DVD Review: Wentworth (Season 1)

After the United States revolted and declared its independence, England needed a new land to declare its primary penal colony. This new destination turned out to be Australia. The land down under has over the decades made the world forget about how over 160,00 people arrived on its shores around the 19th century to serve out their sentences. It’s not just all koala bears and vegemite. While it’s no longer a penal colony, they do have prisons to control those returning to their outlaw ancestor roots. Now Australia is exporting its modern prison life with the arrival of the gritty lockdowns found in Wentworth: Season 1.

Bea Smith (Danielle Cormack) arrives at Wentworth Correctional Centre while in the middle of her trial for attempting to murder her husband. The man was abusive to her and she had reached her limit with the guy. However her homicide plan were ruined by her daughter. Bea turns out to be very popular as the new meat on the cellblock. Franky Doyle is her lesbian roommate who seems interested in getting her to understand how the place works. Turns out there’s more to their new relationship when Bea gets a special visitor only to discover the guy is a stranger who gives her a drug drop. He’s a friend of Franky and she’s not happy when Bea panics and screws up her mule operation. This immediately puts Bea on the new bad list with guards. Doesn’t feel like Bea’s stay is temporary. Turns out Franky is not the worst nightmare for Bea. There’s Jacs Holt who appears to be an incarcerated Martha Stewart. But the only project she enjoys is removing tattoos the old fashioned way. She wants Bea to be part of her crew and Franky taken out in a bodybag. The power struggle between Jacs and Franky leads to a massive prison riot that ends with Bea being the immediate suspect for a murder. And that’s just the first episode. Over the course of the next nine episodes, Bea sinks deeper into the criminal life as she struggles to to be a hardcore killer.

Wentworth has more in common with HBO’s classic series Oz than Orange Is the New Black. There’s not as much comedy behind bars with these women. The are freakish moments such as how Franky was convicted for a crime committed on a reality show when she lost her cool. The jokes are more horrific in their delivery. The tone does feel like Oz where anyone could find themselves on the wrong end of a shiv. It’s an intense season in 10 episodes that push characters to their limits. The show gives a bit of an insight to the way prisoners gang together in Australia. They have a different dynamic than the women found on MSNBC’s Lockdown marathons. The series is a major success in Australia with it’s fifth season in production. Wentworth: Season 1 starts the show off on the right foot for hard time.

The videos is 1.78:1 anamorphic. The transfer brings out the gloomy nature of the cells. The audio is Dolby Digital Stereo. You hear a lot during the riot scenes. The episodes are subtitled if you can’t quite handle the accents.

Behind the Scenes (57:55) gives insight on how certain scenes were made. This includes how they shot from inside the toilet durng the failed drug mule scene. There’s a breakdown on how you create a prison riot. You get a complete picture of the laundry room.

Crew Interviews (7:31) covers people in the makeup department, standby props and costume department.

Set Tours (23:45) takes us around the costume department, the dining room, Liz’s cell and other spots around Wentworth prison.

Cast Interviews (50:13) includes chats with Aaron Jeffery, Catherine McClements, Celia Ireland, Danielle Cormack, Kate Atkinson, Katrina Milosevic, Kris McQuade, Leanna Walsman, Nicole Da Silva, Robbie Magasiva and Shareena Clanton. The touch upon their character’s identity and how they survive behind the prison walls.

Behind-The-Scenes Photo Gallery (1:22) is a montage of stills.

Acorn Media presents Wentworth: Season 1. Starring: Danielle Cormack, Nicole da Silva, Kris McQuade, Leeanna Walsman, Kate Atkinson. Boxset Contents: 3 episodes on 1 DVD. Released: November 15, 2016.