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Wake in Fright (1971)

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After a bad gambling bet, a schoolteacher is marooned in a town full of crazy, drunk, violent men who threaten to make him just as crazy, drunk, and violent.

Director:

Writers:

(screenplay), (based on the novel by)
1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Doc Tydon
...
John Grant
Chips Rafferty ...
Jock Crawford
Sylvia Kay ...
Janette Hynes
...
Dick
Peter Whittle ...
Joe
Al Thomas ...
Tim Hynes
...
Charlie
John Armstrong ...
Atkins
Slim DeGrey ...
Jarvis (as Slim De Grey)
Maggie Dence ...
Receptionist
Norm Erskine ...
Joe the Cook (as Norman Erskine)
Owen Moase ...
1st Controller
John Dalleen ...
2nd Controller
Buster Fiddess ...
Charlie Jones
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Storyline

Wake in Fright is the story of John Grant, a bonded teacher who arrives in the rough outback mining town of Bundanyabba planning to stay overnight before catching the plane to Sydney. But his one night stretches to five and he plunges headlong toward his own destruction. When the alcohol-induced mist lifts, the educated John Grant is no more. Instead there is a self-loathing man in a desolate wasteland, dirty, red-eyed, sitting against a tree and looking at a rifle with one bullet left... Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Have a drink, mate? Have a fight, mate? Have some dust and sweat, mate? There's nothing else out here.

Genres:

Drama | Thriller

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

|

Language:

Release Date:

21 July 1971 (France)  »

Also Known As:

Outback  »

Box Office

Budget:

AUD 700,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$6,761 (USA) (5 October 2012)

Gross:

$50,394 (USA) (21 December 2012)
 »

Company Credits

Production Co:

, ,  »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The movie had been out of circulation for decades because the negative went missing, sparking an international search. After a ten-year quest veteran Australian producer Anthony Buckley finally tracked it down in mid-2004 in a Pittsburgh warehouse, inside a shipping container marked "For Destruction". See more »

Goofs

Inside Doc Tydon's hut, there is a window near the back door seen when Grant wants to go to the toilet. However, from outside, the window is at least a meter from the door. See more »

Quotes

Van Driver: [John is declining an invitation from the stranger who gave him a ride in a jeep] Come on, come and have a drink.
John Grant: Look mate, I've given up drinking for a while.
Van Driver: What's wrong with you, you bastard? Why don't you come and drink with me? I've just brought you fifty miles in the heat and dust, and you won't drink with me? What's wrong with you?
John Grant: What's the matter with you people, huh? Sponge on you, burn your house down, murder your wife, rape your child, that's all right. But you don't have a drink,...
[...]
See more »

Connections

Featured in 40,000 Years of Dreaming (1997) See more »

Soundtracks

She'll be coming around the mountain
(uncredited)
Traditional, based on a Negro spiritual
Sung by passengers on the train
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

 
Under the weather down under
14 July 2009 | by (Sydney, Australia) – See all my reviews

Kenneth Cook was posted as a young man by the Australian Broadcasting Commission (our state-owned broadcaster) to the NSW outback mining town of Broken Hill in the early 1950s. This experience provided the basis for his scarifying first novel, "Wake in Fright", published in 1960. In the novel, Gary, a young schoolteacher bonded to the State Education Department to teach in a desolate desert whistle stop, visits "Bundayabba" (Broken Hill) on his way back to Sydney, surf and girlfriend for the vacation, loses all his money in a two-up game in a desperate attempt to pay off his bond and descends into drunkenness and depravity with the friendly locals, who all appear to be carrying on as they normally do.

This film was made from the novel in 1970 by a production company hitherto associated with light TV entertainment. The then fairly young Canadian director, Ted Kotchoff, with a couple of foreign leads, Donald Pleasance and Gary Bond, was quite happy to accept Cook's ugly Australians as his local characters and his parody of "mateship" as the social cement binding them together. The dialogue may be spare but the editing (by Tony Buckley) is great, and we are right inside Gary's head as he loses it.

I saw this movie when it first came out in New Zealand, where it passed almost without comment. Australian audiences did not flock to see it, and the general critical reaction was that it was too confronting. Nearly 40 years later, restored by the Australian Film Archive, it is a well-made classic which still has plenty of punch. Gary Bond as the hapless schoolteacher is very convincing. Chips Rafferty as the local policeman with a pragmatic approach to enforcing the law exudes a low-level air of menace. Donald Pleasance as "Doc" the alcoholic ex-doctor who leads Gary astray is not so much menacing as over the top, but very amusing all the same. The rest of the cast are suitably ocker.

Much has changed in the outback since the 1950s. Most of the people you rub up against in the bars of mining towns are likely to be from somewhere else, and you'd be lucky to hear those harsh bush accents. Broken Hill has shrunk a bit and is now a pretty quiet place. The Education Department no longer goes in for bush slavery - this is no more than an historical portrait. Yet many city dwellers still see the outback as Gary sees it – a place full of drunken homoerotic dickheads who abuse their environment, treat women like public conveniences and whose idea of mateship is to keep their mates drunk. "Wake in Fright" is best seen as very vivid fiction, a horror movie in fact. I don't think Kenneth Cook set out to write non-fiction. Neither was Ted Kotchoff trying to make a documentary. But, with the aid of several good actors and a host of authentic extras he created such a realistic atmosphere that many viewers were misled.

The film, which launched the career of Jack Thomson for one, is said to have given the Australian film industry a boost, even though few saw it. Certainly some fine films followed ; "Picnic at Hanging Rock", "The Getting of Wisdom", "The Devil's Playground", "The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith" for example. But history prevailed – modern Australia was not yet ready to film.


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