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The IMDB description for Nicolas Roeg's 1971 tripfest Walkabout is deceptively simple:

Image "Two young children are stranded in the Australian outback and are forced to cope on their own. They meet an Aborigine on 'walkabout,' a ritualistic separation from his tribe."

Image Only a brief glimpse is seen of the two British children (future Logan's Run hottie Jenny Agutter and Roeg's son Luc) and their idyllic lives BEFORE they become stranded in the wilderness. Their unlikely ordeal comes courtesy of their uptight and veddy propah British Daddy, who tells them they're going on a picnic, only to go instead all Christopher Lee on 'em, attempting to kill the kids AND himself, for reasons never really articulated.

When Angry Dad only succeeds in killing himself (and their family auto, which he torches), the young siblings — who are never named — beat feet for the outlands of the outback, apparently too dense to follow the road they arrived on (or perhaps they're simply scared another wack-a-doodle Englishman will attempt to kill them).

The lack of explanatory exposition keeps the ensuing puzzle from every fully matching all its pieces together, much like Roeg's other midnight movie tripfests like The Man Who Fell to Earth, with David Bowie.

Big Sis, who's around 15, never really talks to Little Bro about what happened with their dad. The boy chatters constantly as they walk further and further into oblivion, but she rarely seems to notice what he's saying, let alone offer cogent replies, her icy aloofness from the world around her not even cracked by the relentless desert sun and their increasing thirst and hunger.

(The unending prattle from Roeg's son got on my nerves, but then again he had 80 percent of all the dialogue in the movie, so it's hard to really fault him; all told, he's quite good in his role).

The fact that Big Sis insists they keep wearing their Sunday picnic clothes underscores her utter refusal to accept just how far behind they've left the world they know.

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When the Aborigine boy saves them by sharing his own survival tips and then inviting them to join his spiritual walkabout, the siblings at first have trouble understanding his actions, let alone his language.

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However, in short order, Little Bro seems to establish a growing, if rudimentary, rapport with the wild child, something that Big Sis can't seem to pull off with either of her male companions, English-speaking or no.

I wasn't expecting Walkabout to grab me so much, but it was just so "of its era" — and so flippin' weird! I ended up watching it twice in the same week.

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Why DID the guy want to drive his kids to the outback, kill them, and commit suicide? One of the IMDB reviews speculated that he was ashamed over lusting after his daughter: the same reviewer seems to think the whole movie is about the pretty emotionless girl causing everyone around her to lust and, as a result, suffer tragedy.

The IMDB review crew mostly misses the quick scene where the black boy splits off a few dozen yards from the siblings, just out of their view when he talks to a woman at a sort of outdoor flea market on the other side of the hill. Whites seem to be hiring Aborigines for demeaning work, while Big Sis and Little Bro are walking close by, oblivious and unaware that they're only a few dozen yards from so-called civilization.

So, why doesn't the black boy lead the kids to the flea market? Is it because he doesn't want to lose the girl? Or because he thinks they're now a vital part of his mystical "walkabout," his coming of age ritual?

That one brief scene indicates the black boy is either VERY devout or else VERY devious, wanting the girl all to himself.

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Eventually (SPOILER ALERT: yeah, the movie's over 40 years old, but I only recently saw the thing, so maybe you haven't seen it?) Big Sis and Little Bro do make their way back to the edge of civilization, though not without still more tragedy (the most horrific of which barely seems to register as a blip on Big Sis's emotional radar, even when it's clear that her cold detachment is the CAUSE of what happened).

The thing almost everyone on IMDB seems to miss is that final flashback Big Sis has in her suburban kitchen. Years later, while her oh-so-veddy propah husband (recalling her murder/suicide-minded dad?) babbles on about some business deal or other he just closed at work, Big Sis stares off, over his shoulder, and thinks about that long-ago walkabout...

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(MORE SPOILER) She seems to wistfully recall bathing nude in a majestic waterfall-fed pond, with the black boy and her brother.

BUT: that never happened! In the waterfall scene, as seen earlier in the film, she swam ALONE, far too uptight to let the black boy, let alone her brother, come anywhere near.

And yet her adult fantasy is about having taken the nude swim WITH her faux outback family. Everybody all nude and relaxed, with no "civilized" uptightness. Black boy, Little Bro, Big Sis, all nude and carefree.

The world she COULD have possibly had. At least in her (oh-so-regretful) fantasies.

Quite a thought-provoking little movie!

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Previous Grindhouse Movie Reviews/Seen on DVD columns:

Image "Black Caesar (1973) and Cover Me Babe (1970)" - http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...

Image "Donnie Darko Sequel Doesn’t Deserve Bad Rap" - http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...

Image "Queen of the Damned: Anne Rice Offshoot Doesn't Deserve Bad Rap" - http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...

Image "Cult Movie Review: Forbidden Zone (1982)" - http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...

Image "Cult Movie Reviews: Andy Warhol's Bad & The Sentinel" - http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...

Image "Movies Shot in San Diego: Wicked Wicked (1973)" - http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...

Image "Movies Shot in San Diego: A Force of One (1979)" - http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...

Image "Phantom of the Paradise and the Day the Ken Cinema Made Cult Movie History" - http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...

Image "Velvet Goldmine Channels '70s Glam and Oscar Wilde" - http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...

Image "They’re Rebooting the Crow?! 4 Remakes Good as (or Better) Than the Originals" - http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...

Image "Wonderwall w/ George Harrison: Lost 1968 Psychedelic Gem" - http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...

Image "Iron Man vs Watchmen" - http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...

Image "Pan's Labyrinth vs. The Devil's Backbone" - http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...

Image "John Waters Newbie Screens a Waters Marathon" - http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...

Image "We Asked 25 Local Celebs What's Your Favorite Twilight Zone?" - http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...

Image "What Do YOU Think? Does the Walking Dead Stink, Or ?" - http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...

Image "Dateline: May 1959 - Elvis Movie Causes Mexican Riot" - http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...

Image "Local Celebs Who LOVE Star Wars!" - http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...

Image "Former Local Co-Creating Newest Star Trek Adventures" - http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...

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"Rod Serling’s Night Gallery: Local Wrote the Book (& Upcoming DVD Extras)" - http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...

Image "Punk Rock Dads Docu: Blink, Red Hot Chili, Pennywise, more" - http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...

Image "Local Drummer Featured in New Documentary" - http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...

Image "Local Singer & Ramona Footage in Quiet Riot Documentary Film" - http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...

Image "Why Porn Movies Deserve To Die Out" - http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...

Image "American Artifact Documentary DVD Celebrates Concert Poster Art" - http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...

Image "DVD Documentary Features Local Cult Star Gary Wilson" - http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...

Image "Locally Shot Transvestite Documentary on DVD" - http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...



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