it. If power is not controlled, then it very likely will be abused" - (Roger Donaldson interviewed by Roger Horrocks in, "Worth the Ulcers", Craccum, October 3,1977)

"As Smith, Sam Neill is a natural. He projects the right intensity for a man caught up in an Orwellian nightmare. Neill's charm overcomes the script's ambiguity which seems to have him deserting his family for no better reason than he doesn't like the way the political scene is shaping...Without going for easy scenic shots, Michael Seresin's camera work records the freshness of a landscape hardly seen on international screens. It will give Sleeping Dogs a visual novelty for offshore audiences " - (Variety, October 26, 1977)

Vietnam-in-New Zealand, rendered as a commercial thriller. A seminal film, credited with reviving the New Zealand film industry and spurring the government into establishing a film commission. - (Nicholas Reid - 'A Decade of New Zealand Film' - 1986)

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