Wake in Fright

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Wake in Fright (also known as Outback outside of Australia) is a 1971 film about a schoolteacher trying to get to Sydney who descends into moral degradation after becoming stranded in an outback town and being forced to contend with several eccentric locals.

Directed by Ted Kotcheff. Written by Evan Jones and Ted Kotcheff, based on the novel by Kenneth Cook.
Have a drink, mate? Have a fight, mate? Have a taste of dust and sweat, mate? There's nothing else out here.  (taglines)

John Grant[edit]

  • Oh, I'm a bonded slave of the Education Department... I'm a schoolteacher.
  • There's a nice, simple-minded game.
  • One thousand dollars. Just... just one more spin... and you're out of it. Out of teaching... out of Tiboonda.
  • Jock, you damn near saved my life just now, how 'bout... completing the job by giving me a cigarette, huh?

"Doc" Tydon[edit]

  • Shall I satisfy your curiosity? I'm a doctor of medicine, and a tramp by temperament. I'm also an alcoholic. My disease prevented me from practicing in Sydney. But out here it's scarcely noticeable. Certainly doesn't stop people from coming to see me. I charge no fees because I'm not interested in money. Anyway, I'm unreliable. But I'm accepted socially because I'm an educated man... or character. I get my food from my friends... my requirements in beer. Which, with some measure of self-control, is the only alcohol I allow myself.
  • It's possible to live forever in The Yabba without money. As you probably noticed, some of the natives are very... hospitable. Take Janette, for instance. Now, there's a very interesting biological case. If she were a man, she'd be in jail for rape.
  • I cannot accept your premise, Socrates. Affectability... progress... are vanities spawned by fear. A vanity spawned by fear. The aim of what you call civilisation is a man in a smokin' jacket, whiskey and soda, pressing a bottom... button, to destroy a planet a billion miles away, kill a billion people he's never seen.
  • You'd think a bloke who'd won a silver medal at target shooting could hit himself in the head at a range of three inches.


  • Charlie: You've, uh... got snakes in yer pocket, have you?
  • Dick: [to Tim Hynes, referring to John] What's the matter with him? He'd rather talk to a woman than drink?
  • Janette Hynes: She's a slag, this little mutt; she'd try anything!
  • Jock Crawford: [speaking to John after he tries to shoot himself] I, uh, hate to trouble you, John, but rather than tire you, I thought I'd write down what had happened and you could sign it, okay? "The gunshot wound to my head was the result of an accident. I was visiting my friend, Clarence F. Tydon, after a hunting trip. I dropped my .22 rifle at the floor of his kitchen butt first, believing it to be unloaded. It exploded, and that's all I remember." That'll be about it, wouldn't it?


Charlie: Will you be wanting your room when you come back?
John: Where else would I stay? But if you get a... flood of tourists or anything, Charlie, I can always stay in the schoolhouse. [chuckles]
[train horn blows]
Charlie: See you in six weeks, huh?
John: Not if I can rob a bank.
Charlie: Sure, Ned Kelly.

Crawford: You, uh... you say you're a slave. What do you mean by that?
John: You wouldn't know how our educational authorities get teachers for the outback?
Crawford: Wouldn't have a clue, mate.
John: Now, a new teacher has to post a bond for a thousand dollars. That thousand guarantees you'll serve out your contract wherever they send you.
Crawford: Oh, well. I suppose they know what they're doing. You clever blokes never like to stop in the one spot long, do you?
John: Depends on the place.
Crawford: Heh, heh! Yeah, that's right. Well, never mind, Jack. You can always come to The Yabba for your 'olidays. Good luck!
John: Yes, that's something to look forward to.

John: Police have much to do in Bundanyabba?
Crawford: Nah. No, not really. We sort of... we just sort of keep an eye on things. Honestest little town in Australia this is, mate. But mind you, there are not too many game enough to try anything around here. You see, we're so isolated, there's nowhere to go. We get 'em, and quick.
John: Sounds like an easy life.
Crawford: Yeah, not bad. 'Course, we do have a few suicides.
John: Yeah?
Crawford: Yeah. Yeah, they reckon it's the heat. Me? Ha, ha... I like the heat!
John: Yeah, it's one way of getting out of town.
Crawford: What is?
John: Killing yourself.
Crawford: 'Ay, that's good! I like a bloke with a sense o' humour! [laughs] Oh, killing yourself.

Doc: All the little devils are proud of hell.
John: You mean... you don't think The Yabba is the greatest little place on Earth?
Doc: Could be worse.
John: How?
Doc: Supply of beer could run out.
[Doc drinks. John moves his fried eggs and buttered bread onto a separate plate, away from his steak and chips]
Doc: Hey, aren't you gonna eat that?
John: No.
[Doc takes the plate, and both start eating]
John: Why did you say that?
Doc: Say what?
John: About them being proud of hell.
Doc: Discontent is the luxury of the well-to-do. If you've got to live here, you might as well like it. Why don't you like Crawford?
John: Jock?
Doc: The touch of his hairy hand offended you.
John: I'm just bored with it: the aggressive hospitality, the... arrogance of stupid people who insist you should be as stupid as they are.
Doc: It's death to farm out here. It's worse than death in the mines. You want them to sing opera as well?
John: And what do you do?
Doc: I drink.

