Film / Wake In Fright

Come have a drink with me!

Wake in Fright also known as Outback is a 1971 Australian film based on the book of the same name by Kenneth Cook.

John Grant (Gary Bond) is a middle class school teacher from Sydney who is forced to teach in a remote Australian Outback outpost to pay off tertiary education. It is the Christmas holidays and John is traveling to Sydney to visit his girl friend but must first travel through the nearby mining town of Bundanyabba (known as “The Yabba”) in order to catch a Sydney-bound flight.

At "The Yabba", Grant encounters several of the locals including a policeman, Jock Crawford (Chips Rafferty), who encourages Grant to consume repeated glasses of beer before introducing him to the local obsession with the gambling game of two-up. Hoping to win enough money to pay off his tertiary education and escape the outback, Grant at first has a winning streak playing two-up but then loses all his cash. Unable now to leave "The Yabba", Grant finds himself dependent on the charity of bullying strangers while being drawn into the crude and hard-drinking lifestyle of the town's residents. In particular, Grant's drawn to Doc Tydon (Donald Pleasence), a disgraced Sydney doctor with an unnerving personality.

Wake in Fright provides examples of:

  • The Alcoholic: Everybody
  • Ambiguously Bi: Doc Tydon.
  • Anti-Villain: Jock and Doc. Neither man does anything especially evil, but they're depicted as antagonists drawing Grant into their debauched lifestyle.
    • Averted for Doc. He gets John near-unconsciously drunk and then takes advantage of him. Twice.
  • Bittersweet Ending: John Grant finally manages to get out of the Yabba, but not before being corrupted by the town, and implied to have become an alcoholic by the end.
  • Break the Haughty: A film-length example.
  • Driven to Suicide: Grant by the end. He fails though.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: There's no fighting, and there's no monsters, but Grant gradually starts adopting the locals' habits, despite his opinion that they're beneath him.
  • No Animals Were Harmed: Ruthlessly averted. The film features a violent kangaroo hunt about halfway through, and there's some controversy over whether the kangaroos were actually killed for the movie, or whether the filmmakers merely shot footage of a professional cull.
  • Only Sane Man: John Grant, at first.