Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Roo shoot

The 17th London Australian Film Festival opens at the Barbican in a week's time and one of the highlights amid the week-long programme must be a rare screening of Wake in Fright in the Dark Side of Down Under strand. Notorious for its inclusion of a violent kangaroo hunt, Ted Kotchefff's 1971 movie was long thought lost until a negative was saved from a bin in Pittsburgh marked 'for destruction' a few years ago.

A teacher dreams of leaving his remote posting to meet his girlfriend for Christmas but instead is lured into an outback town's hellish backroom culture. Donald Pleasence - who else? - emerges as an alcoholic nemesis, and there are turns from Chips Rafferty (who also appears in one of Michael Powell's last films, They're a Weird Mob, 1966, set in Australia), Jack Thompson and John Meillon (who starred in the first two 'Crocodile' Dundee movies).

Kotcheff went on to direct the original Fun with Dick and Jane (1977) and Weekend at Bernie's (1989), before apparently settling on episodes for the softcore Red Shoe Diaries series. The wildlife slaughter, we are assured, was filmed as part of a monitored cull but still manages to pack a kangaroo punch.

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