The Re-Release of “Wake in Fright”

November 19 2013
6:32 PM

Directed by Ted Kotcheff (First Blood) and based on Kenneth Cook’s 1961 novel of the same name, Wake In Fright stars Gary Bond as John Grant, a schoolteacher whose 48-hour stay in a fictional mining town in the Outback quickly descends into a lost weekend of drinking, gambling and casual blood sport. Urged on by the town’s debauched inhabitants, Grant discovers within himself a startling capacity for degeneracy which, over the course of the film, he comes to embrace, actively and willingly. Upon its initial release in 1971, Wake In Fright enjoyed a brief and controversial domestic run, its depiction of rural Australia as a hotbed of depravity and wanton violence (culminating in an infamous, truly unnerving scene depicting a late-night kangaroo hunt) at once shocking and offending most of its native audience. After a similarly cold international reception, the film swiftly faded into obscurity, but has since been lauded as a seminal product of Australian New Wave cinema. Having recently been issued on Blu-ray/DVD by Drafthouse Films, the digitally-restored version of Wake In Fright was screened nationally in selected US cinemas in September, and it will be followed by a UK run in March 2014, thus giving contemporary audiences the opportunity to discover for themselves what Nick Cave once called “The best and most terrifying film about Australia in existence.” (Christopher Schreck)