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A scene from the movie ABC OF LOVE AND SEX in NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD (Photo: Magnet Releasing)

Written & Directed by
Mark Hartley
Produced by
Michael Lynch & Craig Griffin
Released by Magnet Releasing
Australia. 100 min. Rated  R

Not Quite Hollywood is a crash course in the revolution in Australia’s once-conservative film industry, beginning when censorship was lifted in 1971. Director Mark Hartley has a fan’s dedication in chronologically detailing the impact on a medium groping for a new national identity and finding it in proletariat genre films. Using a dizzying array of clips and revealing interviews, the documentary is very affectionate, entertaining, and informative.

Barry Humphries, now known internationally for his Dame Edna persona, is the primary guide through the initial post-censorship crop of sex romps, such as his satirical Barry McKenzie films that were the first home-grown box-office bonanzas. They have a lot in common with the British Carry On comedies from a decade earlier, but with a lot more female full-frontal nudity. Despite some interviewees’ pretense about cultural change and sexual liberation, the folks who made the films just cheerfully call them “boobs and pubes.” Male nudity was also featured in John D. Lamond’s pseudo-documentaries, then capitalizing on the trendy suburban fascination with soft-core porn.

Irrepressible Quentin Tarantino serves as the enthusiastic guide for the action, gore, horror, road, and kung fu genres geared to the drive-in audience, and he exults in the images that inspired his own homages. The clips and the rollicking stories of their making justify the subtitle, The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation! His revelatory dedication of Kill Bill Vol. 1 to grindhouse filmmaker Brian Trenchard-Smith at the 2003 premiere in Sydney helped to get this documentary rolling.

Like an epicure at a feast, Tarantino savors the films produced by Antony Ginnane, who declares himself the “Roger Corman of Australia.” While the pulp films of American International Pictures are comparable, less is said about the usual training ground for new filmmakers, but more about how their gonzo production style surfaced into the mainstream—and not just a director setting himself on fire to reassure his crew that it could be done.

Detailed making-of interviews provide fascinating background on some well-known classic movies, like Dennis Hopper’s off-screen method acting antics while making Philippe Mora’s Mad Dog Morgan. Interviewees chortle on how they got that violent film past the local authorities—shots that have been missing from the trimmed international edition are included here. And the cataclysmic car crash set-ups in George Miller’s Mad Max are gleefully described as the apotheosis of fast-car movies.

Just as much time is spent lovingly analyzing bloody genre films, both for how they were made and their influence. The latest wave of Ozzie splatterers—including the young creators of the Saw franchise and Wolf Creek’s Greg McLean—express their appreciation for these films that are not widely remembered today. Director Jamie Blanks (Urban Legend) thrills at teaming up for remakes with his idol, writer Everett De Roche, who provides some of the most insightful commentary.

The interviews with the stunt men and effects crews are the most fun (including the secret to a pre-Exorcist vomit recipe), particularly daredevil Grant Page. The imported American and British actors marvel that they seemed crazy, and they decry the unsafe practices that are now banned on sets. Veterans scoff at contemporary restrictions, with injuries and worse cited just in passing. All are bursting with anecdotes. (Director Richard Franklin died a few weeks after telling of Hitchcock’s influence on his work).

The filmmakers repeatedly dismiss the artiness of Picnic at Hanging Rock for representing the Australian New Wave, so it’s no surprise that Peter Weir is not among the antipodean luminaries reflecting here, like director Fred Schepisi and actors Jack Thompson and Sigrid Thornton. Though a couple of almost stereotypically elite film critics (who look and sound a lot like the snobby muppet Sam the Eagle) sneer at the whole lot, not a single woman critic or director is interviewed. Any feminist critique is left to the participating actresses, who challenge the males’ memories of why they agreed to completely disrobe, and who are still uncomfortable about the misogyny on the sets. That’s Ozploitation.

Even if you may not want to watch the full roster beyond the excerpts, Hartley provides an engaging and illuminating service for film fans in rescuing these 1970’s and 1980’s movies and their lively creators from obscurity. Nora Lee Mandel
July 31, 2009



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