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Clip description

John Grant (Gary Bond) and policeman Jock Crawford (Chips Rafferty) share a few beers in the crowded pubs of 'The Yabba’. Crawford explains why the town is very honest, even if suicides are common. Drinking in the RSL Club, Grant is mystified, then bemused, by the nightly minute’s silence in memory of fallen soldiers.

Curator’s notes

This was Chips Rafferty’s last performance in a long career. He died suddenly in 1971 before the film came out, and before the strong reviews, many of which agreed that this was his best performance on film. There’s a curious mix of charm and menace in Jock Crawford. Note the way the drinker in the blue shirt moves away without arguing as Jock approaches.

In some ways, Wake in Fright is a confrontation between two views of Australia. Crawford is the authoritarian beer-loving RSL member who never pays for a drink; worse than that, in this scene he takes his new mate’s money and pockets it when he’s supposed to be buying a round. Without the subject being mentioned, it was obvious to young audiences that he was the kind of man who supported Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War. The younger man can barely hide his contempt for such men and the institutions they respect – like the RSL.

Indeed, Grant’s contempt goes a lot further than even he knows. Part of the strategy of the script is to strip John Grant of all his pretentions and the veneer of civilisation that he believes is his true self. Jock Crawford is a kind of bulwark against the savagery of this territory, and the way other men treat him shows that they fear him. He’s one definition of manhood, in a film that presents a whole series of definitions – each of which is confronting for the young schoolteacher.