Tim Hynes: Hot?
John: Hot.
Hynes: New to The Yabba?
John: New to The Yabba.
Hynes: Like the old place?
John: No, I think it's bloody awful!
Hynes: You don't like The Yabba?
John: No.
Hynes: [downs his beer and tomato juice] Will you have a drink?
John: No, I'm toying with this one, thanks.
Hynes: Well, drink it down. I'll buy you another.
John: Look, I'm flat broke and I can't afford to drink!
Hynes: What's that got to do with it, man?! I said I'd buy you one; you don't have to buy me one! Now drink it down! [to the bartender, as John finishes his pony] Two middies, Keith! Don't forget the tomato juice! [to John] I'm Tim Hynes.
John: [shakes hands] John Grant.

John: I studied history and literature. And what can you do with that if your parents are nobody and you have no money? Oh, I know I can teach, but... I'd really like to get to England. Well, this is bad enough, but even Sydney, it's... [sighs] I'd really like to get to England.
Janette: What would you do there?
John: Journalism.
Janette: D'you have a girl?
John: Yes, in Sydney.
Janette: What's her name?
John: Robyn.
Janette: Robyn. What's she like?
[John shows her the photo of Robyn in his wallet. She stares intensely at the photo, then at John, then at the photo again]
Janette: Robyn. Would you take her to England with you?
John: [uncomfortably] Yes... yes.

Doc: If I were ever to marry, Janette's the sort of girl I'd like to marry. She likes sex. She likes experiment and, er, she likes variety. We thought about getting married once, but neither of us could live with one person for very long. Still, she visits me from time to time. When I want her. And when she gets bored, with them. Beer? [hands John a bottle] What's wrong with a woman taking a man because she feels like it?
John: I really don't know.
Doc: Because there's nothing wrong with it. Sex is just like eating: it's a thing you do because you have to. Not 'cause you want to, but most people are afraid of it. You seem offended by my little discussion of Janette. In the circumstances, I thought you'd be interested.
John: Well, I'm not.
Doc: You're probably a little puritan, like the rest of these people. They think Janette's a slut... the women who'd like to act like her, and the men she has given a tumble to. Janette and I are alike. We break the rules. But we know more about ourselves than most people.

[John has just been driven to Silverton by Morley, a Jeep driver]
John: [grabbing his suitcase] Alright, thanks a lot.
Morley: Come and have a drink, mate.
John: No thanks.
Morley: Come on, have a drink!
John: No, I'm just not at the moment...
Morley: It'll only take a minute. Come on, come and have a drink!
John: [angrily] Look, mate, I've given up drinking for a while.
Morley: What's wrong with you, you bastard? Why don't you come and drink with me?! I've just brought you fifty miles in the heat and dust, and you won't drink with me! What's wrong with you?
John: [flabbergasted] What's the matter with you people, huh? You... sponge on you, you, burn your house down, murder your wife, rape your child, that's all right! Not have a drink with you, not have a... FLAMING, BLOODY drink with you, that's a criminal offence, that's the... end of the bloody world!
Morley: Yer mad, yer bastard!

John: Hello, Charlie.
Charlie: Did you have a good holiday?
John: [nods] The best.


  • In competition at the 1971 Cannes Film Festival
  • Have a drink, mate? Have a fight, mate? Have a taste of dust and sweat, mate? There's nothing else out here.
  • Have a drink mate? Have a Sheila mate? Have a gamble mate? Have a fight mate?
  • This is John Grant, a handsome, intelligent, ambitious young schoolteacher. / This is John Grant, an ugly, sweaty, desperate animal. What happened to John Grant? The Outback happened to John Grant. He went on holiday... and never came back.
  • The Outback. A strange place, with strange names like "Tiboonda"... "Bundanyabba"... strange people...
  • In northern Australia, there are five thousand square miles of sand, scrub and searing heat... a desolate, primitive place that can take a man and destroy him. They call it the "Outback".
  • A Young Man, Alone, without money. Trapped in this territory of Incredible Heat!
  • From nowhere he came - through hell he went...
  • Sweat, dust and beer... there's nothing else out here mate!
  • The 40th anniversary of a lost classic from the Outback


  • When I started working on Wake in Fright, I was often asked how I could make a film about a people, a country, a culture I knew nothing about and was experiencing for the first time. Rightly or wrongly, I would say, "Well, that’s easy, I'm Canadian and Canada has the same British colonial background as Australia." There is the same lack of self-confidence, which, in Canada's case, it's to the extent of a rampant inferiority complex. Australia has a different kind of energy but, more important, is that the countries are geographically the same. They have the same vast empty spaces, which don't liberate, they imprison. And I also understood the men of the outback – their camaraderie, their support of each other and their generosity – because I had met the same type of men in the north of Canada. I've actually described Canada to some people as Australia on the rocks!
  • People walked out of it saying, "That is not us!" [with an English accent] We all thought we spoke like that, really. We didn't actually have an Australian accent. And there was none of that sort of brutality; there was none of that sort of harshness and madness that, of course, is very much a part of our lives.
  • Wake in Fright is a film made in Australia in 1971 and almost lost forever. It's not dated. It is powerful, genuinely shocking and rather amazing. It comes billed as a "horror film" and contains a great deal of horror, but all of the horror is human and brutally realistic. [...] Kotcheff's film is raw and uncompromised, well-acted, brilliantly photographed and edited. Animals were certainly "harmed." Footage of an actual kangaroo hunt was seamlessly edited in by Buckley, and a "producer's note" says this documentary footage was included with "the participation" of animal rights' organizations, whatever that means. It's rare to find a film that goes for broke and says to hell with the consequences.


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