Judge Patrick Bromley is not quite Australian.
The wild, untold story of OZploitation!
Is it possible to be in love with something you didn't even know existed? This was the question running through my head as I watched the 2008 documentary Not Quite Hollywood, which traces the rise and fall of the little-known Australian exploitation film ("OZploitation") movement. Sure, I had heard of several of the films covered here—Razorback, BMX Bandits, Dead End Drive-in, Patrick and, of course, Mad Max—but didn't realize those titles fit into a larger cinematic movement in Australia. Just like in America, Australia had its own sex-and-blood-soaked exploitation cinema throughout the '70s and '80s (which the film attributes to the fact that Australia is the only other country that fetishizes cars and therefore had a thriving drive-in culture). And, with the 1970s' newly-reinstated R-rating allowing filmmakers to push the envelope on those dependably exploitable elements sex and violence, a new film culture was born—much to the displeasure of Australia's sense of national pride.
Not Quite Hollywood is broken up into three main sections: sex comedies (of which most of the focus appears to be on showing lots and lots of nudity, for those who are into that sort of thing), horror films and kung-fu/action films. A huge number of film clips are interspersed with contemporary interviews with the directors, producers, writers and actors responsible for the films, and every interview subject is refreshingly candid about his or her experiences. I'll admit that the first section left me a little cold; as much as I like naked people, I've never been all that interested in sex comedies. The second two sections, however, covering Australian horror films and action/kung-fu/car crash movies, really grabbed my attention; with every new clip, I was making a mental note of yet another film I had to seek out. Not Quite Hollywood even gave me new appreciation for Mad Max, a movie I've seen several times, because it placed the film within the context of the whole genre and pointed out just how many rules the movie broke. You realize just how crazy George Miller and his crew were, and, oddly, that made me like Mad Max even better.
It's that "anything goes" spirit which runs throughout all of Not Quite Hollywood. These are directors making visceral, pure cinema and going to great, unconventional lengths to do so. Of course, not all the end results appear to be winners. For every new film I'm dying to see like Turkey Shoot, there's a Howling III: The Marsupials or a Stunt Rock. Then again, who am I kidding? I'm dying to see Stunt Rock, too. But I walked away from Not Quite Hollywood admiring the enthusiasm and unique professionalism of directors like Brian Trenchard-Smith and Richard Franklin and wanting to explore their entire filmographies. Several American actors show up for interviews, too, including Jamie Lee Curtis (who was met with hostility while making Road Games), Dennis Hopper (who had a terrible experience working in OZploitation) and Steve Railsback, as well as contemporary filmmakers like James Wan (Saw) and Quentin Tarantino, who discuss the impact that OZploitation movies had on their careers. Tarantino in particular gets a great deal of screen time because he's so well-versed and articulate about the genre. He's great fun to listen to.
Magnolia Home Entertainment's DVD of Not Quite Hollywood does a nice job with both the "documentary" aspect (mainly the interview footage) and with the film clips. The film is presented in a 1.78:1 widescreen transfer that looks good; though many of the older clips show their age and wear (as any exploitation film should), they've been cleaned up and most look pretty great. The 5.1 audio mix can be a little challenging when the (excellent) rock soundtrack is going, as it fills out the rear channels and can make the front-loaded dialogue a little tough to hear. Other than that, I've got no complaints.
The disc comes pretty packed with extras. First up is a commentary featuring writer/director Mark Hartley and several of the OZploitation directors whose work appears in the film. The talk is a bit more dry than the film, mostly because it doesn't have the advantage of interspersing clips to break up the historical details. Still, it's good to hear Hartley's opinions on the films included in Not Quite Hollywood, and anyone who became as enamored with OZploitation as I did watching the film will want to learn as much as he or she can. A host of deleted scenes is also included, most covering films that didn't end up included in the finished documentary. The source material on the deleted scenes is quite a bit shoddier-looking than the ones in the film, but it's nice to have several more films to try and track down.
Perhaps my favorite extra on the disc is an interview between OZploitation fanboy Tarantino and director Brian Trenchard-Smith. People can complain about Tarantino's geeky obsessions all they like, but it's difficult not to be impressed and even swayed by his enthusiasm for OZploitation; the man is an encyclopedia of a genre I was barely aware of (and that's just one genre; with Tarantino, that's barely scratching the surface). Tarantino also participates in a short piece called "funding pitch," where he once again stresses his love of Australian exploitation cinema and goes on record as a champion of Not Quite Hollywood. Rounding out the special features are an image gallery from OZploitation films and the theatrical trailer for Not Quite Hollywood.
I'll admit that Not Quite Hollywood was likely to work for me because it uses a formula I automatically respond to: quick, entertaining interviews interspersed with movie clips. I'm a sucker for these kinds of documentaries. But what surprised me was just how hard I fell for Not Quite Hollywood and for OZploitation as a whole. If you're a fan of exploitation cinema, you owe it to yourself to seek out Not Quite Hollywood. It's one of the most enjoyable documentaries I've seen in a long time.
Please excuse me. I've got a bunch of movies to track down.
Not guilty (insert lame Aussie reference).
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