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Review: Wake In Fright (1971)

By PETER KEOUGH  |  October 10, 2012
3.5 3.5 Stars



Combining elements of Heart of Darkness, After Hours, and Groundhog Day, Ted Kotcheff's brutally brilliant Outback thriller follows the moral degradation, or perhaps redemption, of a snooty schoolteacher (Gary Bond) traveling from the backwater where he's assigned to Sydney for his Christmas vacation. But along the way he gets stranded in "the city," Bundanyabba, where he loses his money in a backroom game of chance and must rely on the contemptuous hospitality of the local yokels. Their most common phrase is "Want a beer?," an invitation which, whether refused or accepted, leads to violence. So the newcomer, not unwillingly, goes along for the ride, which involves a night kangaroo hunt (real and awful), many alcoholic blackouts, and the ambiguous attentions of the local drunk doctor (a brilliantly unwholesome Donald Pleasance). Kotcheff's masterpiece (he later did First Blood), it orchestrates landscape, music, demonic faces, and lots of blood, sweat, and vomit into a stark bacchanalia of men having fun.

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