film note: Wake In Fright

Frightening the kangaroos

Wake In Fright
Directed by Ted Kotcheff
114 mins, Australia, 1971

Perhaps it says something about the difference between representations of American masculinity — as shown threatened and emasculated in period films like Deliverance and The Deer Hunter — and Australian masculinity, as shown here in this rediscovered gem, exposed with an unflinching, carefully constructed verisimilitude so precise it becomes a lampoon — that it’s the Australian film that has retained its power.

Perhaps it also says something that the rampant, stylized homoeroticism of such films gets a climax in Wake In Fright and in Deliverance we get a rape.

(Interesting trivia: Lead actor Gary Bond was gay in real life. He plays the effete school teacher who takes a walk on the wild side and ends up drunk on a dirty floor rolling around with Donald Pleasence, who’s disturbingly sexy in this film.) But what do I know?

For my money, this is better than, not only the two films I mentioned but also Straw Dogs, not least because it has a lot bigger balls and the courage of its depictions. That ‘roo hunting scene is real, real scary and painful to watch.

If nothing else, Wake In Fright is one hell of a midnight movie.

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Wake In Fright
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