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Today's quote:

Sunday, September 20, 2020

May you dream of the Devil and wake in fright

This is the original full-length movie. Click to view in full screen
Read the book online at www.archive.org


New to the Yabba?" It was the inevitable question asked of a stranger to the Australian outback town of Bundanyabba. Then would follow round after round of drinks and a recital of The Yabba's virtues. You could rob your host, sleep with his wife or rape his daughters and Bundanyabba would welcome you. But refuse a drink or despise The Yabba and you were an outcast.

John Grant came from Sydney. He was serving his mandatory time as a schoolteacher in the outback. Bundanyabba was the essence of what he hated most about the region: its meaningless generosity and utter shallowness; its stifling hospitality and complete callousness; its scorching, relentless, horrible heat. And yet John, who was on his way to see his girl in Sydney, was stuck there - flat broke, dependent on these friendly, loathsome people. He gambled with them, drank with them, shot with them. He was trapped in a nightmare like the man cursed to dream of the Devil and wake in fright. Afterwards he realized it was enough to be awake, to be alive.

In spare, telling prose, Kenneth Cook creates a terrifying picture of the degradation to which men can sink and of the second chance given to one man to come back to life. "Wake in Fright" is a remarkable achievement in the genre of the taut novel of suspense.

Every bit as good as the book, the movie was shot in 1970 in the mining town of Broken Hill (the area which had inspired Kenneth Cook for the setting of his novel), with interiors shot at the Ajax Studios in the Sydney beachside suburb of Bondi. It was the last film to feature the veteran character actor Chips Rafferty, who died of a heart attack prior to "Wake in Fright"'s release, and the first film with Jack Thompson, the future Australian cinema star, among its cast members. Coincidentally, Rafferty (real name John William Pilbean Goffage) had been born in Broken Hill, the film's stand-in for the Yabba, in 1909.

If this isn't a great piece of Australiana, what is? Enjoy!

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P.S. For some insightful commentary on the movie, click here and here.

P.P.S. For an interesting remake of the original movie into a TV mini series, click here.