Wake in Fright (Ted Kotcheff, 1971) Blu-Ray


Since watching the acclaimed documentary Not Quite Hollywood (Mark Hartley, 2008) I have been on an Ozploitation binge.?? Amongst others I have seen Brian Trenchard-Smith's quality actioner The Man from Hong Kong (1975), his stunt set piece follow-up Deathcheaters (1976) and the tense Road Games (Richard Franklin, 1981).?? Clips from Wake in Fright (aka Outback) were shown in the documentary but the film wasn't truly brought to my attention until it was announced that this once assumed 'lost' film was being released in Australia on Blu-Ray.??

Based on Kenneth Cook's novel of the same name, Wake in Fright follows the life of teacher John Grant (little known Brit actor Gary Bond) who teaches in the very small Australian Outback town Tiboonda.?? Unable to leave his job due to the contract he has committed to with the Australian government he is stuck in the middle of nowhere.?? For the Christmas holiday he plans to visit his girlfriend in Sydney but first he has to travel to Bundanyabba to get the necessary flight.?? Upon arriving at 'The Yabba' he becomes embroiled in the aggressively masculine way of life.?? Seeing gambling as an easy way to make money to buy himself out his teaching contract he plays the Two-Up coin game with the locals.?? Though successful at first he becomes too greedy and ends up losing all of his money.?? Finding himself stuck in The Yabba with no money he befriends several locals, most notably the alcoholic town doctor 'Doc' (brilliantly acted by Donald Pleasance) and ends up living off the aggressive generosity of others.?? The oppressive atmosphere of The Yabba ultimately takes it toll on John Grant as he descends further into hell.??

Beautifully filmed and genuinely uncomfortable, Wake in Fright is a memorable film that fits in well with many of the other downbeat films common in the early 1970s.?? The 360 degree opening shot of the desert landscape is simply breathtaking in HD.?? It shows the sparsity of the town of Grant teaches and introduces the viewer to his frustration; Grant has come to Australia to live the 'good life' surfing and spending time on the beach with his girlfriend, not to live in the middle of nowhere.?? The Yabba is portrayed as Grant's hell.?? The intense temperature and the temptations offered by the Yabba and its frighteningly over-friendly male inhabitants are as equally unbearable for the viewer as it is for Grant.?? The infamous Kangeroo hunt scene which utilises actual hunt footage intercut with the actors performances adds to the uncomfortable atmosphere and is genuinely difficult to watch.?? The performances are outstanding, many non-actors are used throughout the film which adds to the overall realism.?? Pleasance as the alcoholic Doc really steals the film from Bond and demonstrates the level of performance he could deliver.?? It is quite easy to see why the film received a nomination for the Golden Palm award in the 1971 Cannes Film Festival.

Presumed lost, the original negative was finally traced to the United States and after a long search it was found in a waste container where it was waiting to be destroyed.?? Lovingly restored by the National FIlm and Sound Archive in Australia, the Australian region-free Blu-Ray release by Madman is the best way to view Wake in Fright.?? The high resolution offered by high definition amplifies the oppressive atmosphere of The Yabba and highlights the sparsity of the Outback landscape at the beginning.?? We are fortunate to see this film in any version at all, let alone a beautifully restored Blu-Ray disc. The sound is equally as clean and there are some interesting extra features, such as an audio commentary and interview with director Kotcheff, a documentary about the restoration of the film amongst others.?? There is also an informative booklet detailing the production and restoration included.??

This is without doubt one of the best films I have seen this year and could possibly be my favourite Blu-Ray release of the year.?? Due to the limited print runs of Australian DVDs I urge you to purchase a copy before the DVD and Blu-Ray become hard to find, the Blu-Ray is already showing as out of stock on the majority of Australian DVD e-tailers websites.?? Copies are available on eBay at the usual inflated prices.?? I purchased my copy from the ever reliable DVD Crave.?? A DVD release is also available.??

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