Sunday, October 27, 2013

Wake In Fright

Wake In Fright (Outback) Directed By Ted Kotcheff Starring Donald Pleasence (1971).
The most disturbing thing about Wake In Fright to me, besides the brutal and genuine slaughter of majestic innocent kangaroos is how it makes you hate beer with a bitter intensity. Beer in this film equals pain and misery. The social fabric of enjoying a pint and having a relaxing time is replaced by an angry choking down of the yellow liquid and the contempt for anyone not joining in with the ritual. Either you drink or there's gonna be a fight! All of the men in Wake In Fright get drunk in the early morning, load their guns, drink continuously through out the day, as if the bottle is superglued to their gaping spittle traps. Everyone around them must drink and conform to the constant stupor or they are treated like a leper. If you want to eat or drink water, you get a fishy eye or an empty threat. They consume the delicious poison because there is nothing else to do in this barren wasteland, than to soak up enough brain trauma to escape reality, like all text book alcoholics. The horror is born in the collapse of "fun drinking". That's the ugliness that really got under my skin, the aggressive hospitality. The simple act of refusing to take a drink is seen as defiance.  
Have another Beer mate!
    The story slightly resembles Straw Dogs, only instead of British civilians seen as raving maniacs out to rape and lynch any outsiders, it makes Australians look like dangerously unhinged social misanthropes. John Grant (Gary Bond), a school teacher leaves for a miserable Christmas vacation in a desolate mining town filled with gamblers, crooked authority and suicide cases. John meets Jock Crawford (Chips Rafferty) who unintentionally hooks him into the seductive world of gambling with the heads or tails game (where's the rock,paper,scissors table)?
   He loses all of his money and meets Donald Pleasence (in one of his greatest roles ever)! Pleasence has acted in so much garbage that its nice to see him in this effective role.    
Tim Hynes (Al Thomas) and his daughter take him in, everything that would usually seem safe, in a "normal" circumstance, is another step that leads to certain doom! All of Tim's pals are hard drinking thugs and the party gathering gave me that same tense feeling of forced fun that Blue Velvet's soiree with Frank Booth and Dean Stockwell holding a mechanics light and lip synching to "In Dreams" by Roy Orbison did.   
A bald bearded clown they call the sandman
   I hardly had any sympathy for John, because he goes along for this destructive journey and even seems to enjoy it. The scenes of real kangaroos getting slaughtered is something out of a Jacopetti/Prosperi production and are viciously gruesome. I wonder if John has a case of stockholm syndrome as he tries to fit in with these no class goons and kills an innocent baby kangaroo by their commands. At any rate, it was impossible for me to empathize with him. At the end of the film, they imply that these scenes were meant to show these creatures are endangered by bringing in "real" hunters to kill them. This seems completely stupid to me and is an excuse to use real animal violence to pump in more shock value into the film. It does its job though and is absolutely revolting! During the filming the camera crew were exhausted and many vomited at the site of real death.
The lonesome death of Kangaroo Jack
   Drafthouse Films should really be commended for restoring this lost Oz-ploitation film because its a masterpiece! It's great that Netflix finally started streaming their catalog, maybe Shout Factory will join in, unless they have plans to start their own streaming service like Warner Archives (I am not on board for each individual company having its own instant service, its too expensive)! The director Ted Kotcheff went on to some odd  film choices like Weekend At Bernies, North Dallas Forty and aside from First Blood, never made anything as gripping or excessively violent. It's available now on instant Netflix and also on Fandor.
More Beer just up ahead!

Water?? Cough, Choke!!


  1. I keep forgetting to pick this one up, but I'm definitely buying it on my next amazon purchase. You've sold me on it. Great review, too.

  2. Glad to hear it venoms5, it's pretty amazing

  3. This makes a great double feature with Nic Roeg's "Walkabout". It only has one Kangaroo death but is equally surreal.

  4. I've yet to see that one, but I'll check it out.


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