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The Monster (AKA I Don’t Want to Be Born) | The three Dame 1970s British shocker gets a HD remaster

From Hammer/Amicus director Peter Sasdy comes the 1975 Fox-Rank exploitation horror that totally deserves its cult reputation. If you haven’t seen it, then Network’s new remastered release (which is out on Blu-ray and DVD) is worth seeking out.

This unsubtle rip-off of Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist, sees Joan Collins cast as Lucy Carlesi, a London stripper who believes she has given birth to a demonic child, who possesses unusual strength. Ralph Bates plays her Italian husband Gino, who can’t decide whether Lucy is suffering from post-natal depression or not, Donald Pleasence is none-the-wiser as Lucy’s obstetrician, and Eileen Atkins is Gino’s nun sister, whom he turns to for guidance. But when Lucy realises that Hercules (George Claydon), a dwarf she once humiliated, has placed a curse on baby Nicholas, only an exorcism can save her child.

There’s much to deride this absurd slice of 1970s horror – including Bates’ and Atkins’ weird Italian accents, the obvious dubbing of Caroline Munro (as Lucy’s friend Mandy) and the laughable dialogue. But there’s also much to enjoy: the fab London film locations (I’ve passed the Chelsea house off the King’s Road many times); Collins looking ever so chic (in her own clothes, according to wardrobe supervisor Brenda Dabbs); and a gritty, atmospheric Ron Grainer score. You also get some memorable kills: including drowning, hanging and decapitation, and a great turn from Hilary Mason as the Carlesi’s no-nonsense housekeeper.

While Collins maybe the film’s star, Atkins, however, totally steals the show as Albana (who bizarrely conducts medical experiments on animals with her fellow convent nuns). After watching her steely performance, I couldn’t help but wonder if she was the inspiration for Dolly Wells’ Sister Agatha Van Helsing in 2020’s Dracula.

In the extras, director Sasdy proudly points out that his film (which he saved by pumping in his own money) boasts three Dame Commanders of the Order of the British Empire: Collins, Atkins and Floella Benjamin (who plays a nurse early in the film). Coincidentally, both Collins and Atkins are doing book events at the same time as this release – though I’m not sure this film will get much of a mention. But you never know.

Pre-order from Network:

• High Definition remaster from original film elements in its original theatrical aspect ratio.
• Audio commentary from the Second Features podcast team
Sasdy’s Baby: director Peter Sasdy gives an honest and gleeful look back at the film, and answers the long-asked question: why are Bates and Atkins’ playing Italian characters?
The Excisit: interview with editor Keith Palmer
Holding the Baby: fab interview with continuity veteran Renée Glynne, and wardrobe supervisor Brenda Dabbs
• Alternative titles (I Don’t Want to be Born)
• Theatrical trailer
• Image gallery
• Booklet written by Adrian Smith

Harold Pinter’s The Caretaker | Clive Donner’s spellbinding film adaptation gets a newly restored BFI release

The Caretaker

The Caretaker remains one of Harold Pinter’s most famous works. This study of shared illusion, tragic dispossession and the fraternal bond of unspoken love, combines the magic of Pinter’s dialogue with some mesmerising performances from Alan Bates, Donald Pleasence and Robert Shaw into a spellbinding film, sensitively directed by Clive Donner and shot by Nicolas Roeg, which is now out in a dual format release from the BFI, presented in a newly-restored print and with a host of extras (check them out at the end of this post).

Here, guest reviewer Ali Pye gives her low down on Pinter, the play, the film and the BFI release…

Harold Pinter was in the right place at the wrong time. A schoolboy witness to the World War II carpet-bombing of London’s East End, his response to such violence placed him as one of the angrier young men on the writing spectrum. By the late 1950’s he was well on the way to blowing the bloody doors off.

