As much a story about the human condition than excessive violence and outrageous acts. Wake in Fright is an early look at boundaries and the chaos created by vulnerability and self degradation. A word of warning to those offended by violence towards animals, misogyny, and homosexuality, do not watch this film or read this review as it will leave you infuriated. Directed by Ted Kotcheff (First Blood) and starring Gary Bond and Donald Pleasance (Halloween), Wake in Fright premiered at Cannes in 1971. Regarding the kangaroos, none were killed simply for film exploitation. The film crew accompanied licensed professionals on a sanctioned, routine kangaroo hunt and obtained their footage through correct means.
John Grant (Bond), a bonded teacher, is forced to take temporary shelter for the night in the small town of Bundanyabba while he waits for his flight to Sydney. During his stay, Grant encounters numerous residents who seem suspect. They continually force him to consume alcohol and when a kind police officer introduces him to an addicting form of gambling, Grant loses all his money and is at the mercy of the town. Taking charity from the locals, Grant is introduced to a group of loud, ignorant, malicious individuals who kill time in unorthodox, sinister ways.
Being able to glorify morals, principles, and stability through slaughter, alcohol, and devious sex is an astounding feat. One that director Ted Kotcheff had no problem accomplishing with Wake in Fright. It is also no easy task to leave Martin Scorsese speechless, but Wake in Fright left Marty scrambling for words. The mix of outlandish content and classic outback scenery is to perfection and balances what is possibly the greatest Australian film ever made. Gary Bond is terrific as an indecisive, confused tourist turned psychotic, indulgent narcissist. Wake in Fright may leave the squeamish with their dinner on the floor, but for the strong willed, Wake in Fright is an exhilarating descent into madness.
Wake in Fright: 8 out of 10.