This is an unofficial audio introduction for the 1971 Australian psychological horror film Wake in Fright.
This extended introduction contains information about the story, locations, cast and costumes. It runs for approximately [calculate] minutes. Warning - it contains mild spoilers for the film.
In Australia, Wake in Fright is classified "M". It contains violence and mature themes. Please check the rating in your country.
The running time for the film is approximately 1 hour and 48 minutes.
The film was written by Evan Jones, based on the novel by Kenneth Cook, and directed by Canadian director Ted Kotcheff. It is one of only two films to be shown at the Cannes Film Festival twice.
The film opens with an elevated 360 degree pan of Tiboonda to emphasise how remote and isolated it is. Horizon to horizon there’s nothing but pale orange dirt and occasional patches of low scrub, baking under the sweltering sun. There are three main features: the Tiboonda school-house, the Hotel on a dirt road, and the railway line dividing the two. A row of power-poles runs parallel to the railway line, and a pipeline runs behind the hotel.
The school house is a pale-grey building with a metal open gable roof. A small corrugated iron water-tank on stumps is situated against the gable end-wall. The front yard is packed orange dirt, with a basketball hoop on one side. Opposite stand two dunny’s (outdoor toilets), small basic wooden sheds with skillion roofs.
Inside the one-room school-house are a mixed aged, mixed gender class of about 20 students sitting in three rows. They are silent, arms folded, staring forward with glassy eyes and dull expressions. They wear a mix of clothing, mostly light, with short sleeves. One student has sharp horn-rimmed glasses with thick lenses. There is only one clearly indigenous Australian in the class, a young aboriginal girl. The wooden desks and chairs, painted yellow, are scratched and battered. Blotchy painted children’s artwork decorate the pale green painted walls.
At the back of the class is a small model of a mine-elevator and an old, metal sewing machine. Flies buzz in through the two open sash windows: outside we see the reddish dirt to the horizon and the grey skeletal branches of a dead tree.
Next to the door stands a rudimentary white plastic Christmas tree, half-heartedly decorated with silver and red ribbons that hang down and a few stars.
The school-teacher, John Grant, is played by British actor Gary Bond. He’s a handsome clean-shaven white man in his early 30s with blonde wavy hair and dark eyes, wearing light linen suit, a white shirt and a brown tie. He has a small gap between his front-teeth. As he leaves, he puts on aviator sunglasses with smoked lenses.
The pub has the word HOTEL painted on its corrugated iron dutch-gable roof to be visible from the train. Parts of the generous verandahs are partly protected by white wooden lattice screens.
Outside the pub is a tall hand-operated vintage petrol pump; further back is an old metal windmill.
John’s room is off a long, dark corridor. It is a cool, dark room with an iron desk fan pointed at the spartan, single bed. The room is full of personal articles and bric-a-brac. A photo of the Sydney Opera House is stuck to the wall along with a series of rough sketches of the landscape, a horse, the school-house, a cow skull. A poster of the Beatles crossing Abbey Road is taped above a record-player. Some shelves display a collection of minerals. On a writing desk are books, stationery, and a framed photograph of a smiling young woman with short blonde hair in a cap and gown, holding a diploma.
The pub itself has a long dark counter, and pale green walls. On a fridge behind the bar is a poster advertising the Tiboonda Picnic Races on Boxing Day, and a limp hanging loop of tinsel.
The publican Charlie is a white man, mid 30s, with a cleft chin, small eyes and dark blonde hair partly plastered to his forehead with sweat. He wears a dark shirt, and he has a middy in one hand, and a cigarette hangs from his lips. He’s played by Australian actor John Meillon.
In a back room, the searing brightness of the outdoors coming in through an open door, a slim young indigenous woman with brown skin and long brown hair sits at a table reading a newspaper with two red-and-grey galahs in a cage for company.
The train platform is just an elevated wooden platform constructed from heavy railway sleepers with lighter timbers for the stairs and back rail. Mounted on pole is a railway clock with no hands.
The train is pulled by a diesel locomotive, and has a mix of boxcars and two passenger carriages. The interior is strangely elegant, with thin dark-brown painted architraves around the windows, dark vinyl seating, and elevated luggage racks in fancy wrought iron.
