WAKE IN FRIGHT: Q & A with director Ted Kotcheff (Recorded October 6, 2012)
WAKE IN FRIGHT
- MON & TUES FILM FORUM CLOSED
Directed by Ted Kotcheff
Starring Gary Bond & Donald Pleasence
#1 CRITICS’ PICK!
– David Fear, Time Out New York
“The film’s heightened picture of life in the Australian hinterlands was directed by Ted Kotcheff, an underrated shape-shifting filmmaker… A nightmarish loss of self-control and civilization, marked by drunkenness, withering heat and sexual misadventure.”
– Nicolas Rapold, The New York Times
Click here for the full feature
“Vibrant with color, atmosphere, emotion, violence and dread. It’s simultaneously terrifying and hilarious, a full-on shotgun blast to the face of rediscovered 1970s weirdness… This tale of endless debauchery is unforgettable.”
– Andrew O’Hehir, Salon
Click here for the full review
(1971) “What’s the matter with him? He’d rather talk to a woman than drink?” Just a one-night stopover in “The Yabba” for Peter O’Toole look-alike Gary Bond, between the (literally) two-house town where he’s stuck teaching, and the flight to Sydney and his girlfriend during the Christmas break. But as local cop Chips Rafferty (the Australian character star in his final role) leads him to the local hardboozing rituals and the delights of gambling on the “two-up,” the nightmare begins, with sex interrupted by vomiting, the ministrations of too-friendly alcoholic doc Donald Pleasence (Halloween, The Great Escape, etc., etc.), and topped by a very graphic kangaroo hunt. Long thought to exist in a single inferior print, the original negative was found after a ten-year search in…Pittsburgh — leading to this eye-popping restoration by The National Film and Sound Archives of Australia. Directed by Canadian transplant Ted Kotcheff (otherwise best known for The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, Stallone’s First Blood, and Weekend at Bernie’s!), with Evan Jones’ screenplay based on a novel by Kenneth Cook. Approx. 114 min. 35mm.
A DRAFTHOUSE FILMS RELEASE
"The teacher goes asking for a lesson and, as human as he turns out to be, he gets it—not so much at the hands of the rampaging Yabbanians but because, over the course of a very few days, he devolves into one of them. It’s the spectacle of regression that is so appalling. The savage fun of a nighttime kangaroo shoot is not something to be easily forgotten, as much as one might want to. Take this as a recommendation. The kangaroo slaughter is crucial. Mapping the territory between nowhere and hell, WAKE IN FRIGHT is a classic of the Australian uncanny to set beside the far more genteel Picnic at Hanging Rock or Walkabout.
– J. Hoberman
Click here to read the full review
“Its twisted look at men behaving very badly would garner fans ranging from Pauline Kael to Nick Cave, who called it 'the most terrifying film about Australia in existence.' By the end of its Film Forum revival, the legion of admirers will have grown even more."
– David Fear, Time Out New York
Click here to read the full review
“WAKE IN FRIGHT is a deeply – and I mean deeply – unsettling and disturbing movie. I saw it when it premiered at Cannes in 1971, and it left me speechless. Visually, dramatically, atmospherically and psychologically, it's beautifully calibrated and it gets under your skin one encounter at a time, right along with the protagonist played by Gary Bond. I’m excited that WAKE IN FRIGHT has been preserved and restored and that it is finally getting the exposure it deserves.”
– Martin Scorsese (2012)
“A road movie using undeveloped land as a blank screen on which to project a dark deconstruction of masculinity and manifest destiny. FRIGHT functions as the Australian precursor to another underseen film of the era, the 1973 Hackman-Pacino Cannes winner, Scarecrow. In both films, the road away turns out to be a loop, the dream of escape across the land ultimately drives a man mad... But '70s Hollywood has nothing on the outback; WAKE IN FRIGHT is the more monstrous vision of men run amok."
– Karina Longworth, Village Voice
“WAKE IN FRIGHT is the quintessential Australian exploitation film, one in which a character is tested by the country’s harsh elements and comes out the other side transformed… a harrowing journey, but one you’ll likely want to take again, very soon.”
– Drew Taylor, Indiewire
"The film might flirt with aspects of hillbilly horror, but it's precisely rendered enough to achieve an absolute seriousness of purpose: dissecting the dark insinuations at the heart of the national fell-feeling, WAKE IN FRIGHT describes a society in which colonial-hertiage rapaciousness is alive and well - and in which the supposed barricade of civilization might easily be torn asunder"
– Benjamin Mercer, The L Magazine
"The remastering and rerelease of this early Ted Kotcheff feature marks a key moment in the history of the cinema of masculine brutality. Kotcheff's film may seem similar to Deliverance or Straw Dogs in its white-knuckle lensing of masculinity under backwater duress, but there's a boozy Buñuelian surrealism draping the proceedings."
– John Semley, Slant
“Director Ted Kotcheff presents the remote Australian desert in a way that has more in common with the work of the great Italian Western director Sergio Leone… the opening 360-degree shot of the brutal emptiness says all you need to know about the version of Australia that we as the audience are about to be thrust into. WAKE IN FRIGHT is a masterfully crafted film and as relevant today as it ever was.”
– Australian Film Institute
“Powerful, Genuinely Shocking, And Rather Amazing!”
– Roger Ebert
“Crystallizes Into Particular Terror! Not quite like anything else I can remember feeling at the movies.”
– Roger Greenspun, The New York Times
“The best and most terrifying film about Australia in existence.”
– Nick Cave
“A Conradian vision of macho rituals, revelations, and depredations. The Outback becomes as much of a self-testing limbo as the indigenous Mars photographed by Nicolas Roeg that same year in Walkabout… Shot with a feverish feeling for heat and madness that’s worthy of Borges, this heady existential scald demolishes colonial myths with a ruthlessness seldom matched in the ensuing Australian New Wave inquiries of Weir, Schepisi, and Beresford.”
– Fernando F. Croce, Slant
“A probing, uncomfortably intense essay of antipodean bad manners in the heightened tones of a Dadaist fever dream... still packs a mighty thump to the solar plexus almost 40 years after being created.”
– Julian Shaw, Filmink
“Comradeship among white men in the Australian desert, their boredom, and their erratic, senseless destructiveness. They keep acting out adolescent rituals of virility. They guzzle all day and all night; they garland themselves with the pull tabs from the beer cans. They smash things for excitement or brawl, or shoot anything that moves, or run it down with their cars. Their blood sport is boxing with wounded kangaroos and then slitting their throats... The ordeals of a sensitive yet arrogant male schoolteacher who hates the coarse life he’s trapped in... are the focal point, but the butch boomtown atmosphere (without a trace of culture) is vivid and authentic and original. You remember the red eyes of the kangaroo in the glare of headlights... You come out with a sense of epic horror and the perception that this white master race is retarded.”
– Pauline Kael
“Blending the psychological horror genre with cultural anthropology and fictive documentary... WAKE IN FRIGHT is most remarkable for its unexpurgated depiction of life at the perimeter of a peripheral Commonwealth nation, spinning a tale—that rings utterly true—of culture and consciousness unraveling at the frayed edge of Western civilization.”
– Jeff Gibson, Artforum