The Caretaker was his first commercial theatrical success. Burrowing upwards through inner city post-war debris like a weed, spare, sparse, resilient, it debuted in April 1960 and was feted first off the Charing Cross Road later transferring to Broadway. Regardless however of such glittering cosmopolitan acclaim, the blunt 3 hander set in a single cluttered room remained very much grounded among the bricks and bric-a-brac of down-at-heel Hackney. It was in this borough, where Pinter was born and schooled, that Clive Donner assembled an artist/actor collective and camera crew in late 1962, filming during the coldest winter on record.

Underwritten with donations from British stars of stage and screen, the project was an early GoFundMe fifty years before the concept existed. Each benefactor supplied £1000. Twice that could get you a fourth floor bedsit in Islington within thieving distance of the library. There is little imagination required to explain the empathy behind Peter Sellers’ backing, solitary child of a nomadic theatre family whose shallow roots had dug into the similarly bleak soil of East Finchley. Noel Coward and Elizabeth Taylor’s subscriptions suggest some less personal forces at work.

Shot entirely on location around Clapton, the outer parameters of The Caretaker are the distance a man could trudge from Mare Street in ill-fitting shoes. And no further. Despite the freedoms allowed by film at a time when it was not possible to get a van on stage at the Arts Club, even if had Pinter written one in, the piece remains chillingly claustrophobic. Three men, most usually in dual combinations and head-on, shuffle about the confined space of the upstairs bolt hole arguing status, standing, sheds, Sidcup and seagrass, never more than a few feet apart.

It is a tale full of sound and fury. And in part seemingly told by a madman.

One bitter winter evening, the homeless and dispossessed Davis is saved from a good kicking by a taciturn stranger, Aston and taken into his home. Initially disconcerted by the kindness, the tramp sets about negotiating residency in the rambling, ramshackle property in which, if care is taken, he may find permanent refuge. The garrulous and distracting Mick, Aston’s brother appears to offer alternative terms, although it’s a word game with much the same end.

Amid the chaotic and haphazardly piled junk hoarded by Aston, an ice-cold stove dominates the room. Even if the window were not open, at times with the snow flurrying down outside, diffusing the stench from the unwashed vagrant, there is no possibility of warmth or comfort.

“It’s not connected.” Explains Aston when pressed for a cup of tea.

A lack of connection pervades. Very much more than the cooker appears isolated and without purpose. Aston has entirely withdrawn following a non-specific institutionalisation. The blistering details of his shock therapy are recalled in an uncomfortably invasive single shot. Actor Robert Shaw’s eyelids twitch as he stumbles over the violation at the hospital somewhere “outside London”. For a film in which site-specific references come along more regularly than the #30 bus (via Highbury Corner), with journeys “down the Essex Road to Dalston Junction” taking on a mythic quality and Micks’ knowledge of hump backed bridges on the A2 almost encyclopaedic, there is no safe travelling outside the room resulting in terminus nor arrival nor completion. An offer to drive to Sidcup and collect finally ”the papers” that underpin Davis’ inconstant grasp of identity sees Mick’s van swerving pointlessly around a circular layby, depositing the old man back at the bench from which he started out some half a minute earlier.

Where the film can free itself from the immediate physical confines of the attic, Donner does so with a delicate poignancy. On the page the brothers share only two brief scenes together tight amid clutter under the steeple eaves. On the screen they are granted a soundless and affecting moment of reflection above a frozen pond in a winter garden, seen from a distance, indistinct, and tellingly through glass, the sacking-draped top storey window serving to emphasise we look through a camera lens and not straight at a stage.

The music too suggests an inhospitable landscape. Ron Grainer’s disconcerting soundtrack is high pitched scratching, screeching and oddly resonant metallic drips into a tin bucket tied to the ceiling. An echo of the bitter cold outside and in, there is barely a scene not underscored by grating electronic slides as if thin ice were cracking underfoot.

Davis’ obsession with bags and boots, the detritus of a wandering street life calls to mind, inevitably, other tramps from drama of the period. But the nifty pace of Donner’s film, despite long low shots across bedsteads and pipes and years’ worth of newspapers bound in carefully knotted string, ensures we never focus merely on the hiatus. This is much more than a wait between pauses. Donner’s low angles, the splintered lighting and unflinching close-ups are suggestive of a thriller.

