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 girlfriend Robyn, 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.
May you dream of the devil and trope in fright:
- The Alcoholic: Everybody.
- Ambiguously Bi: Doc Tydon.
- Anti-Villain: Jock is basically a Nice Guy who unwittingly draws Grant into dissolution by being overly hospitable. Aside from Doc, this could apply to most of the Yabba's inhabitants.
- Bittersweet Ending: 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.
- Faux Affably Evil: Doc is one of the only educated people in the Yabba and he initially seems like a kindred spirit to Grant. It doesn't take much to bring out his sadistic side, though, and alcohol only notches it Up to Eleven.
- He Who Fights Monsters: 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.