Jamie Lee Curtis
Everett De Roche
Antony I. Ginnane
John Grey Gorton
John Michael Howson
John D. Lamond
Lesley Ann Warren
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Not Quite Hollywood (2009)
16th Mar 09
Charting the story of Ozploitation cinema. A lot of talking heads, sex, and explosions.
If you're familiar with our web site, you will hopefully be aware of the heartbeat that is Zombie Club. Within these sacred walls it's ok to celebrate the bad with the good, with perhaps a little more emphasis on the bad. The wonderful world of exploitation cinema is voraciously explored, its vast imperfections celebrated, its shameless indulgences encouraged. And we're always left wanting more. Will we ever run out of exploitation movies to watch? Every week, the great search for those unknown gems yields more rewards and it shows no signs of letting up. Great, isn't it? If you want to see movies with real bite, made with a devil may care approach, what's the point of going to see the Friday the 13th remake, even out of curiosity? Time is too precious, folks - there's so much stuff out there stuck in the undergrowth that is much more deserving of your time than a slew of pointless remakes. Which is why we have Zombie Club.
Director Mark Hartley must be on the same pulpy page, because his new documentary film, Not Quite Hollywood, is a celebration of the exploitation movie. The Australian exploitation movie. Chances are, you will be familiar with some of these slices of low budget mayhem already. Mad Max was etched in our collective consciousness when we were kids, and apparently the star went on to bigger things. Razorback had enough of a video release back in the 80s - not to mention plenty of airings on television - to make purveyors of quality horror sit up and take notice.
Not only is this documentary a celebration, it's an education. For every film you've heard of, there will be four you haven't, and that seems to be one of the film's objectives: to let you know there's so much more to Australian cinema than Peter Wier and Peter Jackson (just kidding folks!).
Initially setting sail from a socio-political perspective down under in the late 1960s/70s, Hartley navigates us through the dawn of the Australian film industry and the emergence of the 'R' certificate, lending low budget filmmakers a greater sense of freedom in what had previously been a nation with a rich tradition of enforcing strict censorship in cinema.
From the randy exploits of "everyman" sex victim Alvin Purple through the liberating seas of more tasteless smut like Felicity or Fantatasm, the story then forsakes the comedy smut for "Comatose Killers and Outback Chillers", comprising shockers like Lady Stay Dead, the amazing Long Weekend, and another one you may have heard of: Patrick. This section features an interview with, among many others, that film’s director - the late, great Richard Franklin, the ardent Hitchcock fan who also gave us Psycho 2.
In the final segment, "High Octane Disasters and Kung Fu Masters", Hartley's focus is on the big and the brash, where you'll rediscover Mad Max. Witness Tarantino going ape shit over biker classic Stone, and the work of one Brian Trenchard-Smith, who helmed the 'why not' of Stunt Rock, as well as the kick-ass The Man from Hong Kong. Prepare yourself for shocking tales of production madness, including the outrageous violence inflicted upon the genial Trenchard-Smith. This eventually takes us "full circle" to the re-birth of the Australian genre movie, with the nasty Wolf Creek and Undead, leaving us optimistic that we’ll see plenty more of this ilk in years to come.
Watching Not Quite Hollywood reminds one of a 70s rock band documentary, complete with wild tales of excess and irresponsible behaviour, substituting drug overdoses with Dennis Hopper’s suicidal drinking escapades, and car crashes with, well, car crashes. No stone is left unturned (not even Ayers Rock) in the quest to gather riveting behind-the-scenes gossip from the plethora of people involved; actors, producers, and film critics, one of the most amusing being scornful critic Bob Ellis, who from the get go relishes every opportunity to bad-mouth the movement this film celebrates, but does it with such sardonic aplomb that you’ll be rolling about laughing at every turn. Also look out for acting veteran (and ex-wrestler) Roger Ward, on top form while commentating on the time he volunteered to give Jimmy Wang Yu “a hiding” on the set of The Man from Hong Kong. I would hate to get a hiding from big Roger.
Kudos also to motor mouth Tarantino, whose endearingly enthusiastic approach hides no agendas; he’s a man with genuine admiration for Trenchard-Smith et al, and his contributions consistently entertain and inform, much like the rest of Not Quite Hollywood. The pace is suitably fast and frantic, much like those crazy old movies, and unless you’re a speedy writing hand or have one hell of a memory, you’ll be hard pushed to remember (or take note of) all the information you’ll want to keep for future movie hunting.
The cast of commentators Mark Hartley has assembled here is nothing short of staggering and what’s more, everyone involved seems so keen to talk about the old guerrilla days. There is an incredible amount of information here; one can only guess at the nightmare of post-production, filleting all that footage (150 hours of interviews, 150 hours of clips, 50 hours of behind-the-scenes footage) into a digestible 100 minute running time. The interviews are sheer entertainment, all the time complimented by rare archive footage from the old days.
For a first time documentarian, Hartley has pulled off something of a triumph. This is a fast, informative, and hugely entertaining celebration of a movement totally deserving of such acclaim. You will want to watch this over and over again. Then buy loads of Australian movies you hadn't heard of before.
Not Quite Hollywood is out on DVD from 30th March.