Of the three actors, Pleasence, Bates and Shaw, the two former had developed their characters in The Arts Theatre in 1960 and taken them right across the Atlantic. The film-set off Lower Clapton Road must have felt like a homecoming. Pleasence, at forty-four some thirty years younger than the vagrant he portrays, is bundled in patchwork layers of castoffs and coats. Davis resembles nothing more than a tatterdemalion onion, the peeling of which may lead to a concrete identity thus saving the bother of schlepping to Sidcup.

Fear of the foreign, fear of the other and fear of each other all collide in The Caretaker. The film is an unsettling watch catching an unsettled time. The 60’s were not yet swinging but the oddly visionary consortium backing the production, Peter Hall and Richard Burton by no means the least likely pairing, suggest a pendulum movement starting to oscillate. Grainer, the composer of the shard-shattering and unsettling falls was already tinkering with the theme for a forthcoming BBC series. The pilot show in autumn 1963 would feature another ungrounded senior gentleman of dubious provenance and a box smaller on the outside.

Shuffling through freezing early dusk, passing the time that would have passed anyway, Davis is illuminated in the doorway of the Hackney Empire theatre, a welcome blaze of light in a feature lit for the best part by a single bulb on a wire. The back bar where some years earlier an out of work writer named Milligan had encountered a barely in work radio actor named Sellers and comedy history began a gestation.

The Caretaker formed in this crucible, penned by the master of the theatre of menace, part financed by a Goon, scored by the genius who could hear the sound of a TARDIS barrelling through time. Director Donner’s brief was to run with it. He didn’t go far. Balls Pond Road was the outer limit.

This glorious restoration reminds us that expansion need not be dilution. In the hands of an inventive creative (and there were enough involved as a stills photo of Noel Coward hemmed between lighting gaffers on the set sofa bed during production reminds us) a piece so static and rooted and constrained can soar with effortless flight well beyond the derelict geography. An early and brilliant example of thinking outside the box (room).

• Newly restored from the original camera negative by the BFI, and presented here in High Definition and Standard Definition
• Audio commentary by actor Alan Bates, director Clive Donner and producer Michael Birkett (2002)
• Introduction by critic and author Michael Billington (2002, 6 mins)
On Location with The Caretaker (1962, 4 mins): an extract from the TV series This Week in Britain
The Caretaker: From Play Into Film (2002, 17 mins):a video essay by Michael Billington, using materials donated by Clive Donner to the BFI National Archive
• US opening titles (1963, 2 mins): the opening title sequence from the US where the film was released as The Guest
• Last To Go (1969, 6 mins): the last of five animated shorts directed by Gerald Potterton for Pinter People, voiced by Harold Pinter and Donald Pleasence
Harold Pinter’s Play Discussed by Clive Donner (1973, 47 mins): the BAFTA-winning director discusses his adaptation of The Caretaker
Stills Gallery
• Ilustrated booklet with new essay by critic and author Amy Simmons, writing by Michael Billington and Clive Donner and full film credits (first pressing only)

Death Line (1972) | Mind the doors! – Gary Sherman’s grim but moving London Underground cannibal cult horror gets the HD remaster treatment

Death Line (1972)

Fans of classic British horror need no introduction to director Gary Sherman’s London Underground-set cannibal film Death Line. Nearly 50 years on from its release on 12 October 1972 (in the UK), this oddly moving cult still packs a mighty punch, and features a standout turn from Donald Pleasence.

Previously available only on DVD and VHS (remember those?), Death Line (which got recut and renamed Raw Meat in the US) has been newly scanned to 2k resolution from the original 35mm camera negative for an exclusive UK Blu-ray release from Network – and it looks and sounds bloody fantastic! Finally time to ditch my second gen VHS!

Here’s my take on the exploitation cult, ‘But first were gonna get some tea… MARRRRSHAL!!!’

