Interview with Not Quite Hollywood director Mark Hartley
18th Mar 09
For the uninitiated, Not Quite Hollywood is an adrenaline fuelled ride through the great story of Australian exploitation (or ‘Ozploitation’) cinema from the 1970s onwards, and is a film that everyone with a love for cinema, good and bad, needs to see. Not only is it incredibly funny and amusing, it’s also absorbing and informative, giving most viewers a whole new reason to go online DVD shopping.
Combining interview footage with a multitude of professionals (from Jamie Lee Curtis to Brian Trenchard-Smith, and about a hundred more) with ultra-rare, restored behind-the-scenes footage of the movies, the documentary covers the bawdy sex comedies (‘Ockers, knockers, pubes and tubes’), and various thrillers (‘Comatose Killers and Outback Chillers’) before tackling the explosive, high-kicking world of the action film (‘High Octane Disasters and Kung Fu Masters’).
I met up with director Mark Hartley recently to congratulate him and talk about The Man from Hong Kong. I mean Not Quite Hollywood.
'Not Quite Hollywood' is fantastic. We really enjoyed it...
Thanks. How many of the films were you aware of?
I think I’ve seen the best of them. I discovered 'Road Games' quite recently, which blew me away.
The thing I would say about Road Games is that it’s as good as the de Palma Hitchcock rip-offs. And Stacey Keach is just great in it. You believe the dingo and him have a relationship. If you ever get a chance to see the Micheal Apted film The Squeeze…
I watched it for the second time last week…
How fuckin’ fantastic is that? And The New Centurions, he’s just great in that too, which has come out on DVD in America. It was so great to interview him…he talked about The Squeeze and went, ‘That was just another one of those films I made that didn’t find an audience’, and that was the extent of the complications with him.
It must have been great to chat to George Lazenby too.
I think of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service as my favourite Bond film. I also think he should have been given a second or third chance. He would have been a pretty good Bond by number three. Look at that beach fight at the start, that’s one of the best fight scenes in any Bond film. We interviewed him in Wimbledon, and in the morning when we arrived it was freezing cold, and he answers the door with bed hair going, ‘Ah, yeah, where you going to park the trucks?’ Turns out they’ve just put him in this apartment because his wife is here for the tennis, so he hasn’t met any of the neighbours and went around asking to find someplace we could park up. So he was just a great guy. Genuine and really, really funny. He’s the best thing about The Man from Hong Kong section of Not Quite Hollywood.
Did he punch Brian Trenchard Smith?
Hmm. I like to think that he did.
Do you remember all the films featured in 'Not Quite Hollywood' from when you were growing up?
Well, there’s only a small number of genre films made in Australia, only about 100 or so. So it was pretty easy to watch them all. There was maybe 10 I hadn’t seen before the doc. I saw Patrick, Snapshot and The Man from Hong Kong on TV when I was a kid and they were like nothing I had ever seen before. They were like American films with Australian accents and locations so I felt a strange connection because of that. When I started being interested in genre films I would prowl video libraries to find ex rental copies of this stuff to help research. I also worked for a DVD company in Australia putting a lot of it out on DVD so that helped. A large majority of the films in there we did new transfers from and did new extras.
So they’re finally making their way out now?
Their finally making heir way from Australian DVD shelves to other countries. Optimum have a good four or five of them. Do you know Brit films? They’re just about to release Thirst, The Survivor, and Harlequin.
I watched 'Thirst' last night. Not bad.
Blade 3 steals its main idea from that, about the milking farm!
It’s such an original idea, and it’s a really unpredictable little film.
But it’s got no ending, that’s its problem. But there are some really great set pieces, like the stuff with the wall throbbing a crumbling away is a really great little sequence…
I wanted to ask you about the staggering amount of interviewees in 'Not Quite Hollywood'. How easy were they to assemble and was everyone as keen as they appear?
