Drafthouse Films has released the first trailer for the newly-restored version of Wake in Fright, director Ted Kotcheff's 1971 classic that was thought to be lost forever. Gary Bond stars as a British teacher who is tormented by the locals in a small Australian outback town, with a memorable turn by Donald Pleasence as an alcoholic doctor. The film has never been released on VHS or DVD in the United States, but it will make its glorious return to theaters, opening in New York City October 5 and in Los Angeles October 19, with a national roll-out to follow. Take a look at this harrowing drama.
Alongside Mad Max and Walkabout, Wake in Fright is widely acknowledged as one of the seminal films in the development of modern Australian cinema. Combining the backwoods horror of Deliverance and the gritty nihilism of Straw Dogs, the film tells the story of a British schoolteacher's (Gary Bond) descent into personal demoralization at the hands of drunken, deranged derelicts (including a very inebriated "doctor" played by Donald Pleasence), while stranded in a small town in outback Australia.
The film made its world premiere at the 1971 Cannes Film Festival where it was nominated for a Palme D'Or and its US distribution rights were sold. Retitled Outback and hurried into a few theaters across the country, the film barely played for more than a week before it was yanked from circulation due to poor attendance and lack of advertising. Wake in Fright vanished into obscurity, barely reviewed by American critics and not ever appearing on domestic VHS or DVD.
For over three decades the film materials were thought to be lost until the film's persistent cinematographer unearthed the original negative elements in Philadelphia in canisters marked for destruction just one week away from its impending incineration. The materials were painstakingly restored frame-by-frame at Sydney's At Lab Deluxe with the support of the National Film And Sound Archive of Australia. The new restoration was invited back to Cannes by guest curator Martin Scorsese, where it held the honor of being one of two films to ever screen twice at the festival (the other being Michelangelo Antonioni's L'avventura).
Virtually unseen in the US and renowned in its home country after years of neglect for its daring criticism, Wake in Fright is ripe for rediscovery, and returns after 40 years to reclaim its title as one of the most awe-inspiring, brutal and stunning films of all time.
Wake in Fright is the story of John Grant (Gary Bond), a bonded teacher who arrives in the rough Australian outback mining town of Bundanyabba, planning to stay overnight before catching the plane to Sydney. But, as his one night stretches to five, he plunges headlong toward his own destruction. When the alcohol-induced mist lifts, the educated John Grant is no more. Instead there is a self-loathing man in a desolate wasteland, dirty, red-eyed, sitting against a tree and looking at a rifle with one bullet left.