Death Line (1972)

Following a visit to Soho’s strip joints, James Manfred, OBE (a sleazy James Cossins, from Fawlty Towers and Doctor Who fame) is attacked by a feral-looking bloke at Russell Square tube station. Finding him collapsed by a stairwell, university student Patricia (Patricia Gurney) and her American boyfriend Alex (David Ladd) alert a local police officer, but when they return to the scene – there’s no sign of the politician.

Assigned to investigate, Inspector Calhoun (Donald Pleasence), takes an instant dislike to the youngsters and continues to question them, then finds himself being warned off the case by a secretive MI5 handler (Christopher Lee). Meanwhile, the assailant (Hugh Armstrong) is revealed to be one of the last surviving members of a family of railway workers who became trapped underground after a cave-in in 1892, and resorted to cannibalism in order to survive. When his female companion dies, ‘The Man’ flies into a rage and kills three maintenance workers – then, when Patricia, finds herself alone on the tube at Holborn Station – he knocks her out and takes her back to his lair. Will she become his next meal – or does he just wants some company?

Writer/Director Gary Sherman has crafted a neat little fright film that belies its exploitation label, for at its dark heart lies a tragic class consciousness love story in which Armstrong brings great sympathy to the grotesque and violent cannibal, who resembles a destitute Jesus meets Rasputin, but with the shuffling gait of Boris Karloff’s drunken mute butler Morgan from James Whales’ Old Dark House. Despite his murderous impulses following the sad death of his partner, you can’t help but pity ‘The Man’ as he is credited in the film; and that’s compounded when he tries and fails to communicate with Patricia using the only words he knows: ‘Mind the doors!’.

Death Line (1972)

Then there’s Donald Pleasence’s fantastic turn as the abrasive, tea-loving, hippie-hating Inspector Calhoun – who loves Queen and country, but despises his upper class MI5 superiors and even more so philandering politicians. He has some great scenes (particularly with Heather Stoney’s WPC Alice Marshall and Norman Rossington’s DS Rogers) and gets in some great lines like: ‘That’s handy, pop round and see if he’s a nutter!’ and ‘Get ur bloody hair cut!’. Alongside Alfred Marks’ Superintendent Bellaver in 1970’s Scream and Scream Again, Pleasence’s Calhoun most certainly gave rise to the sweary likes of John Thaws’ DI Jack Regan in TV’s The Sweeney a couple of years later. And boy, can he play drunk well!

Cinematographer Alex Thomson (who became Nicolas Roeg’s favourite camera operator) provides the stylishly grim imagery, making atmospheric use of the dark and dingy real life London Underground locations (the tunnel scenes were shot at Bishopsgate and the train sequences at Aldwych). So effective where these scenes that London Underground took offence to the subject matter and banned its advertising on any station platform! Meanwhile, Wil Mallone and Jeremy Rose’s rumbustious soundtrack is another highlight, perfectly capturing the sleazy vibe of Soho’s strip joints, while also chiming with the film’s sadder moments.

Death Line (1972)

Keep an eye out for Keeping Up Appearances‘ Clive Swift as a detective and Christopher Lee (in just one scene, which he did as a favour for the film-makers and without a fee) as the suited and booted bureaucrat.

Network’s exclusive UK Blu-ray release, includes the following special features…

Mind the Doors!: an engaging interview with actor Hugh Armstrong, talking about his life and career
• Theatrical Trailer
• Image Gallery
• PDF Material
• Collector’s booklet


Phenomena (1985) | The definitive release of Dario Argento’s cult horror with a new 4k restoration

Phenomena (1985)

Before gaining fame battling David Bowie’s bewigged King Jareth in 1986’s Labyrinth, a 15-year-old Jennifer Connelly starred in Dario Argento’s bizarre and eccentric horror Phenomena.

