Saturday, August 08, 2009

Not Quite Hollywood

Film: Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation! (2009)
Dir: Mark Hartley.
Rating: ****1/2 out of 5 stars

Prior to the 1970s, the Australian film industry was practically non-existent. That decade marked the arrival of important Aussie cinema such as Peter Weir's Picnic at Hanging Rock but the social revolutions of the time also spawned a plethora of genre films, affectionately known as "Ozploitation" movies. Mark Hartley's documentary Not Quite Hollywood explores these lesser-known movies and their impact on world cinema. The film is not only informative, but is as exciting and fun as the movies it's portraying.

NQH begins with the history of Australia's film industry, or rather lack thereof. Few Aussies were making movies, and those who tried were marred by extreme censorship. But in 1971, the R-certificate (rating) was introduced and thus opened the door for sex and violence on the big screen. This documentary breaks the genre films into three major waves - sex romps; exploitation horror; and high-octane action flicks.

The early 70s birthed the iconic "ocker" Barry McKenzie, an Australian looking for sex in prudish England. These comedies were known for debauchery, vulgarity, and gross-out humor. There were also a lot of sex comedies that pushed the envelope with endless boobs and bush. This is the least exciting portion of the documentary, but that doesn't say much, as it is still hilarious and enlightening.

The middle section of the film covers the extreme horror - needless to say, my favorite part of the documentary. Virtually every movie mentioned is a must-see - Patrick, Long Weekend, Roadgames, Howling 3, Razorback, Next of Kin, Dark Age, and more. We get outback thrillers, supernatural chillers, and psychopathic killers. Oh, and a giant ravenous pig. What's not to love?

The third portion of the movie focuses on the wild action movies that were dominated by explosions, kung fu, car chases, and biker gangs. Examples include Mad Max, Stone, Turkey Shoot, Mad Dog Morgan, The Man From Hong Kong, and Fair Game. This is another part of the documentary where you want to take notes so you will remember to watch all these awesome movies.

In addition to an impressive array of film clips, the movie offers hilarious interviews with virtually every major Ozploitation filmmaker, along with actors, critics, and film experts. Their anecdotes are some of the funniest I've ever heard. A few of the better known interviewees include Barry Humphries (Dame Edna), Dennis Hopper, Stacy Keach, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Quentin Tarantino, who bounces with fanboy excitement.

Hartley also injects a lot of cartoony humor into the documentary's look, so it is never boring. With a filmography of short Ozploitation docs under his belt, the man clearly knows his stuff, but his sense of humor is also quite evident here. Nobody could have made this better. If I absolutely had to find one flaw, it would only be the time spent on newer Aussie films (Undead, Wolf Creek) as those films, exploitative though they may be, are neither good nor influential, and people like me know enough about them already. But it's a petty observation - Not Quite Hollywood is an impressive tribute to Ozploitation and one damn entertaining movie.


Sean D said...

Nice review! I kind of liked the addition of the newer movies, just to see how Ozploitation has evolved. I think they have their place in the doc, but I can agree with you that most people watching this are probably already familiar with them.

BTW, I've probably already told you this, but I'm with you on disliking "Undead" all the way.

I think an Ozploitation marathon is in order. You have Turkey Shoot. I have Razorback, plus Long Weekend coming from Netflix this week!