“WAKE IN FRIGHT is a deeply – and I mean deeply – unsettling and disturbing movie. I saw it when it premiered at Cannes in 1971, and it left me speechless. Visually, dramatically, atmospherically and psychologically, it's beautifully calibrated and it gets under your skin one encounter at a time. I’m excited that WAKE IN FRIGHT has been preserved and restored and that it is finally getting the exposure it deserves.” - Martin Scorsese
Until recently Ted Kotcheff's astonishing WAKE IN FRIGHT had been considered a lost film. The negative had been missing for years and it was assumed it might never be found until a tireless producer finally located it in a Pittsburgh warehouse. It was scheduled to be destroyed in a few weeks to clear space. It would have been a loss for film history and all of us who might never have a chance to appreciate this heretofore underrated Australian classic.
When Martin Scorsese saw WAKE IN FRIGHT at Cannes in 1971 it made such an impression that 38 years later, as guest curator, he brought the film back to Cannes. WAKE IN FRIGHT is only the second film to be so honored. Though WAKE IN FRIGHT was a critical success when originally released, it did not do well commercially. Perhaps it hit too close to home for Australian audiences. Its central premise of a rural town, its debauched, beer-soaked, violent men, and suicidal women is not exactly a feel-good story. But a film as powerful as WAKE IN FRIGHT can't be ignored forever, and it has stormed back, first at Cannes, then in its home country, where it grossed extremely well, and now in America, where the critics have recognized it as one of the most exciting rediscoveries in years.
WAKE IN FRIGHT traces the transit through outback hell of a young school teacher (the excellent Gary Bond) who gets waylaid in the remote town Bundanyabba where, penniless and without prospects, he goes native - step by infernal step. His descent takes him much, much further than you probably expect and the end result is shattering. With Donald Pleasence at his best as a once-civilized doctor who has fallen into the same feral state as the other wild men of the outback. Beautifully photographed and acted by all and featuring the most beer consumed in any movie ever made, WAKE IN FRIGHT is a truly unforgettable experience.
WAKE IN FRIGHT Opens October 12 in Austin and plays in many other cities as well. The full schedule and more information is available at Drafthouse Films.