Sploitation. You can tack that baby on to any word and describe some kind of seedy movie made somewhere. It’s like the word core. As in hardcore. You can prefix it with anything to describe some kind of hard music. Hardcore, pummelcore, sludgecore, zombiecore, queercore, mulletcore, etcetera. I’m always surprised when I find some kind of new ‘sploitation subgenre because I’ve been at this forever and I feel like I’ve seen it all. Until Not Quite Hollywood came along, I was completely unaware that there was even such thing as Ozsploitation. Oz as in Australia, not Oz the prison or the magical land of Oz over the rainbow. It turns out that Ozsploitation is a sort of blanket term much in the way Canuxploitation is a portmanteau that describes low budget genre movies from Canada, these are just from the other side of the world. I had no idea that flicks I had previously seen and acknowledged as Australian genre flicks fell into some kind of cult arena of their very own, but Mad Max, BMX Bandits, Escape 2000 (henceforth known as Turkey Shoot) and Stuntrock are a part of this wild west boomtown of filmmaking that eclipses the insanity of early American exploitation or even anything the Italians ever made. I’d say the only thing on par is the current wave of Thai action movies.
Not Quite Hollywood has been making the rounds on the festival circuit, the world around, for quite some time now and it has been wowing everyone who sees it. Mark Hartley’s documentary about the rise of trashy Australian movies sheds light on an entire culture of filmmaking that I didn’t know existed in any kind of organized sense. Most of these movies weren’t released outside of Australia, so it makes sense that I wouldn’t see them, but the door that this movie opens is a big one. I was practically taking notes the entire time, making a list of movies that I badly need to catch up with.
Beginning in 1971 with a new R rating from the Australian film board, business savvy filmmakers hit the road with a newfound freedom inspired the cultural tumult of the 60′s and began delivering a new kind of movie to the Australian moviegoing public. Their film industry, known primarily for arty posturing and melodrama, was suddenly blasted open wide to make room for a boisterous new wave of badass trash film. The evolution of Australia’s exploitation pictures looks a lot like that of America’s, starting with horrifically offensive gross-out comedies and pervy sex comedies and progressing to sophisticated car chase, action and horror movies. The catch is that all this went down in about half the time it took America to evolve its own exploitation movement. In 100 minutes, director Mark Hartley and his exhaustive research from five years of reading, watching and interviewing, turns out 100 minutes of the most titilating, horrifying and thrilling movie documentation that I’ve ever seen. Through interviews with Australian filmmaking legends as well as the American and British actors and actresses that worked over there, the final word on Ozsploitation takes shape before your very eyes.
Documentaries are a hard sell on exploitation types because of our intrinsic hunger for cheap thrills. The slow pace of documentaries is on par with a huge dose of Vicodin. It’s perfect for the insomniac bad movie buff. Even documentaries on American schlock, like Schlock! The Secret History of American movies unfolds at an agonizing snail’s pace but the pedal to the metal nature of Ozsploitation and Mark Hartley’s razor-sharp editing and storytelling takes what could be a dry subject and infuses it with the very same energy that makes these movies so appealing. Not Quite Hollywood is a montage of mayhem and nudity that is carefully balanced with some of the most entertaining stories right from the people who lived it and somehow managed to live to tell the tale. Quentin Tarantino is featured heavily and acts almost and the film’s moderator while directors like George Miller and Brian Trenchard-Smith regale us with tales of wild stunts gone awry and the struggles of making huge genre movies on budgets of less than a million bucks. Also on hand are Stacy Keach, Jamie Lee Curtis and Steve Railsback, who really fucking hated the making of Turkey Shoot, an exceptionally bad movie that I managed to catch on an honest to goodness Late Show movie on some long gone Laconia, NH UHF station back in the early 90′s.
Mark Hartley, through Not Quite Hollywood, does what I try to do with this site. I put the spotlight on movies long held to be bad movies and try and explain why they’re actually pretty good in spite of what smug movie reviewers have told you. Hartley’s movie not only exposes the fun to be found in Australian genre movies, but lets the filmmakers tell you why it was such an exciting and vital time in the history of film and these stories are thrilling to the last drop. Everything about the Australian filmmaking process has this barely in control feeling that reflects the balls-out lunatic reputation that Australians tend to come with. Sure, Crocodile Dundee is a godawful stereotype of Australians, but one look at the productions of movies like Mad Max and Stone and you’ll understand that Australian filmmakers, stuntmen and actors keep it real. Easily the highpoint of the entire picture is a montage of car chases and crashes that proves the Australian hang up on their vehicles as Tarantino explains how they turn your average car chase scene into the steamiest automotive porn ever put to film. Seriously, low angle, high speed car footage and clouds of autoparts among horrific car crashes have never looked so sexy.
Not Quite Hollywood takes one of the most unexpected stories of the year and turns it into something of wonder. Ozsploitation looks very familiar in that Australian genre movies look an awful lot like American genre movies but they had a menu of distinctly Australian qualities that set them apart from American contemporaries. Easily one of the most entertaining documentaries I have ever seen, Not Quite Hollywood moves at a breakneck pace and left me badly wanting more.