Ted Kotcheff's remarkable movie Wake In Fright is a brutal prowl across a battered wasteland.
Or you might even say two wastelands: the Australian outback and a man's broken soul. It's getting a rerelease in the UK this Friday, March 7th, before hitting DVD and Blu-ray on March 31st. See it on the big screen while you can. Here's the trailer.
On the occasion of this re-release, Craig Skinner had a chat with Kotcheff and came back with a Martin Scorsese anecdote that made me laugh. Multiple times.
Here's the story the way Kotcheff tells it.
At the official screening [at the 1971 Cannes Film Festival] at four o'clock in the afternoon the film started and there's an American voice behind me going, 'Wow! Wow! Oh boy this director…wow, what a scene!'. And finally, when there's the homosexual rape scene with Donald Pleasance, he goes 'Oh my God, this director is going to go all the way, he's going all the way! Oh my God, he went all the way! It's so fucking brilliant, aaarggh!' And I thought, who is this guy behind me?
The lights went up and I looked up and it was this twenty-five year old boy. I went outside and I spoke to the PR guys from United Artists and I said, 'do you who was sitting behind me?' He had to be in the business because in that balcony they only allow writers, producers and directors. And I said, 'oh there he is, that guy'. And they said, 'Aah, yeah, he's a nobody. He's only made one film, it flopped. I don't even know what he's doing here'. And I said, 'I don't care, get me his name'.
The guy said, 'Martin Scorsese'.
And I said, you're right, I've never heard of him.
And then of course, three or four years ago he asked to see the film [once it had been restored] and they declared it a 'Cannes Classic'. And guess who was head of the Cannes Classic committee? Martin Scorsese. And he was so generous always.
Last year when it was shown in New York, he gave a brand new quote to it, saying, "I saw this film and it left me speechless". There was some irony there considering all the talking he did. And they put it on the Blu-ray cover. He was so good. I finally met him – we'd emailed each other but I'd never met him – when he was with De Niro at an Oscar party. I went over and introduced myself and he said, 'that's a masterpiece, your film'. I turned to De Niro and I told him what I just told you, about him talking all through the film.
And he said, 'Ted, he does that to everybody's film'
At which point, I believe, Kotcheff and Craig shared a laugh. Wake in Fright is released this Friday.