Not Quite Hollywood (2008): “Bad Advertisements for Australia”

Talk about going from the sublime to the ridiculous; from F. W. Murnau’s artistic vision to some of the most bizarre, obscene footage I’ve ever seen. Welcome to the world of Ozploitation! Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation (2008) gives us insight into the Australian exploitation industry during its heyday in the 70s and 80s. Don’t believe the hostage – he’ll swear up and down this was a Hostage Pick, but that’s just because he enjoyed it so much. He hates to admit when I’m right.

Synopsis: Through interviews with filmmakers, actors and critics, this documentary explores the burgeoning Australian film industry of the late 60s, focusing on the kick-start provided by the domestic and international success of exploitation cinema.

Unlike the past documentaries I’ve reviewed, for which I had a lot of background knowledge, I knew nothing of Australia’s social revolution in the 1960s, and even less about their film industry. This flick was recommended to me by my father, a film teacher, who knows better than most my love for the absurd. According to the film, the exploitation industry went so wild in Australia as a reaction to the excessively harsh censorship laws there. As one interviewee recalled, “I couldn’t masturbate as easily as others could, I guess.” To even see bare breasts on the screen was shocking. Well, Ozploitation soon changed everything.

To give you an idea of what we’re dealing with, the movie was divided into the following sections:

Ockers, Knockers, Pubes, and Tubes (the hostage’s favourite, no doubt)

Comatose Killers and Outback Chillers (my fave!)

High Octane Disasters and Kung Fu Masters

Now, what fan of ridiculous cinema would not want to see these films? I mean, come on! Comatose killers? Kung Fu Masters? This has fun written all over it. The fun is heightened by the interviewees, reminding me again why I so love Australians. The self-deprecating insight they have regarding their work is endlessly enjoyable. One producer, when asked to comment on a particularly disgusting and excessive vomiting scene of his, and after providing the recipe for his homemade vomit, replies deadpan that it was “one of the greatest moments in Australian cinema.” Everyone seems very aware of what they were involved in, and don’t delude themselves as to the quality. “We all knew it was rubbish.” “We didn’t really know what we were doing.” “Some were good, some not so good.” All comments heard routinely throughout the film. Also refreshing was the unapologetic nature of the filmmakers. One director remarks that he knew if his films had naked women and lots of sex, people would pay to see them regardless of the quality. *Shrug* It’s not even that he thinks his work is good – it’s just that he knew what it took to make a movie profitable and didn’t really care about the rest. Kind of like Michael Bay, if he would just admit it to the rest of us.

Of particular interest to me was the response by the actresses involved in Ozploitation. I remember seeing Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film (2006), and all the women interviewed were professing how feminist these movies were. I, like any self-respecting hypocritical feminist, greatly enjoy a good slasher flick. But female power? I think not. Ooooh, just look at the strong woman, nude in the unnecessary shower scene, being repeatedly stabbed by her attacker’s “weapon” while moaning (…in pain?). I can be president too! I know where they’re coming from: they think that because it is typically a woman who triumphs in the end, it sends a message that women are strong. You know, as long as you’re the good girl. Slutty McDrinks-a-lot and Dopey Von Puffington don’t last very long. I think that’s because it’s a lot harder to spot an attacker when you’re drunk, high, and having sex. That stuff is distracting.

But I digress. How many readers did I lose with the feminist rant? Sigh. It’s my Achilles heel. Anyway, I understand the rationale presented by the slasher women, but all I can think when I hear it is, “cognitive dissonance!” In contrast, the actresses of Ozploitation (as all the females interviewed were performers, rather than behind-the-scenes people) were bluntly regretful that they had been involved in the films at all. One poor woman was so despised by her male lead, a Hong Kong action star who detested women (especially white women), they had to have a stand-in for him during their love scenes. Others recall how at the time, they had felt empowered, or at least believed that the filmmakers did not take advantage of them; only in looking back do they realize how they were exploited. In all fairness, they were making exploitation films.

And very, very successful exploitation films. Australia After Dark (1975) opened the weekend after Jaws (1975), and took in as much at the box office as its legendary competitor. Many of the filmmakers accredit the exploitation industry for putting Australia on the cinematic map. I can’t attest to the truth of that statement, but I can tell you that my Zip list grew three sizes that day… or a lot anyway. Because these films look insane in the best way, and I eagerly anticipate checking out that comatose Patrick (1978), and the giant killer pig Razorback (1984), and the nature-takes-it’s-bloody-revenge thriller Long Weekend (1978). To hear it described in Not Quite Hollywood, this was guerrilla filmmaking, with no permits, no roadblocks, no safety precautions, no rules… people died, and much more often than they should have. There’s almost a pride in hearing those involved talk about the dangers, as if their passion for making movies (if not their skill) was worth the risk. That kind of passion comes through on film and, good or bad, makes for an interesting experience.

Favourite clip: A man… fist-fighting… a kangaroo. Hell yes.

Key Quote: “There are always morons who see satire as documentary.” – Philip Moran (producer)

MVP: Australian film critic Bob Ellis, who pops up now and then to denounce a film as “utter crap,” or insist that a director’s entire works should “all be burned to ash.”

Until the next (but hopefully not as long a wait this time…),


~ by K. Harker on February 15, 2011.

One Response to “Not Quite Hollywood (2008): “Bad Advertisements for Australia””

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