Long Lost Horror Film That Left Scorsese Speechless: Recovering Australia's 'Wake in Fright'
Maybe it’s the Indiana Jones in me, but I enjoy finding old film relics, be they old Super 16 non-theatrical films (the animated environmental film Flashpoint is just about the greatest thing I’ve ever seen) or lost and forgotten features. So, once I heard about the film considered to be Australia’s “great lost film” I couldn’t resist. This horror flick from 1971, which has a 100% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes “disappeared” for over 25 years until the film’s editor saved it before it was destroyed. And now, it’s finally available to view online.
It’s always a little more of a magical viewing experience when the story behind the story is just as if not more intriguing. This is one of those movies. Considered to be “one of the films in the development of modern Australian cinema,” Wake in Fright, directed by Ted Kotcheff, follows a schoolteacher (Gary Bond) as he slips into madness while being stranded in a small town in the outback. Before we go into how this thing was lost and eventually found, check out the trailer below.
The film wasn’t released on DVD or VHS. After many Australian directors and film schools lamented about not being able to find and view it, the film’s editor Tony Buckley decided to track down the original print in 1994. Years later, Buckley did find it, however, in an interview with Indiewire, Kotcheff describes how close Wake in Fright came to complete obliteration.
He took two years on to try and find it and he finally found it in a warehouse in Pittsburgh, in two big boxes with inter-negatives, sound reels, everything — On the outside of the box it was marked ‘For Destruction,’ — Had he arrived one week later, they were going to make room in the warehouse and Wake In Fright would have been lost forever.
Thankfully that wasn’t the case. Honestly, I had never heard of this film before, but apparently some pretty big names have — like Martin Scorsese, who said this about it:
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
On that note — check out the film if you haven’t already. You can buy it here (thanks to VHX for the heads up) and there are 4 purchase options: some include a physical DVD/Blu-ray, digital download, posters, and other extras. Enter the code haveabeermate to get 50% off. Hurry! The deal is for this weekend only! Or you could always buy or rent it on Amazon Instant Video.
Have you ever seen Wake in Fright? What did you think about it? What is your favorite “lost” movie?
- Interview: ‘Wake In Fright’ Director Ted Kotcheff Talks Martin Scorsese, His Lost Film, And What A Canadian Was Doing Directing An Australian Classic — Indiewire
- Wake in Fright — Drafthouse Films
- Wake in Fright – Amazon