WAKE IN FRIGHT (1971)   I   dir. T Kotcheff   I   AUSTRALIA

Reviewed by Nadeem Akhtar 


The story centres on the summer vacation of an eloquent British school teacher, John Grant (Gary Bond) teaching primary school children in the remote, desolate town of Tiboonda in Australia. He was sent there as part of a financial agreement to secure payment for his postgraduate education. As school term comes to an end, John begins his journey back to “the city”, fantasizing about an eminent reunion with his beautiful beau. A seemingly harmless stopover in the interchange town of Bundanyabba (“the Yabba”) leads to a spiral of disintegration involving gambling, alcohol misuse and aggression.


Stylistic Elements

Well shot with interesting camera work. An orange grade establishes a sense of heat.  

The viewer is transported to the Australian Outback, with the overarching impression desolation. The setting appears remote enough to create enough emotional distance to allow absorption of what becomes, at times, a shocking narrative.



The protagonist appears authentic and believable. The role is well acted and many characters which follow are based on Jungian archetypes.


Narrative Quality

An engaging narrative although the rate of decline into addiction is unrealistic and loss of pro-social relationships is not depicted well.


Emotional Impact

The film is bewildering, despairing,  haunting, shocking but also exciting. By producing such emotions it effectively parallels the journey of the protagonist.


Educational Score

8/10. Strong metaphorical and overt content. Highly Cinematic.