Post-production and release

Post-production took place in both Australia and the UK. Tony Buckley edited the film at AJAX Film Centre in Bondi Junction, while the sound mix was completed in London. But Buckley adds, 'The English sound editors could not get the truck and outback sounds, so Ted Kotcheff arranged for Australian sound editors Keith Palmer and Tim Wellburn to edit the sound in Sydney. This was shipped to England and the job was completed there.’

By 1971, Wake in Fright was ready for release. United Artists completed a deal with Group W/NLT for global distribution. In May it premiered at Cannes to what Kotcheff says were ecstatic reviews. 'One of them said that there was so much heat and dust (on screen) he had to go home and have a shower afterwards.’

United Artists changed the title of the film to Outback for international release. The Outback version of the film was different in three parts: the opening and end titles, plus a scene in which Gary Bond appears in underpants as opposed to a naked scene in the Australian version.

Photo: John Grant (Gary Bond) gazes out at Bundanyabba in Wake in FrightPhoto: John Grant (Gary Bond) gazes out at Bundanyabba in Wake in Fright

The film opened at the Embassy in Sydney on Saturday the 9th of October to strong reviews that saw the film as a comment on Australia and Australianness. 'Bawdy, brutal, cruel –- and a masterpiece’, ran the headline in The Daily Mirror, while Colin Bennett in The Age (30 October 1971) called it 'the most savage comment on Australia ever put on film.’

Sylvia Lawson, writing in The Australian (16 October 1971), did not see it as a realist film at all. 'It is more in the nature of one man’s bad dream, told with a dream’s intensity …’

Despite the strong reviews the film did not perform at the box office. It closed after only a week in Brisbane. Meanwhile, by October 1971, as Outback, it had run 18 weeks in Paris, France. The film was released as Outback in Britain on 29 October 1971 and then the United States on 20 February 1972.

'I’m not sure why it was a commercial failure,’ says Kotcheff. 'Perhaps the kangaroo hunt was just too vivid … I think it’s one of the best things I’ve done.’