Wake in Fright
I believe I mentioned recently, somewhere, that I like Australian movies. Well, I may have to take that back. Watching “Wake in Fright” was a terrible experience. Not that it is a bad movie as such, but watching people make a string of bad decisions, ruining their lives in the process, is not my idea of fun and this is a story that makes “Lost Weekend” a trip to the zoo.
John Grant (Gary Bond) is a teacher forced to teach in the outback as part of a government contract before he can return to Sydney. The place is seriously a two-shack village in the middle of nowhere and for John it is simply something to get over with. For the Christmas break John is returning to Sydney and has to change from train to plane in Bundanyabba, also known as “Yabba”. John intends to stay just for the night, but it turns out to be quite a bit more as his weekend spins into a hellish nightmare.
The local sheriff, Jock Crawford (Chips Rafferty), gets him drunk and introduces him to the local attraction, a rowdy game of two-up. A guy throws two coins and you bet if it will be head or tail. First John wins, but then, first bad decision, he conceives the idea that he could win enough to free him from servitude, and losses every penny he got (of course).
In a series of event John encounters numerous dubious characters and gets involved in drinking, fighting, shooting kangaroos in the night and general loss of dignity. John totally hates this place, the people and what it has reduced him to and just wants to get away, but even that is not possible.
This was seriously difficult to watch. Practically everybody here is horrible. Oh, the Australians are a jolly lot, but here they all had a mean, nihilistic streak that made them noisy, rude and disgusting. Everything John gets involved in is seedy at best and revolting at worst. I just wanted this movie to pass. The worst was the kangaroo hunt at night. A bunch of drunk idiots driving out into the desert, blinding kangaroos with light and shooting them left and right, singing and yelling. Even fighting the kangaroos with hand and knife. I really like roo’es, they are the cutest animals, and this was just brutal slaughter. Absolutely horrible to watch.
I suppose the idea is that civilized and controlled John Grant meets and discover his dark side and has to face it and that Dr. Clarence Tydon (Donald Pleasence) is an example of a version of John that has embraced and learned to live with the dark side. Part of John want to embrace him and another is disgusted by him and wants to kill him, read: himself, because he hates what he sees. Only in the end when he has come to terms with this can he proceed with his life. Clever enough, but it does not help. No matter how I turn it I felt awful watching this movie.
“Wake in Fright” was the third new addition to 1971 in the grand revision and one that I cannot say that I needed. In fact, the editors did not have a lucky hand revising the list for 71. None of the additions are must-sees and two are outright disgusting.
This was also the last movie of 1971 and I am now, finally, ready to proceed to 1972.