Sent to a posh Swiss boarding school by her absent film star dad, Jennifer Corvino (Connelly) learns of a serial killer targeting young girls in the area. With the help of Donald Pleasence’s wheelchair-bound entomologist, Jennifer discovers she has special psychic powers and a natural affinity with insects. She then uses these skills to track down the killer.

This being an Argento film, much mayhem ensues with lashings of grisly decapitations and stabbings, swarms of insects, a razor-wielding chimp and that classic horror staple – a monster in the basement.

Phenomena (1985)

Argento’s cameras really soar to great heights here. Taking his cameras out of Rome’s studios for a change, he really goes to town on the beautiful Swiss landscapes (the film was shot around Appenzell and Canton St Gallen). Watching Arrow’s new 4k restoration on blu-ray is a real treat watching on a big screen as you find yourself yourself flying high above the alpines, like one of the winged beasties buzzing about.

As with all Argento films, music plays a huge role, from the incongruous (Iron Maiden’s Flash of the Blade bellowing out during one death scene really spoils the atmosphere) to the sublime, courtesy of Goblin of course (the scene in which Jennifer is led to the killer’s glove by a firefly is truly haunting). After Profundo Rosso and Suspiria, this is one of band’s best-ever Argento scores.

Phenomena (1985)

To be honest, I was never a big fan of Phenomena when I first saw it on VHS back in the late-1980s, as it was such a big departure from Argento’s previous supernatural shockers. But it is actually much better than I remembered.  In fact, I now ‘get’ what Argento was aiming for – a modern-day Grimm’s fairytale, with just a dash of surreal slash and gore. It’s not perfect, but it’s brutally beautiful work of cinematic art just the same – and probably Argento’s last truly great film.

Back in 2011 Arrow released a box-set containing a superb HD transfer of the Italian cut featuring some missing English audio sections, along with a ‘making of’ documentary, an interview with composer with Claudio Simonetti, and a Q&A with special effects artist Sergio Stivaletti. Now they have set their sights on creating the definitive home entertainment release – and if you look at what’s in the box, it just well maybe so.


• Brand new 4k restoration from the original camera negative (Arrow Video exclusive) of the 116-minute Italian version in High Definition Blu-ray (1080p)
• New hybrid English/Italian soundtrack 5.1 Surround/or Stereo with English subtitles
• New audio commentary by Troy Howarth, author of So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films
• Original Italian and English theatrical trailers
• Jennifer music video, directed by Dario Argento
• Rare Japanese vintage pressbook

• 110-minute international version in High Definition Blu-ray (1080p)
The Three Sarcophagi: a new visual essay by Michael Mackenzie comparing the different cuts of Phenomena

• 83-minute Creepers cut on High Definition Blu-ray (1080p)
Of Flies and Maggots: feature-length documentary (March 2017) including interviews with Dario Argento, actors Fiore Argento, Davide Marotta, Daria Nicolodi and Fiorenza Tessari, co-writer Franco Ferrini, cinematographer Romano Albani, production manager Angelo Jacono, assistant director Michele Soavi, special optical effects artist Luigi Cozzi, special makeup effects artist Sergio Stivaletti

• Remastered soundtrack CD featuring the complete Goblin instrumental soundtrack, plus four bonus tracks by Simon Boswell and Andi Sex Gang
• Limited edition 60-page booklet







Cul-de-sac (1966) | When Roman Polanski went rogue on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne – and won!


Plagued with production problems, director Roman Polanski’s 1966 black comedy Cul-de-sac should never have worked – but it did and remains a critical high-point of his early career. Having won plaudits and good box-office receipts for his first British-backed film, the psychological horror Repulsion (starring France’s new star Catherine Deneuve), Polanski was given free reign for his follow-up which is now available in a restored HD transfer edition as part of The Criterion Collection.

Cul de sac

Set on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne on the Northumberland coastline, Polanski fashioned a morbidly absurdist bourgeois-baiting tale with his long-time collaborator Gérard Brach.

