Wake in Fright (1971) Review
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I saw the restored print at Film Forum.
The main reason this is a partial success is because Bond is not a compelling or likable or interesting character. He's bland and it is his ordeal and his change during the ordeal that engaged me in the picture, but most of movie prior to his invitation to a drinking buddy's home is dramatically flat. One could argue that that is the point-- that not much is there, but the sequence in which Bond maniacally talks himself into betting (some of which seems like ADR added after the fact) is clumsy and tells me that I was supposed to have some emotional investment in whether he won or lost his freedom from the school system purgatory in which he was trapped.
The piece really takes off the moment the two big, menacing fellows step into the house and works very well once Bond is relegated to a witness of Donald Pleasance, who has never been better than he is here, maybe not even comparably good.
The hunting scenes are difficult to watch, but it is the wild abandon of the riders after the hunt, the berserk and forced "enjoyment" of their sadism, that is the high point of the movie and quite excellent. The filth and squalor of this presages things like Gummo and the overall tone reminds me of Walkabout, with a dash of Cannibal Holocaust.
It's sort of strange that the film is quite comfortable graphically showing animal death but shies away from depicting any of the implied drunken homosexuality.
Overall, this movie has about 40 really engaging and disturbing minutes, but lacks a compelling lead and ends a little to quaintly to be truly substantial.