John passes a group of white men of varying ages, mostly dressed in white shirts, drinking beer near the door; he sits further along the carriage, back to them. A dark-skinned indigenous Australian man with a weathered unshaven face, wearing a white trilby and yellow shirt sits silently across from him, either not invited to drink, or not interested.
Bundanyabba is a regional city. A number of the shots of the city feature backgrounds of the mine elevators, distant blocky mining vehicles and equipment or slag heaps just around the corner from various buildings. The sky is blue and clear and the weather sweltering.
Most of the interiors of the buildings have some nod to the Christmas season, usually a tree, or some tinsel decoration.
A woman in a green floral-print dress is sitting in a small, glass-fronted office at the reception area of the Imperial Hotel. She is white, in her late 20s, with centre-parted brunette hair, and a pointed nose. Her eyes, lightly mascaraed, are closed and she tilts her face towards the heavy-duty looking desk-fan. Periodically she dips her fingers in a jar of water and wipes it on her face or neck and chest, blissfully enjoying the evaporative cooling. She’s played by Australian actor Maggie Dence.
The Miners Hotel
The Miners Hotel is a hive of activity. It has green painted walls — dark green to head height, scuffed and flaking away in places, and a pale green above. It’s a large crowded room with a rectangular enclosed bar as an island in the middle. Structural concrete pillars are decorated with cut-outs of a bearded Santa Claus. There’s a poster on the wall showing a bottle-toting inebriated Santa Claus "The Miners Hotel Wishes All Boozers a Merry Xmas".
The bar-staff are busy, taking crates of empty glasses from a dishwasher, and filling twin rows of schooners on the bar from clear hoses running with beer.
Jock Crawford is a local police officer. He wears a light grey-green uniform with a tie and a broad-brimmed hat. He’s a tall, imposing white man in his early 60s with a saggy, weathered face, hairy eyebrows and a distinct paunch. His teeth are crooked, one front tooth at an angle to the other. With his hat off, his hair is brown, left-parted and combed flat to his head. He’s played by Australian actor Chips Rafferty.
The RSL Club
The Returned Services League club is crowded with mostly older people sitting around low tables, eating and drinking. There’s a darts board on the wall. Some people are playing pokie machines lined up at one side. There’s a four-piece band on-stage, the singer is a portly gentleman of about 60 or 70, pants pulled up above his waist, and brown-dyed hair showing grey roots. There are multi-coloured glittering curtains as a background. None of the band play with any passion or conviction: they are just going through the motions. The four serving staff behind the long, crowded bar are all white men with white shirts, bow-ties and short hair-cuts, and they are busy filling rows of beer-glasses on the counter.
The diner is a poorly lit space with dismal pale yellow-green walls. A few black-and-white woodcuts are on display, one a woman in lingerie, another looks like a boxer sitting. The tables are covered with red-check plastic table-cloths and set with condiment bottles. A poorly hand-written menu on a sheet of brown cardboard is tacked to one of the metal support columns. The cook, Joe, works behind a low counter on a gas-burner and deep-fat fryer. He’s a beefy white man with short dark hair, early 40s, wearing an stained apron over a green shirt, and smoking a cigarette. He’s played by Australian Actor Norman Erskine.
The backroom of the Diner is a large space where the two-up game is in progress. A crowd of men, mostly white, mostly wearing t-shirts, vests or stripped to the waist, surround a sunken rectangular open area. Bundles of cash are gathered in loose piles around the edge. The men clutch bundles of cash in their hands and exchange them, or push past each other to place them in the piles on the floor.
The man tossing the coins is white man, maybe late 40s with sun-weathered skin, blonde hair combed back, open green shirt at the chest, and sleeves rolled to show a smudged tattoo.
The two-up equipment is a thin strip of wood, and two tarnished coins. They are old Great Britain Pennies, showing Britannia, a woman in a robe, Roman gladiator style helmet, and shield inscribed with the union jack. Each clearly marked with a white-cross through Britannia, indicating the "tails" side.
After witnessing the spectacle, John retreats back to the diner.
