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Home Movies: Wake in Fright

By Maitland McDonagh

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Cult Pick

Wake in Fright

The Australian tourist board's worst nightmare, Wake in Fright is a fever dream of heat, drunkenness, blood, rutting, and macho brutality, which to the local way of thinking is what makes outback hellhole Bundanyabba “a friendly place . . . where nobody cares where you come from as long as you’re an alright fella.” John Grant (Gary Bond), sweating off his debt to the government for financing his higher education by teaching in a godforsaken flyspeck outpost, is only there because “the Yabba” has an airport from which he can fly to Sydney for the holidays. But after a beer-fueled night of friendly gambling he awakes penniless and dependent on the kindness of strangers such as Donald Pleasence’s Doc Tydon, whose hospitality includes kangaroo hunting, sweaty grab-ass, and almost (but not quite) amnesia-inducing drinking. Barely released in 1971 and thought lost for decades, this is the sure antidote to Crocodile Dundee fantasies: May you dream of the devil and wake in fright.

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