Wake In Fright, film review: Dark psychological drama about a Brit in Oz

(18) Ted Kotcheff, 114 mins Starring: Donald Pleasence, Gary Bond, Chips Rafferty, Sylvia Kay, Jack Thompson

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The Independent Culture

Wake in Fright, made in 1971, plays like the demonic antithesis The Adventures of Barry McKenzie, the famously crude early 1970s comedy about an Aussie in Britain. This is a dark psychological drama about a Brit in Oz.

The lead character, John Grant (Gary Bond) is a well-spoken, slightly effete schoolteacher in the outback. It's Christmas and he is heading to Sydney to see his girlfriend. En route, he stops off for a night at a mining town called Bundanyabba – and it is here that his moral and physical disintegration begin in earnest.

He has stumbled into a macho society full of Barry McKenzie types – hard-drinking, hard-gambling, kangaroo-hunting men with stunted emotional lives. After encountering the avuncular but sinister local cop (Chips Rafferty), he soon comes into the orbit of an alcoholic doctor (Donald Pleasence).

Brilliantly directed by Kotcheff, the film has the disorienting and menacing quality of Joseph Losey films such as Accident and The Servant; its screenwriter, Evan Jones, worked with Losey. It is very strikingly shot. Kotcheff goes out of his way to capture the sweltering beauty of the outback – and the emptiness and boredom that blight its inhabitants' lives.