Happening upon an castle on the coastline, wounded American gangster Richard (Lionel Stander) and his gravely ill accomplice Albert (Jack MacGowran) decide it an ideal hide and so take hostage its owners – retired businessman George (Donald Pleasence) and his restless French wife Teresa (Françoise Dorleac).

But the claustrophobic setting and long wait for help to arrive sets in motion increasingly disturbing games involving sexual and emotional humiliation between captor and couple that escalates into terrible violence…

Cul de sac

When Cul-de-sac was released in the UK in 1966 (check out the premiere clip below), audiences really didn’t take to the film (probably on account it was too bleak and not the psychological horror that they had hoped). But when it then won the Golden Bear at the 16th Berlin International Film Festival, it quickly gained a new appreciation – and so it should.

Cul de sac

From its outset, Polanski had faith in bringing his bleak comedy of manners to the big-screen and against the odds and by going rogue he achieved it.

A typically British summer (rain, snow and storms) and the wrong tides held up shooting, while method actors Stander and Pleasence caused ructions on set, and Polanski was accused of driving his cast and crew to exhaustion, hypothermia (MacGowran) and near death (Dorleac almost drowned) in order to finish the film to his exacting standards. Even the locals began to resent Polanski and co’s presence (especially in the local pubs).

Meanwhile, the film’s fed-up backers (Compton Films’ Tony Tenser and Michael Klinger) eventually shut down production after it overrun its budget– but not before Polanski had the film’s powerful 8-minute one-shot climax involving a Tiger Moth plane in the can.

Cul de sac

Donald Pleasence is in his element as the dotty fed-up George, and his performance ranks as one of his best (alongside his alcoholic doctor in 1971’s Wake in Fright). Françoise Dorleac is also perfectly cast (also at the last minute) as the hippy-like Teresa – and her character is the total anti-thesis of her sister Catherine Deneuve’s sexually repressive character in Repulsion. Then there’s the gravel-voiced Lionel Stander (who’d go onto play Max in TV’s Hart to Hart), who is outstandingly repellent as the chief thug. Tragically, Dorleac died in a car accident a year after appearing in the film.

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The other star of the film is Holy Island and the surrounding landscape, made luminous by Gilbert Taylor’s stark black-and-white photography – and the inclement weather (those skies are divine, especially when shot day for night).

And alongside the rich visuals is Krzysztof Komeda’s jaunty score that lends the film a sense of carnival and menace, two elements that are that the heart of this caustic satire (which would look terrific if it were adapted for the stage like Polanski’s follow-up film, Dance of the Vampires). Watch for Jacqueline (billed as Jackie) Bisset, briefly on screen in one of her earliest roles.

• Restored high-definition digital transfer, approved by director Roman Polanski, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
Two Gangsters and an Island: the 23-minute 2003 Blue Underground documentary (23min) about the making of the film, featuring interviews with Polanski, producers Gene Gutowski and Tony Tenser, and cinematographer Gilbert Taylor. Also participating are production designer Voyek, continuity Dee Vaughn and actor William Franklyn
• Archive TV interview with Polanski from 1967 (this is a fascinating insight into the young director’s cinematic vision about alienation, sex and his genuine dislike for the bourgeoisie)
• Theatrical trailers
• Plus, booklet featuring an essay by film critic David Thompson






Wake in Fright (1971) | The dark underbelly of Australian mateship is ripped open in the sick heat of Ted Kotcheff’s long lost Australian classic

Wake in Fright on Blu-ray

Stuck in a government-enforced teaching post in the stifling heat of the remote outback town of Tiboonda, cynical city schoolteacher John Grant (Gary Bond) heads off on his six-week Christmas break to Sydney.

But while stopping off in the mining town of Bundanyabba, he downs a couple of free beers courtesy of a cocksure cop (Chips Rafferty) and heads into the two-up ring hoping to win his way back to ‘civilisation’ and his girlfriend.

But when this one bad decision leads to another, ‘the Yabba’ quickly turns into a nightmarish hellhole for John, whose booze-fuelled weekend bender with the locals rapidly descends into violence and degradation.