There’s something gnome-ish about Clarence "Doc" Tydon. He’s a short white man, balding, with a thick, bushy black beard shot through with grey. He has arched eyebrows and piercing grey-blue eyes set above a slightly bulbous nose. He wears a rumpled shirt, dark shirt and pants. He’s early 50s. Occasionally he will give a strange, mad look, his eyes widen and gives a brief toothy smile. Doc is played by English actor Donald Pleasance. He scribbles in a tatty note-book with a stubby pencil.
The Hotel Room
John’s hotel room in Bundanyabba is decorated with fading wallpaper, vertical panels of delicate designs on pale red, and pale green carpet with darker green floral motifs at intervals. A single bed has an Art Noveau scallop shaped lamp above the head, and a wooden table against a wall with a jug of water sitting on a doily. The blind over the window has a few tears in it.
John Grant naked is in good shape, his athletic body is tanned with the exception of a wide band of pale-skin around his waist where clearly he has been wearing shorts or bathing-trunks.
John meets Tim Hynes in the Miners Hotel bar. He’s a short white man in his mid 50s, shrewd looking, with hairy, arched eyebrows and green eyes surrounded by crows feet, above a sharp, pointed nose. He has dark, thinning hair. He’s well dressed, wearing a white panama hat, short-sleeved pale-striped yellow-green shirt with dark green bow-tie. He wears dark short-pants and white socks pulled up to just below his knees. On his right wrist he wears a chunky silver watch. Tim Hynes played by Scottish born actor Al Thomas.
Tim’s place has a tall white picket fence around a spacious front-yard that is the same reddish dirt as the rest of the landscape. A number of Eucalyptus trees, pale bark, tall with leaves only growing at the end of its branches cast some shade. Tim’s house is a long federation style brick house with a red iron dutch gable roof and a generous verandah with white painted wood columns and railings.
The living room of the house has pale green wallpaper printed with delicate, slightly darker green shapes of Eucalyptus trees. A dark wooden shelf runs above head height around the room and ornaments such decorative plates, a small pewter mug, a bowl, a vase, a jug are placed at intervals. Against one wall is a large sideboard made of dark wood, supporting a range of spirits bottles. A number of paintings with pastoral themes decorate the walls.
A blocky wood panelled clock sits on the mantel above the brick fireplace, along with some Christmas cards. In the corner stands a small Christmas tree draped with silver tinsel. The room has a small, plain coffee-table and number of cloth covered armchairs with wooden armrests, as well as a leather or vinyl covered armchair. There’s also a wicker-backed sofa with thick floral cushions that Tim falls asleep on.
On another wall, resting on handsome wood brackets, are four rifles with wooden stocks.
Tim’s daughter Janette Hynes is a white woman in her early 30s. She’s brunette with centre-parted hair, gathered up at the back. She has striking large green eyes, highlighted with mascara and a light application of eye-shadow. Her face is square shaped, and she has thin lips with a pronounced cupids-bow. She wears a plain, short-sleeved blouse and a knee-length pale green skirt. She would be considered attractive if her face was alive and animated and smiling, however she is largely silent and passive, and either seems resigned to her life and existence in Bundanyabba, or something somewhere inside her is broken. Janette is played by English actor Sylvia Kay.
Dick and Joe are friends of Tim’s. Both are tall, imposing, burly, white men.
Dick is in his early 30s. He has choppy blond hair, styled in waves. He has a square-jaw and a cleft-chin and he’s wearing shirt with a kind of brown and white tartan pattern, light pants with a brown leather belt. He’s wearing thongs — known sometimes as flip-flops — on his feet. When out shooting, he has a broad leather bandoleer bracelet on his left wrist. He’s played by Australian actor Jack Thompson.
Joe appears to be in his early 30s. He has a broad square face, blue eyes, a cleft chin, dark hair and sideburns. He’s taller than Dick: tall enough to be able to touch the ceiling of Tim’s lounge-room. He wears a pale blue short sleeved shirt, grey pants, and outdoors he sports a pale-brown felt cowboy-hat. At one point at the party he’s wearing a long, double-strand necklace made from ring-pulls from beer-cans. He’s played by actor Peter Whittles.
