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WAKE IN FRIGHT
1971 / Drama-thriller / 109 min. / NLT Productions - Group W Films
Director: Ted Kotcheff
Script: Evan Jones
Producers: Howard G. Barnes / Bill Harmon / Maurice Singer / George Willoughby
Slim De Grey
Synopsis: A city teacher on an outback holiday is ensnared in a web of malicious mateship after he arrives in a small outback mining town.
Too rarely seen these days, WAKE IN FRIGHT is an impressive work and, along with Nick Roeg's WALKABOUT it was an important stepping-stone in the revival of the Australian film industry in the early 70s. Many critics now rate it as one of the top Australian films of the period. Adapted from the disturbing 1961 novel of the same name by Kenneth Cook, the story depicts the experiences of a city in a small, dusty, isolated and oppressively hot mining town in outback called "The Yabba". Although it apparently did fairly poor business in Australia, United Artists acquired the world rights and screened it in Paris under the title OUTBACK, where it was well received.
Its thematic setting -- an outsider isolated in threatening environment, the harsh, alien character of the Australian landscape -- is also prominent inWALKABOUT, and in Peter Weir's THE CARS THAT ATE PARIS and PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK.
WAKE IN FRIGHT was an Anglo-Australian co-production, filmed on location in Broken Hill and starring three British imports, with a fine Australian supporting cast including John Meillon, Dawn Lake, Jack Thompson (in one of his first major film roles), Maggie Dence, Slim De Grey, Norm Erskine, Buster Fiddess and the great Chips Rafferty in the last film role before his death.
The part of the teacher was played by British actor Gary Bond who work included the TV series Redcap and The Avengers, and film parts in the historical dramas Zulu (1964) and Anne of the Thousand Days (1969). Donald Pleasance was a distinguished and in-demand character actor who featured in scores of British and American films - many of them well-known thriller or horror films like Halloween-- from the early 1950s until his death in 1995.
Both writer and director have a noteworthy list of credits. Kotcheff's very diverse CV includes The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz (1974), Fun with Dick and Jane (1977), Who Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe? (1978), Rambo: First Blood (1982), Switching Channels (1988), Weekend at Bernie's (1989) and most recently he has been producer of the popular TV series Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (1999).
Evan Jones' other major scripts include THE DAMNED (1963) the classic adaptation of Len Deighton's spy thriller FUNERAL IN BERLIN (1966) the underrated pop-art espionage fantasy MODESTY BLAISE (1966), THE KILLING OF ANGEL STREET (1981), one of two films inspired by the Juanita Nielsen case, and the film version of D.H. Lawrence's KANGAROO (1986).
WAKE IN FRIGHT was the first -- and last -- feature film venture for Australian TV production house NLT, which went broke after this film. Executive producer Bill Harmon had previously produced the comedy SQUEEZE A GRAPE, and he and fellow NLT producer Don Cash teamed up to form their own company after NLT folded, and became co-producers of the famous 'sex-and-sin' TV soapie NUMBER 96.
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