'Wake in Fright' Found and Restored

Posted Fri Sep 21, 2012 at 08:00 AM PDT by

After 40 years, Ted Kotcheff's long lost Australian thriller has been found and painstakingly restored for a theatrical re-release.

“iWake 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, its 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

“Powerful, Genuinely Shocking & Rather Amazing!”-Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times

“The Best & Most Terrifying Film About Australia In Existence.”-Nick Cave

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 never 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 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.

Theatrical Release Date: New York, October 5, 2012 at Film Forum; Los Angeles, October 19, 2012 Landmark NuArt Theatre; Nationally Oct/Nov 2012.

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Tags: Cannes Classics, Drafthouse Films (all tags)