Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: Wake in Fright

Briefly released in the U.S. in 1972 as Outback, shorn of several minutes of violence and considered lost until 2002, Wake in Fright is the anti-Crocodile Dundee, a portrait of Australia as a drunken, violent, sexually perverse backwater as poisonous and relentlessly brutal as Sam Peckinpah's Straw Dogs.

Oct 4, 2012

-By Maitland McDonagh


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1364598-Wake_Fright_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

John Grant (Gary Bond) has just graduated from university at government expense, which isn't to say his education was free; he's obligated to spend three years teaching in underserved outback communities or pay the full freight. Which is how he winds up condemned to a one-room schoolhouse in Tiboonda, an isolated inland hell of suffocating heat, dust and boredom where everything about the city-bred Grant—from his manners to his temperate drinking—is suspect. The prospect of spending his Christmas break back in Sydney is all that stands between Grant and the abyss.

The nearest airport is in Bundanyabba (closely modeled on the real-life mining town Broken Hill), a slightly larger hellhole where he'll have to spend the night before boarding his plane—a small price to pay for six weeks by the sea with his pretty girlfriend. But cruel fate has other plans.

Grant's descent into hell begins innocuously enough, just a cold beer at the local bar with friendly police constable Jock Crawford (Chips Rafferty), who—like everyone he meets—declares the Yabba "the best little town in the world." Crawford buys a round (or is it two?) and explains the rules of two-up, a deceptively simple, high-stakes variation on pitching pennies much loved by the locals. More than a little drunk—as much on the thought of winning enough to pay off his bond as beer—Grant gambles away all his cash and is forced to rely on the kindness of strangers.

And that's when he learns that superficially friendly though the Yabba may be, everything comes at a price: The desperate Janette (Sylvia Kay, director Ted Kotcheff’s then-wife) tries to seduce him, alcoholic hail-fellow-well-met “Doc” Tydon (Donald Pleasence)—the closest thing to a cultured man in town—bullies him into joining a brutal kangaroo hunt with pals Dick (Breaker Morant's Jack Thompson, in his feature debut) and Joe (Peter Whittle) and…well, let's just say it gets worse.

Canadian filmmaker Kotcheff’s checkered career has ranged from The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz (1974) to North Dallas Forty (1979) and First Blood (1982, a better movie than it has any right to be), to the depths of corpse-bothering comedy Weekend at Bernie's (1989). Wake in Fright was nominated for the Palme d'Or at the 1971 Cannes Film Festival, championed by Martin Scorsese and praised by The New York Times' Roger Greenspun, neither a pushover nor an apologist for guilty pleasures. And then…nothing; it slipped off the radar, a ghost of a supposed lost classic represented by a handful of battered prints until its original editor and tireless champion, Anthony Buckley, unearthed a negative in a U.S. storage facility. Unlike many such "lost" treasures, Wake in Fright lives up to its nightmarish reputation, from its lacerating critique of the notion that masculinity is the reductive sum of misogyny, homophobia and reflexive cruelty to Donald Pleasence's performance as Doc, which is unforgettable in both the best and the worst sense of that word.


Film Review: Wake in Fright

Briefly released in the U.S. in 1972 as Outback, shorn of several minutes of violence and considered lost until 2002, Wake in Fright is the anti-Crocodile Dundee, a portrait of Australia as a drunken, violent, sexually perverse backwater as poisonous and relentlessly brutal as Sam Peckinpah's Straw Dogs.

Oct 4, 2012

-By Maitland McDonagh


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1364598-Wake_Fright_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

John Grant (Gary Bond) has just graduated from university at government expense, which isn't to say his education was free; he's obligated to spend three years teaching in underserved outback communities or pay the full freight. Which is how he winds up condemned to a one-room schoolhouse in Tiboonda, an isolated inland hell of suffocating heat, dust and boredom where everything about the city-bred Grant—from his manners to his temperate drinking—is suspect. The prospect of spending his Christmas break back in Sydney is all that stands between Grant and the abyss.

The nearest airport is in Bundanyabba (closely modeled on the real-life mining town Broken Hill), a slightly larger hellhole where he'll have to spend the night before boarding his plane—a small price to pay for six weeks by the sea with his pretty girlfriend. But cruel fate has other plans.

Grant's descent into hell begins innocuously enough, just a cold beer at the local bar with friendly police constable Jock Crawford (Chips Rafferty), who—like everyone he meets—declares the Yabba "the best little town in the world." Crawford buys a round (or is it two?) and explains the rules of two-up, a deceptively simple, high-stakes variation on pitching pennies much loved by the locals. More than a little drunk—as much on the thought of winning enough to pay off his bond as beer—Grant gambles away all his cash and is forced to rely on the kindness of strangers.

And that's when he learns that superficially friendly though the Yabba may be, everything comes at a price: The desperate Janette (Sylvia Kay, director Ted Kotcheff’s then-wife) tries to seduce him, alcoholic hail-fellow-well-met “Doc” Tydon (Donald Pleasence)—the closest thing to a cultured man in town—bullies him into joining a brutal kangaroo hunt with pals Dick (Breaker Morant's Jack Thompson, in his feature debut) and Joe (Peter Whittle) and…well, let's just say it gets worse.

Canadian filmmaker Kotcheff’s checkered career has ranged from The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz (1974) to North Dallas Forty (1979) and First Blood (1982, a better movie than it has any right to be), to the depths of corpse-bothering comedy Weekend at Bernie's (1989). Wake in Fright was nominated for the Palme d'Or at the 1971 Cannes Film Festival, championed by Martin Scorsese and praised by The New York Times' Roger Greenspun, neither a pushover nor an apologist for guilty pleasures. And then…nothing; it slipped off the radar, a ghost of a supposed lost classic represented by a handful of battered prints until its original editor and tireless champion, Anthony Buckley, unearthed a negative in a U.S. storage facility. Unlike many such "lost" treasures, Wake in Fright lives up to its nightmarish reputation, from its lacerating critique of the notion that masculinity is the reductive sum of misogyny, homophobia and reflexive cruelty to Donald Pleasence's performance as Doc, which is unforgettable in both the best and the worst sense of that word.
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Specialty Releases

Laggies
Film Review: Laggies

Disappointing comedic entry about a late-20s slacker who won’t grow up is writer/filmmaker Lynn Shelton’s first outing directing someone else’s material. Points here for strong cast and an occasional chuckle, but otherwise there’s just no point. More »

Rudderless
Film Review: Rudderless

Well-done indie drama about a lost-soul house painter reborn through rock ’n’ roll is a nice actor’s showcase for star Billy Crudup and an impressive directorial debut for actor William H. Macy. But in spite of some good work onscreen, both hero and story lack the edge and originality to carry this drama beyond respectability. More »

Camp X-Ray
Film Review: Camp X-Ray

Army guard and Guantanamo detainee form a grudging relationship in a thoughtful but far-fetched drama. More »

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya
Film Review: The Tale of The Princess Kaguya

As charming as it is delicate, this unusually low-key, if a tad overlong, animated feature brings yet more prestige to the famed Ghibli output. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Fury Review
Film Review: Fury

American tanks fight superior German forces in the closing days of World War II. More »

Birdman
Film Review: Birdman (or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Virtuosic camerawork and a stellar ensemble of actors more than make up for the occasional moment of portentous twaddle in Alejandro G. Iñárritu's latest—and maybe his best—film. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here