Wake in Fright

Wake in Fright is adapted from Kenneth Cook’s ‘magnificent rough-and-tumble of a first novel’, which explores ‘the gargantuan flavour of the Australian outback, its sick heat and its people’. ‘Like quicksand their animal customs, their animal women, their perverts and their stupendous, overpowering hospitality drag innocent, city-bred John Grant down to his ruin – and beyond.’ (*)

Though little seen prior to its restoration (which was only made possible after a painstaking search for the missing negative), the 1971 drama based on Cook’s novel has achieved cult status for both its cinematic brilliance and its huge influence on both the Australian 1970s New Wave and the Ozploitation cycle that followed in its wake.

Wake in Fright

Canadian director Ted Kotcheff’s unflinching film makes stunning visual and dramatic use of the scorching Australian outback and features some truly nightmarish characters played by Chips Rafferty (in his last role), Jack Thompson (in his first) and Donald Pleasence (in his lifetime best).

Nominated for the Palme d’Or in 1971 and selected again for Cannes Classics in 2009 following its digital restoration, Wake in Fright has garnered legions of fans, including director Martin Scorsese and Austalian muso extraordinaire Nick Cave, who calls it the ‘best and most terrifying film about Australia ever made’.

Wake in Fright

On the surface, it’s about a Sydney bloke who gets pissed in a country town, loses his money gambling, drinks some more, throws up while having sex, goes roo shooting [the real-life scenes of animal slaughter made the film notorious both home and abroad], downs more booze, passes out, then gets the shock of his life when he wakes up next to a naked sweaty old drunk (Pleasence) in a baking hot tin shack in the middle of nowhere.

But beneath the blood, sweat and grime of Kotcheff’s testosterone and alcohol-fuelled drama there’s biting satirical comment on some cherished Aussie customs like mateship (which is, afterall, the foundation of the Australian character) and the drinking culture that goes with it; and the majesty of the Australian bush (paying particular attention to the yawning chasm that existed between city and country folk in the 1970s).

Wake in Fright

Having myself been brought up in country Australia, and educated in the city, I can understand John’s resentment at being marooned in a cultural desert wasteland. But I also believe he deserves to be reduced to ‘a soiled miserable creature, stinking to high heaven, left with just seven pence, a rifle and no ammunition’. It’s his penance for daring to think himself better than his fellow man, which echoes another Australian phenomenon, the Tall Poppy Syndrome.

Much could be written about Wake in Fright’s brutal dissection of Aussie mores and masculinity and at how a non-Australian like Kotcheff (the Canadian would go on to direct the Sylvester Stallone cult action favourite First Blood) was able to prefectly capture Cook’s rugged prose in celluloid. Hopefully, now that the film has been saved and restored, this kind of discussion and debate can begin anew.

Heads, you’ll find yourself carried along this sun-baked existential journey into the Australian outback’s heart of darkness. Tails, you’ll be left shocked, provoked and very parched indeed. Hands down this is one of Australia’s true cinematic gems.

Wake in Fright

The new digital restoration, which gets its UK dual format (Blu-ray/DVD) release from Eureka Entertainment‘s Masters of Cinema Series from 31 March 2014, does full justice to this forgotten film and is a crucial addition to your cult world cinema film library.

• 1080p high-definition restoration of the film on the Blu-ray and a progressive encode on the DVD.
• Optional English subtitles.
• Audio commentary with director Ted Kotcheff and editor Anthony Buckley.
• Video interview with Ted Kotcheff (2009).
• ABC 7:30 Report video piece on the the rediscovery and restoration of the film.
Who Needs Art? vintage piece on Wake in Fright.
• Chips Rafferty obituary clip.
• Outback TV spot.
• UK theatrical trailer.
• Collector’s booklet featuring essays by Adrian Martin, Peter Galvin, Meg Labrum, Graham Shirley, Ted Kotcheff and Anthony Buckley, and archival imagery.

SOURCES: (*) Wake in Fright, Kenneth Cook


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