Wake in Fright (1971) – The Greatest Australian Film?

Wake in Fright (1971) poster image dvd vhs film movie

Another month, another bonkers film to add to the list, Wake in Fright from 1971 is essential watching. Marooned in a small town resembling some kind of maddening limbo land, a possible stop off for hell itself . But to be honest this could be just an ordinary Australian outback town going about its everyday life for all that I know.

Think Walkabout meets all of Crocodile Dundee’s mates, add a gazillion gallons of booze and crank that unbearable blistering heat up to maximum overdrive, blast in mountains of dry hot dust and you get a slight picture of what to expect. Who needs water when the beer flows like white rapids at the bottom of a waterfall.

Wake In Fright (1971) beer can crushing Joe (Peter Whittle)

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

On his journey into the mouth of madness is school teacher John Grant (Gary Bond) a young man bored out of his mind determined to escape the sleepy town of Tiboonda. As school breaks for the holiday term John makes a beeline for the train station to visit his girlfriend in the big city of Sydney.

Wake in Fright (1971) Tiboonda train station platform

Fun Fact 1 – John Grant sounds exactly like comic actor Matt Berry‘s characters like Bainbridge from the Mighty Boosh and Dr. Lucien Sanchez from Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace. Big smile from me every time he spoke.

Unfortunately for our man John his train connection brings him to the town of Bundanyabba otherwise known as the Yabba by the locals. A surreal place where there is one main religion, the religion of booze. Promoting the most booze to ever be consumed on film I can only imagine.

Wake In Fright (1971) Jock Crawford (Chips Rafferty) John Grant (Gary Bond)Wake In Fright (1971) gambling John Grant (Gary Bond)

Cop Jock Crawford – “another beer”

John meets a series of characters on his adventure from the friendly but pushy policeman, Jock Crawford (Chips Rafferty) to the kind Tim Hynes (Al Thomas) and his slightly strange daughter Janette Hynes (Sylvia Kay). Then there’s the nutcracker town doctor Doc Tydon (Donald Pleasence) to the bullish introduction to Joe (Peter Whittle) and Dick (Jack Thompson). Everyone puts in a stellar performance and everyone grabs your full attention throughout.

Wake In Fright (1971) Tim Hynes (Al Thomas) John Grant (Gary Bond)

John Grant – “And what do you do?” Doc Tydon – “I drink.”

So many of the set pieces have you transfixed with fear or wide eyed fascination as you watch, especially the gambling sequence where you become as intoxicated in those flying marked coins as the obsessed men playing it. You just can’t help but be mesmerised by John Grant’s journey as he tries to leave the town.

Wake In Fright (1971) Donald Pleasence mad doctor outback

This is truly an Australian masterpiece. A story adapted from a 1961 novel by Kenneth Cook and directed by Canadian Ted Kotcheff the guy who unleashed Rambo on us in 1982 with First Blood.

The history of the film is a mammoth journey in on itself, as lost prints of the film were found at the eleventh hour in a box marked to be destroyed. I read that the films editor Anthony Buckley took it on himself to find the original prints which took on a ten year voyage of discovery.

Wake In Fright (1971) Dick (Jack Thompson)

Please be warned the kangaroo hunting section is barbaric and extremely unpleasant. It’s very tough to watch, so be wary if you watch it. The footage is said to be done by licensed hunters but whatever way you look at it, it is very shocking.

A producer’s’ note at the end of the film states – The hunting scenes depicted in this film were taken during an actual kangaroo hunt by professional licensed hunters. For this reason and because the survival of the Australian kangaroo is seriously threatened, these scenes were shown uncut after consultation with the leading animal welfare organisations in Australia and the United Kingdom

Wake in Fright (1971) booze party time

If you love this then I thoroughly recommend Sunday Too Far Away which has a similar theme, well, of drinking shit loads of booze in the outback but with added sheep.

Fun Fact 2 – It’s currently being made into a 2 part mini series with Wake In Fright (2017) in post-production at the time of posting. To be honest there really isn’t any need to remake it as it’s perfect.

