Wake in Fright DVD & Blu-ray

Monday, 31 March 2014 08:52

Wake in Fright out in a dual format DVD and Blu-ray packageA frustrated school teacher consigned to a tiny outback village sets his sights on civilised Sydney for the Christmas holidays, to be with his girlfriend. The first leg of his trip delivers him to Bundanyabba, a larger but no less isolated mining town, and the beginnings of a downward spiral into a hellish state of near-permanent drunkenness and immorality. It is a journey in which he will discover a dark side to his personality.

On the eve of his flight, the teacher, John Grant (Gary Bond – “Zulu”, Frontier) is foolishly sucked into a high-stakes coin-tossing game with predictably dire consequences. He reluctantly becomes dependent on the hospitality and charity of the locals, including self-acknowledged alcoholic Doc Tydon (Donald Pleasance – “Fantastic Voyage”, “Halloween”) and policeman Jock Crawford (Chips Rafferty – “Mutiny on the Bounty”).

Director Ted Kotcheff (“First Blood”, “Weekend at Bernie’s") has constructed a movie that is a thoroughly memorable, indeed scarring tale that resembles and rivals other controversial films such as “Straw Dogs” and “Deliverance”. Its depiction of a highly educated young man slumping to a horrifically primitive state of being is as credible as it is enthralling.

Life in the outback is depicted as a largely chauvinistic, simple existence where the men drink, gamble and fight and the rule of law is extremely laid back. The main female character in this cauldron of masculinity (Sylvia Kay - Just Good Friends, Dalziel and Pascoe) is a bored, subservient young woman who seems to have slept with half the town.

The film is notorious partly for its gory scenes of kangaroo hunting. This act is particularly unconscionable because of the way the band of men go about it, chasing the ‘roos off-road in a car, terrorising them at night with bright lights and blasting away with drunken abandon, yelling like cowboys. It is not sport, it is a massacre.

I learnt at the end of the film and thanks to the excellent commentary track that these scenes were a mixture of sleight of hand (credit to the director and editor!) and footage of a proper hunt by experienced hunters (who use the carcases for meat and fur). This knowledge reduced the sickened feeling in my stomach a little but potential viewers should be warned - it is one of the most shocking things you will probably ever witness in a feature film. Of course, it also serves a purpose, cementing our position against the movie's characters.

The movie feels a little like an extended The Twilight Zone episode, especially with its twist at the end that echoes The Prisoner. It succeeds as an essay on how quickly a civilised man can turn into an animal driven by base needs, and more importantly it succeeds as a film that leaves an indelible mark on the audience, lingering long after the credits have rolled. A must-see!

Special features in this package include:

  • New 1080p high-definition restoration of the film on the Blu-ray and a progressive encode on the DVD
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hearing-impaired
  • Feature-length audio commentary with director Ted Kotcheff and editor Anthony Buckley
  • Video interview from 2009 with Ted Kotcheff
  • ABC’s “7:30 Report” feature on the rediscovery and restoration of the film
  • “Who Needs Art?” - vintage piece on “Wake in Fright”
  • Chips Rafferty obituary clip
  • “Outback” TV spot
  • UK theatrical trailer
  • 48 page booklet featuring essays by Adrian Martin, Peter Galvin, Meg Labrum, Graham Shirley, Ted Kotcheff and Anthony Buckley, and archival imagery

As mentioned above, Kotcheff and editor Buckley's commentary is definitely worth listening to for its discussion on how the film was made and the subject matter it covers. The Blu-ray restoration is very impressive; yes, the colour-depth is a bit flat (the blacks are a bit washed out), but the detail is excellent.

“Wake in Fright” (1971) is out now on Dual Format Blu-ray and DVD (two discs), courtesy of Eureka. The main feature has a running time of 109 minutes approx., carries an ‘18’ certificate and retails for £17.99, or less from www.culttvstore.com


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