Despite his initial flaky behavior at Tim’s house, John eventually joins the party and ultimately gets so drunk that he is surprised to wake up the next day at 4pm in Doc’s dilapidated shack with a killer hangover that he reluctantly nurses with more booze and kangaroo meat. On top of revealing that he does not even actually own the shitty shack he lives in, Doc tells John his entire patently pathetic life-story, stating with a sort of subtly ironic pride, “Shall I satisfy your curiosity? I’m a doctor of medicine. And a tramp by temperament. I’m also an alcoholic. My disease prevented me from practicing in Sydney, but out here it’s scarcely noticeable. Certainly doesn’t stop people from coming to see me. I charge no fees because I’m not interested in money. Anyway, I’m unreliable. But I’m accepted socially because I’m an educated man . . . of character. I get me food from my friends. My requirements in beer. Which, with some measure of self-control, is the only alcohol I allow myself. It’s possible to live forever in the Yabba without money. As you probably noticed, some of the natives are very . . . hospitable.” In short, Doc is a shameless social parasite of the highly educated sort that lives off of the generosity of proletarian drunks that take pride in buying another man a beer. Naturally, Doc wants something from John, but it is something that is a bit more personal and intimate than cheap beer.
To celebrate their reasonably successful roo-slaughter campaign, the boys go to a local seedy bar where Dick and Joe engage in some fairly brutal play-fighting that involves blood while Doc philosophizes with a hammer and reveals he is a sort of Cioran of the Outback by aggressively proclaiming, “Progress? Vanity spawned of fear. A vanity spawned by fear. The aim of what you call civilization is a man in a smoking jacket, whisky and cider, pressing a bottom of . . . a button . . . to destroy a planet a billion miles away, kill a billion people he’s never seen.” After John passes out, Doc, Joe, and Dick get involved in a hilarious anarchic three-way brawl that more or less results in the destruction of the entire bar. Of course, Doc’s savagery does not end there, as he opts to sexually seduce John when they get back to the shack in what can probably be best described as gay redneck date rape. Needless to say, John is more than a little bit perturbed when he wakes up the next day lying next to a pantless Doc and realizes that he has just been involuntarily sodomized by a stinky old wino.
On top of surviving the suicide attempt despite having the barrel of the gun pointed directly at his head at ultra-close-range, Jock, who is not too fond of his hometown's high suicide rate (apparently, in real-life, the Yabba had a female suicide rate that was five times the national average during the 1970s), decides to coverup said suicide attempt by writing a phony police report that John signs that declares that he shot himself by accident. When John finally recovers from his injuries and gets out of the hospital, Doc greets him and declares, “You’d think a bloke who’d won a silver medal at target shooting could hit himself in the head at a range of three inches.” In the end, the film comes full circles, with going back to Tiboonda and drinking with a local bartender-cum-slumlord named Charlie. As to what the future holds for John, I certainly would not surprised if he degenerated into a sort of more anally retentive version of Doc and became a perennially wandering lost soul that is fueled by cheap alcohol and plagued by regrettable sexual encounters.
Aside from being what is arguably the most endlessly entrancing, shocking, and unforgettable film about the Outback, Kotcheff’s cult classic is, aside from possibly Terry Gilliam’s Brazil (1985), the most innately un-Christmas of Christmas films, even if it is a cinematic gift that keeps on giving in terms of sheer replay value. Somewhat surprisingly, Wake in Fright is not the only classic Australian cult flick directed by a Slavic outsider that features references to Christmas time, as Dusan Makavejev’s underrated absurdist comedy The Coca-Cola Kid (1985) features Italian-Australian actress Greta Scacchi stripping off a Santa Claus outfit so that she can fuck Eric Roberts. While fairly different films in terms of message and emotional tone, Wake in Fright and The Coca-Cola Kid surely make for an immaculate double feature.
Thankfully, Kotcheff’s film also lacks of the sort of xenophiliac white guilt, misguided abo-philia, and anti-Anglo sentiment that is prominent in some of the films of Hebrew Philippe Mora (Swastika, Mad Dog Morgan) and Fred Schepisi (The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith), among countless others. Notably, the only part of Wake in Fright that features an Australian Aborigine person is an early scene where the protagonist is depicted sitting on a train by himself just like an abo man in a symbolic scenario scene that insinuates that both characters are outsiders in mainstream white society. In its depiction of an effeminate white educator being in the same figurative boat as an Aborigine man, the scene reminded me of a quote from Ted Kaczynski's classic anti-technology text The Unabomber Manifesto: Industrial Society and Its Future (1995) in regard to why white liberals, who typically come from privileged backgrounds, have a special affinity for racial minorities, “Many leftists have an intense identification with the problems of groups that have an image of being weak (women), defeated (American Indians), repellent (homosexuals), or otherwise inferior. The leftists themselves feel that these groups are inferior. They would never admit it to themselves that they have such feelings, but it is precisely because they do see these groups as inferior that they identify with their problems. (We do not suggest that women, Indians, etc., ARE inferior; we are only making a point about leftist psychology).” Likewise, people like the protagonist of Kotcheff’s film loathes rednecks due to feelings of inferiority in regard to strength and masculinity and not simply because they see working-class whites as insufferable philistines. After all, protagonist John Grant developed a certain degree of much needed masculine confidence and self-esteem after hanging out with the Outback boys.