Doc Tydons Shack
John Grant wakes inside Doc Tydon’s shack on a low bed, basically a long pallet with a pillow and sheet on it. The walls are a mix of beaten up wooden panelling and overlapping sheets of dark, corrugated iron. The light is gloomy and highlights the dust in the air. The “curtains” for the windows are torn sheets of muslin. Shelves around the room support leaning piles of old books, beer cans and stubby-bottles, and old kettle. A record-player with a wooden construction sits next to a basin where Doc later trims his beard, reflected in a shard of old mirror.
On the kitchen table is a jumble of beer bottles and cans, battered tin cooking pots and utensils, and a sawn-off beer can as an ash-tray. A large volume — a beautifully illustrated copy of Gray’s Anatomy — sits open on the table.
Outside, bright and sweltering, the shack is surrounded by low hills with scrub, a few tall eucalyptus trees with sparse-foliage and the ubiquitous mountains of dirt and equipment of the nearby mine. The yard is full of old rusting vehicles, 44-galleon drums, piles of old rubble, and a tall, wide hoop of corrugated-iron: the side of an old water-tank. A water-tank and tap is mounted on a sturdy wooden platform about head-height.
The shack itself appears to be made of overlapping patches of corrugated-iron. Against the back, two sulphur-crested cockatoos live in a tall cage, one roosting, the other clinging to the ring-lock of the cage. They large white parrots with a yellow crest.
Dick and Joe’s car is a 1959 Ford Fairlane, a wide car, with a top mounted spotlight that can be handled by someone standing through the open sun-roof. The back has been modified with an open, wooden tray with deep-sides for carrying cargo. There is a fox-tail hanging off the aerial.
The landscape for the kangaroo hunt is arid: dusty, flat and bleak. There are trees, all about twice the height of a man, with sparse foliage, reasonably evenly spaced. There is almost no under-story, but dead branches and small tufts of grass lay in the open spaces.
A sign by the dirt road reads: “Road Warning Signs are For Your Protection. Please don’t use them as targets.” There are several bullet holes in the sign.
Kangaroos are large mammals. Their body shape can perhaps be described as a cross between a rabbit and a greyhound - they are lean, powerful and muscular. Their faces are not unlike a rabbit with a longer snout; again, like a rabbit they have long feet that gives them the ability to leap. About half their body length is a tail, thick at the base, which forms a counter-weight for their swift jumping, and gives them stability and balance when standing still, or, as the males will do, rearing up and attacking each other with their shorter fore-limbs. When they rear up, they can stand as tall as a person. They are covered in short brown or grey fur.
The outback pub used as a base for the kangaroo hunt is a smaller establishment with a giant model of beer-bottle on the roof, and a single front-facing wooden verandah where Doc, Dick and Joe sit with John around a table. Doc has changed into a straw-hat and a suit-jacket that’s been converted to a waist-coat by removal of the sleeves; he wears it open over a dirty singlet, yellow with sweat and dust.
The driver that drops John off at Silverton is a white man, short and portly, with a broad hat, grey shirt with sleeves rolled to the elbows. He has a round face, and as he talks we see he has a single tooth in his top jaw.
The truck driver John later gets a lift from is a tall, lean man with blond hair, wearing blue shorts and a black singlet.
Finally, the view from the hospital car-park, set on a hill above Bundanyabba shows the small city, a sea of houses liberally interspersed with green trees with lush foliage.
This is an independent Audio Introduction and not commissioned by the copyright owners. I believe in cultural competancy, inclusion and equality, and have attempted to describe the characters and situations fairly, without prejudice and without intent to offend. All information in this introduction is believed to be correct at the time of writing, but the accuracy or correctness of this content cannot be guaranteed.
If you have any concerns about the content in this audio introduction, please contact me..
Copyright and Licensing
Wake in Fright is © copyright Wake in Fright Trust.
This audio introduction script copyright © Brett Coulstock.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Perhaps record outside, in summer, with the flies buzzing and a bleak wind and never mind the occasional vehicle passing. Good verisimilitude. Would emphasise the mood and setting. It would be fun to open with the sound of a tinny being opened and even the occasional slurping noises. Possibly even a hint of progressive inebriation.