Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Forgotten Movies: WAKE IN FRIGHT



This is without a doubt one of the most disturbing movies I have ever seen. You can't look but you can't look away.

A schoolteacher, drafted to teach in a one-room school into a nowhere town in Australia, is on his way to the airport to fly to Sidney for vacation when he is waylaid in a town called Yabba, filled almost entirely with men who gamble, drink, hunt and fight. He is a different sort of man, at least at first.

This film was lost for the 40 years since its release in 1971. Although critically acclaimed at the time, the Australian audience hated it for its rude, blunt, nasty depiction of men without women in the outback. Highly recommended if you have the constitution for a lot of the above.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

I agree that this one is really disturbing. It was originally called OUTBACK, by the way. At least that was the title when I saw it in an edited version in 1984 (shown on late night television). I've thought of it many times over the years.


Jeff M.

Deb said...

I'd never heard of this movie, but your review intrigued me. I read a few other on-line reviews and they all said essentially the same thing: a brilliant movie (one said it's probably the best Australian film ever made) but one that is hard to watch because if its relentless brutality. It's based on a 1961 novel by Kenneth Cook called Outback (which is also an alternate title for the movie). I think I might rather read the book--I always do better with written, as opposed to visual, presentations of violence and brutality.

Charles Gramlich said...

Never heard of it either but it does look pretty interesting.

Richard said...

I doubt it's one I'd want to see, based on your commentary. Don't remember it when it was playing.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I ordered the book through my library system because I was told the ending was different. This version has a fairly benign ending so I am curious. There is only one truly horrific scene but it is long. And something I never expected to see.

Anonymous said...

Patti, I know exactly the scene you mean. This was the last movie with Chips Rafferty, who died before it was released, and the first with Jack Thompson, who for a while was ubiquitous in Australian movies.

Jeff M.

Todd Mason said...

New to me...sounds like a more sensible variation on the slew of This Kind of film around that time...STRAW DOGS, THE HUNTING PARTY, DELIVERANCE (the good one of this trio, but highly stylized to the brink of mythologized...)...

pattinase (abbott) said...

It is worth seeing for its unusual style and setting alone. And its unpredictability.

John said...

Got a chance to see this movie tonight, a little over a month after you posted this. I was surprised that it was less intense than I expected and found it more fascinating than disturbing. Watched Kotcheff talk about the movie in a Q&A at the end of the DVD I rented. It's amazing that many Australian filmmakers cite WAKE IN FRIGHT as the beginning of the Australian film renaissance of the 1970s. He said Bruce Beresford and Fred Schepisi marvelled at the movie. Kotcheff also mentioned someone saying only an outsider could've made WAKE IN FRIGHT at that time. I didn't find much of it too disturbing except for that extended hunting sequence. Ai yi yi! Maybe the most shocking and appalling scenes I've ever seen put on film. 100% authentic and put in at the insistence of the Australian SPCA!

pattinase (abbott) said...

I found the nihilism disturbing too. It is very faithful to the novel except for the ending. I did expect more violence among the men than I found. The hunting scene was nearly unbearable, especially given my fear of kangaroos. It was certainly fascinating--and the central character was perhaps the most enigmatic character of all. From the start, he is out of control and I never really believed he had any desire to go see his girlfriend. He was ready to be subsumed and nearly was. And the sole female character is out of control too. Strange, fascinating and totally original but just like the book. One of those movies that will stick with me I hope.