Director Ted Kotcheff’s Wake in Fright is restored, re-mastered and set to reopen in U.S. Theaters this October for the first time in three decades, thanks to Drafthouse Films, and a miraculous discovery of a film once thought totally lost.
The infamous thriller was once a star of its nation’s emerging cinema; upheld critically alongside other landmark Australian films like Mad Max (George Miller, 1979) and Walkabout (Nicolas Roeg,1971). Entered in competition at Cannes in 1971, the film starring Gary Bond and Donald Pleasence, was nominated for the Palme d’Or, and was certain for international acclaim.
However, a poor marketing campaign (the film was retitled Outback, for starters) and a failed attempt at U.S. exhibition left Wake in Fright a movie rarely, if ever, seen in the States. In fact, its greatest achievement in the U.S. is perhaps its cult status as a movie with extreme unavailability; to find a copy on VHS was nearly, if not totally, impossible. And forget DVD: after its disastrous debut here, the original footage was presumed lost.
It’s funny then, to think that when the original negative was found just a few years ago, it was right here in Pennsylvania. Taken back to the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia, Wake in Fright is once again a success story: restored to its original glory at Sydney’s AtLab Deluxe, and reintroduced to cinephiles at film festivals in 2009. An official selection at that year’s Toronto International Film Festival, and presented again at Cannes as a Cannes Classic (one of only two films ever to do so) by guest curator Martin Scorsese, who called it “a deeply – and I mean deeply – unsettling and disturbing movie.”
Now, American audiences will finally have the chance to see this masterpiece in its best form (and with its best title) on screens across the country. Premiering at the 2012 Fantastic Fest (September 20-27), the restored Wake in Fright will follow-up its debut with screenings nationwide; first at Film Forum in NYC on October 5th and continuing on to the Landmark NuArt in LA on October 12th. The rest of America can see the Australian classic on screens throughout October and November 2012 in theaters everywhere. So check your local listings and catch the thriller everyone should have been talking about for the last thirty years.