This nightmarish vision of Aussie manhood from 1971 has been described by Nick Cave as the ‘best and most terrifying film about Australia in existence’. It was adapted from Kenneth Cook’s searing outback novel by Evan Jones, a Jamaican scriptwriter who had never set foot in Australia, and Ted Kotcheff, a Canadian-born son of Bulgarian immigrants. In the fierce, sweaty heat of a remote Australian mining town, school teacher John Grant (Gary Bond) stumbles into a personal hell of drunkenness, gambling and enforced blokiness. ‘What’s a matter with him?’ asks one of his new buddies. ‘Rather talk to a woman than drink?’
Stranded in Bundayabba (‘The Yabba’ to the fiercely proud locals), Grant is led astray by chummy local copper Jock Crawford (Chips Rafferty) and nihilistic alcoholic ‘Doc’ Tydon, played with insidious, Pinter-like malice by the inimitable Donald Pleasence. Even before the notorious scenes of senseless kangaroo slaughter and dismemberment, the Aussie myth of mateship has been shot down, gutted and chopped into pieces. Hallucinatory images from this bleak, brutish 1971 film still have the power to sear the eyes and disorientate the mind.