Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of OZploitation!
Film review by: Witney Seibold
I don’t know why I keep using this film as an example as I haven’t seen it, but… there was a film released earlier this year called “Fired Up.” It was about two teenage football players who sneak into a cheerleaders’ summer camp, posing as cheerleaders, in order to score with as many girls as they possibly could. This is a flimsy premise for a movie, but at least it was a plot that demanded a lot of raunchy sex gags, and copious amounts of nudity. A story like that could have come out of the early 1980s, and the material cried out for more nudity than should be allowed in modern films.
The problem with “Fired Up” was that it was rated PG-13. It featured no nudity at all.
I want to re-clarify that I am not a lecherous pervert who wants to see as many breasts as possible (well, actually I am, but that’s not why I’m making this complaint). I want to express a complaint that “B”-grade exploitation material is no longer allowed to be as horrific, violent and smutty as it once was. The kind of story that was once relegated to drive-ins and grindhouse theaters has now wormed its way into the Hollywood mainstream where it has been robbed of its teeth, excised of its sex, and had all the good parts removed. The advent of CGI-based special effects has made the stunts and explosions in modern Hollywood efforts seem unconvincing and dull. Many of modern Hollywood’s films are little more than typically mediocre “B” pictures, censored by four-quadrant marketing teams, market trends, and an indifferent public.
There was a time when low-budget films had to use sensational aspects like sex, nudity, gore, and violence in order to attract an audience. And they actually used it. The women freely stripped, the blood was liberally poured, the death easily attainable, and the explosions and stunts 100% real and 100% dangerous. The makers of these films really believed in what they were making, and were having fun with it. And the young audiences going to drive-ins to see these “B” pictures were treated to a rip-snorting underbelly of filmmaking that was being born right in front of them.
In short, there was a time when exploitation films really meant it.
Mark Hartley’s new documentary “Not Quite Hollywood” traces the steps of, and re-examines, the birth and life of the briefly thriving Australian exploitation film market back in the 1970s and early 1980s. Australia produced some of the most exciting, lurid, violent and sexy of the world’s exploitation cinema at the time (topped perhaps arguably by Italy), and it’s an entire sub-genre that is ripe for rediscovery.
Hartley does much more than just take a walk down memory lane with some of the luminaries involved in the burgeoning industry back in the day, but manages to capture the excitement and audacity of the time. He points out that, while films like “My Brilliant Career” and “Picnic at Hanging Rock” were getting the bulk of the critical acclaim, the genre pictures were the ones making the money, testing the social acceptability of their content, and keeping the industry alive.
Before the 1970s, the Australian film industry was practically non-existent. When the Cultural Revolution started to hit the continent, so did interested film producers who were interested in depicting a uniquely Australian point of view to the world. This started with the so-called “ocker” comedies “Stork” (1971) and “The Advenutres of Barry MacKenize” (1972). These were wacky sex comedies that poked fun at social norms in general, and the British in particular. These two films, while sneered at by critics and giving a headache to censors, were largely responsible for giving new life to the country.
After that, a boom followed. “Not Quite Hollywood” divides the boom into three sub-genres: sex films, horror films, and car chase films. The sex films were gloriously smutty, and genuinely fun. Hartley interviews the directors of these films, as well as some of the still-smoldering actresses who agreed to strip all those years ago. Almost each of the interviewees seems to have a love for what they did, and smile when thinking about it. Although one actress rightfully complains that critics reviewed her breasts and not her performance, and some Australian film critics don’t give any leeway to the films’ poor quality and desperate grab for sensationalist attention.
A few names one should pick up from this film are producer Tony I. Ginnane, Director Brian Trenchard-Smith, and stuntman Grant Page. Quentin Tarantino is on hand because he’s one of the biggest champions of genre cinema, and actually comes across as halfway eloquent when describing some of his favorite films (“Patrick,” “Dead-End Drive-In,” “Road Games,” “Dark Age” among them). The most famous of the OZpoitation movies in the U.S. is, of course, George Miller’s “Mad Max” which has a huge cult following. We also see interviews with modern Aussie exploitation filmmakers (the maked of the “Saw” films among them, and how they were influenced by their forebears.
You will not see a better edited documentary than this one. It’s loud and fast and exciting. The interviewees are cut together to make it look like they’re almost having a conversation with one another, and everything becomes an endlessly fascinating anecdote about a corner of cinema you are eager to learn about. The loud period rock music also helps; the theme tune is an AC/DC-like gutbucket rock song called “We Can’t Be Beaten” by the mostly dead Aussie metal band Rose Tattoo.
The one complaint I could make out “Not Quite Hollywood” is that it moves so quickly, and covers so much ground, it’s hard to absorb a lot of the names being thrown at us. If you’re interested in the work of a certain filmmaker, or are looking for a whole new list of films you can’t live without seeing, bring a notepad to the theater.
If you are at all interested in genre films, then “Not Quite Hollywood” is a must-see. It not only will reveal a new chapter to you, but gives an earnest celebration of its material. There is no irony here. Just love. Love of exciting and over-the-top movies. Love of a good explosion, a good car chase, a good boob shot, a good gander at pubic hair, a good decapitation, a good kill, a good rubber monster.
I’m getting misty just thinking of it.
NB: My review of Brian Trenchard-Smith’s film “Stunt Rock” can be read on this very site. Follow this link: https://witneyman.wordpress.com/2007/07/25/stunt-rock/