“Have a drink, mate? Have a fight, mate? Have a taste of dust and sweat, mate? There’s nothing else out here.”
Balanced on a knife-edge between social realism and existential horror, this disturbing, subversive portrayal of Australia’s cultural underbelly failed to find a wide audience on its original release in 1971, but has since become established as a seminal cornerstone of the Australian cinema.
A middle-class schoolteacher (Gary Bond), stuck in a government-enforced teaching post in an arid backwater, stops off in the mining town of Bundanyabba on his way home for the Christmas holidays. Discovering a local gambling craze that may grant him the financial independence to move back to Sydney for good, the opportunity proves irresistible. But the bad decisions are just beginning and a reliance on local standards of hospitality in ‘the Yabba’ may take him on a path darker than ever expected…
One of the many triumphs in director Ted Kotcheff‘s career (First Blood, Weekend at Bernie’s), Wake in Fright effortlessly sustains the quality of a sun-baked nightmare, with a relentless forward drive and outstanding performances by Gary Bond, Donald Pleasance and Aussie legend Chips Rafferty (in his final film role). A brutal, gripping dissection of masculinity and amorality to stand alongside Straw Dogs, A Clockwork Orange, and Deliverance, it remains a stunning entry in the envelope-pushing cinema of the early 1970s.
Nick Cave called it ‘The best and most terrifying film about Australia in existence’ while Martin Scorsese was left ‘speechless’. Genuinely shocking, and just as relevant today as it was in 1970s, it really is the ‘closest a movie can get to a primal scream’ [New York Observer].
Wake in Fright is screened in selected cinemas nationwide in the UK and Eire from Friday 7 March 2014, and gets a dual Format release on 31 March 2014 from Eureka Entertainment.