Wake In Fright (1971) Donald Pleasence mad doctor drinking again

If like me and you love Australian cinema then I highly recommend you becoming a “Yabbaman” and getting on this trip if you’ve not seen it.  But if you have, what did you think?

Grab a case of the grog, put another shrimp on the barbie, sit back and enjoy the ride. Watching films don’t get much better. Here’s the trailer for a little peek. Take it easy and drink sensibly hehe … Mikey Wolfie

Further Reading Links

Wake In Fright (1971) New Yorker Article
Wake In Fright (1971) Making Of Notes Guardian Article
Wake In Fright (1971) Wikipedia

14 thoughts on “Wake in Fright (1971) – The Greatest Australian Film?

  1. I’M AUSTRALIAN………………..AND SOME PLACES ARE ACTUALLY LIKE THAT! I KID YOU NOT!
    JUST ON THE REMAKE MINI-SERIES THING………………..DON’T BOTHER, IT’S CRAP!
    A NEEDLESS EXERCISE!!!
    I USE AN OLD SAYING……………..”IF IT’S NOT BROKEN, DON’T FIX IT!”
    THAT GOES WITH 99.9% OF REMAKES!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Now thats what I’m talking about, an Australian giving the low down on the remake of a masterpiece. “Don’t bother, it’s crap!” that’s all I needed to hear. Thank you. TBH I was pretty prepared for it to be. How can you top a film that is perfect! Really waste of time. So thanks for saving my time. As I would of most probably sat and watched it as I would of been intrigued!
      It’s the dream like, limbo land, purgatory feeling the film brings and the unique looking landscape and characters that just shines straight through that amazing film. 10/10 in my eyes.

      Like

      • YEAH, ‘DREAMLIKE’ IS RIGHT!
        THE ORIGINAL HAS THE DIRTY, HUNGOVER, SEEDY FEEL TO IT ALL………..AND IT HAD THAT ‘FEEL’, WHEN IT WAS ORIGINALLY RELEASED! THESE REMAKE GUYS (THOUGH WELL ACTED AND PRODUCED ETC.), COULD NOT CAPTURE THAT!

        Liked by 1 person

        • The dust, heat and gallons of booze. Yeah you’ll so right a dirty hungover and seedy! LOL I like that.
          Walkabout in the same year caught the heat and thirst extremely well. As did the amazing Sunday Too Far Away. That film nearly, just nearly caught up Wake In Fright in the booze stakes. Make a great Aussie movie marathon those three.

          Like

  2. “WALKABOUT”………………OMG, I FELL IN LOVE WITH JENNY AGUTTER (AROUND THE SAME AGE AS HER) WHEN I SAW THIS AT THE FLICKS! CLASSIC ‘COMING-OF-AGE’/CULTURE CLASH FILM! BREATHTAKING TO LOOK AT!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha yep me too. The Railway Children was first for me then Walkabout. Then that wonderful little moment in The Eagle Has Landed. Then Logan’s Run blew me away until a certain Wolf film came my way and the rest they say is history. 🙂

      Like

  3. “AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON” WAS GREAT AND SHE WAS SUITABLY GORGEOUS IN IT, AS SHE WAS IN “LOGAN’S RUN”, A FILM FOR ME THAT DOESN’T HOLD UP VERY WELL! IT’S A GREAT STORY, BUT THE SPECIAL EFFECTS LET IT DOWN CRIMINALLY! IT LOOKED AWFUL THEN AND EVEN WORSE NOW! THE ONLY SAVING GRACE WAS HER!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Brilliant write-up Wolfie.
    As you said, “An Australian masterpiece”.
    Can you believe I actually ‘studied’ this film at University as part of an Arts Degree back in the mid-eighties.
    That’s right… I got awarded a degree from watching films all day in a bloody lecture theater! Hilarious now I look back on it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow that’s amazing. What a film to study. It has so much undercurrent, over-current, through-current, currant bun! Do any of those words/things even anything. Who knows but one things for sure it’s filled with metaphors. It’s madness is it’s masterpiece.
      Thanks buddy.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.