It was remarkably easy. People kept on saying, ‘No-one is going to want to talk to you about these films’, but we just found that there was so much goodwill towards the project. I think there was only three that we didn’t get, and everyone else was so obliging. It was a massive undertaking to choreograph shooting them all in different countries; it was literally me, a camera man, a make up artist, a camera assistant and sound guy, and we picked up gaffers and grips in each country. It was so amazing to get an email back from Jamie Lee Curtis! I thought, ‘Surely you have better things to do with your life that sit and talk to these idiots from Australia about a film you made 30 years ago, that you didn’t have good time on’, so it was quite amazing, really. We tried to get to Mel (Gibson) but it was a bad time for him. I think Mel was the one person I would really have liked to get but didn’t.
Bizarrely, you really don’t notice he’s not there.
Well, I don’t think anyone even mentions Mel Gibson when they’re talking about the movie (Mad Max). There are more interesting things about that film than Mel Gibson being in it.
One of the strongest attributes of 'Not Quite Hollywood' is that it’s laugh-out-loud funny. Did you know your interviewees would be so funny beforehand or is it something you realised along the way?
I’ve had a career making music videos in Australia and I had chosen loads of those old school crews from those old films to work with, so I knew there would be great and funny stories, and I knew that the main personalities would be pretty funny too. People like Barry Humphries. I knew there would be outrageous stories, that’s for sure. But I didn’t know how funny they’d be. But I knew it would be jaw-dropping, just because of how untamed it was when they were making these films. There were no rules, and if there were, they would have broken them. I could sense it when I was watching those films. An energy on the screen and a sense of a ‘screw it, lets do it, fuck you’ attitude to making these films. These people were hell bent on getting their warped, crazy vision on screen no matter what.
Especially Terry Bourke?
Well I’m sure live rats have crawled about on plenty of actresses in films. Roger Ward is so funny talking about that stuff…’Terry Bourke…arrogant bastard!’
Also where he’s talking about when Jimmy Wang Yu was a little harsh on Brian Trenchard Smith, and he offered to…
Give him a hiding (laughs)! Roger is one of those of those unsung heroes. He was the heavy in every single film I saw when I was a kid and I used him in a ‘Living End’ music video a few years ago. If he was in UK, he would be in every Guy Ritchie film. But no one knows what to do with him in Australia now. It’s a crying shame.
We’re big fans of Italian exploitation here at eatmybrains…
Have you seen Patrick Viva Ancora ?
That one came out on DVD in the US through Media Blasters. It’s pretty bad. I always wanted to see it purely because it was the ‘sequel’ to Patrick. I remember when I was visiting America a few years ago and got it from eBay on VHS and customs seized it because it has never been legally allowed to be screened in Australia. Then hey had to fill in a customs form and watch the film, and the reason for it not being classified, at 47 mins 32 sec, was ‘raped with fire poker’.
Nice. What do you think are the major differences between Italian exploitation and what was going on in Australia?
You mean with giallo?
All of it, gialli, polizioteschi, all that 70s genre stuff.
I think the Italian stuff is a lot more 'full-on' than our stuff. You have to understand that even though were calling this stuff exploitation, Australia is a weird country in the fact that when it came to cinema, we embraced our art house films as our commercial films. So films like Picnic at Hanging Rock and The Getting of Wisdom, which would be considered all art house films anywhere else in the world, were embraced by audiences as mainstream films in Australia. So anything that wasn’t nostalgic was seen as ‘b’ grade or exploitation. So a lot of films like Long Weekend, Razorback, and Road Games, which would be considered mainstream anywhere else in the world were ‘b’ grade there. So, our exploitation is a lot less cutting edge. I think Nightmares is pretty graphic, the stalk n slash Halloween rip off. Also, Terry Bourke made one called Night of Fear in 1971, which predated The Texas Chainsaw Massacre by a few years. Pretty much the same story…just a hermit. It’s just a woman being pursued by a hillbilly psychopath for the entire movie. It’s pretty intense. Not a word of dialogue.
Sounds fantastic. One more question before I go. Is 'The Man from Hong Kong' the best film ever made?
It’s the best Australian kung fu film ever made! I saw it when I was a kid and had never seen anything like it. The first 5 mins…an Australian watching a film that starts with a chopper chase, then a foot chase on Ayers Rock, then a fist fight on Ayers Rock…that was the best thing you could have seen. And there was more camera rigs, car rigs and action in that film than every other Australian film put together.
Not Quite Hollywood is out on DVD from 30th March. Get it.