Wake in Fright

“Wake in Fright” is a brutal, disturbing film with amazing acting that takes you on a journey you may wish you hadn’t.

Martin Scorcese said, “It left (him) speechless.” I thoroughly enjoyed this re-released film from 1971. 



Wake in Fright (1971)
R | 1h 49min | Drama, Thriller | 9 October 1971 (Australia)

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: Ted Kotcheff
Writers: Evan Jones (screenplay), Kenneth Cook (based on the novel “Wake in Fright” by)
Stars: Donald Pleasence, Gary Bond, Chips Rafferty


The Damien Riley Podcast of Movie Reviews: Show Notes

Ep. 110: Wake in Fright

The 40th Anniversary of a lost classic from the Outback

“Wake in Fright” was created and released in 1971 but was received poorly and almost never seen again after its initial release. Though most all copies were lost or destroyed, the editor found one many years later and it was sold to a production company that re-mastered and re-released it in 2012. It is a brutal, disturbing film with amazing acting that takes you on a journey you may wish you hadn’t. Martin Scorcese said, “It left (him) speechless” Nick cave called it “The Best and most terrifying film about Australia in existence.” It’s a highly commented on film as well as a widely reviewed film. FYI It’s streaming now for free w/ads on Tubi TV. You can watch it on the internet on any connected device.

It starts out with the most haunting, infectious music. Upon hearing it, I knew something quality was coming. A nice small sample of that is in the trailer for the re-released, re-mastered version 2012 which I will pay for you now:

Play Trailer.

The director did “First Blood” and “Fun With Dick and Jane.” He doesn’t have a long resume. Still, this film watches like a masterpiece. The cinematography of the Outback and the torn up wood towns is worth it even if there wasn’t a decent plot. I found it while doing a “horror” genre search but I don’t know if i would classify it as such. Ty Burr said it is a “Monster Movie” and the monster is US. When you look at the scenes that were disturbing combined with the monster inside idea, I see why it is called horror movie.

It’s a brutal portrayal of a white collar teacher on holiday who somehow gets caught in a rough backwards town in the outback of Australia. It’s sort of like a Twilight Zone episode. Whatever he does to get out backfires and he soon resigns to his indefinite stay in this town. The denizens take him hunting and feed him more alcohol that a human can probably handle. It’s a place in the Outback where men do men things: drink, gamble, eat, hunt and fight. The townsfolk really punish this teacher with debauchery. He is definitely a fish out of water. I found myself wondering if these people were indeed human. The film Deliverance came out in 72 and there are certainly comparisons to be made to the two towns. I would say this town is worse.

Again, I wanted to share with you It’s streaming now for free w/ads on Tubi TV. You can watch it on the internet on any connected device.

Despite looking arcane, the film has three powerhouse Hollywood A-Listers of the 70’s: Donald Pleasence, Jack Thompson and Gary Bond.

Donald Pleasance plays the doctor. Well, it’s not quite as simple as that … Go into parts I enjoyed Pleasance in.

Insert PLeasance scene

It’s starts with the Schoolteacher … He is stuck.

Schoolteacher scene

Part of his getting stuck in the town involves a kangaroo hunt … Footage of an actual kangaroo hunt was seamlessly edited in by Buckley, and a “producer’s note” says this documentary footage was included with “the participation” of animal rights’ organizations, whatever that means. …

Forced drinking … As a guy growing up, there were certain friends that forced me into things I regret. Drinking too much beer was one of them. I think people will relate with the horrific adventures of this poor guy.

I enjoyed this raw 70’s film very much. It reminded me of a western but it’s a disturbing one indeed. As a horror fan, I have come to appreciate a certain type of disturbing film like this. Deliverance is a good example of what it looks like. It’s horror in a shock sense, not a conventional one. Rex Reed said “This film the closest one can get to a primal scream.” It really does qualify as that intense. I like intense cinema, horror fans will likely enjoy this film. I’m a big fan of Donald Pleasance but all the actors did a great job and I was drawn in and shocked by the kangaroo hunt (while watching it I thought it was fake). To quote Ebert: “It’s rare to find a film that goes for broke and says to hell with the consequences.” Overall, I was impressed and entertained with “Wake in Fright.” I recommend it highly for film buffs of horror as well as westerns and gritty storyteller drama and I give it a score of 10/10.


Author: Damien Riley

Bio subject to severe beatings by owner. I'm an old school blogger who went full movie blogger and podcaster! Now, I post short reviews about movies I see.

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