What’s the first thing that pops into your head when you hear the words ‘Australian cinema’? Is it Nicole Kidman on the yacht in Dead Calm? Schoolgirls in white dresses disappearing into the outback in Picnic At Hanging Rock? Or maybe it’s Paul Hogan unsheathing his machete (“Call that a knife?”) in Crocodile Dundee…
After watching this affectionate doc about Australia’s home-grown exploitation movies, you won’t give a Castlemaine XXXX for any of that. In fact you’ll probably be more likely to think of George Lazenby on fire in chopsocky thriller The Man From Hong Kong, busty sheilas in the buff in sex comedies like Alvin Purple and a woman being terrorised by a Mr Whippy van in stalker flick Snapshot. Strewth!
Trawling through the world of Ozploitation with a keen eye for the truly bizarre, filmmaker Mark Hartley interviews the key players in the hidden history of Australian grindhouse cinema. The ’70s and ’80s were a wild time: budgets were cheap and safety measures nonexistent (actors were shot at with real bullets, injured stuntmen were given free painkillers). Producers like Antony I Ginnane – billed as the Aussie Roger Corman – made a killing from exporting B-movie tat like Patrick and Turkey Shoot to undemanding international markets.
“I didn’t even know they were Aussie genre films until after I’d bought my ticket and they opened their mouths,” recalls diehard Ozploitation fan Quentin Tarantino, who’s all over this doc – and the solid extras – like an enthusiastic rash. Roping in Mr Grindhouse himself may have initially been a marketing man’s dream, but motor-chin’s love for all things antipodean will intoxicate all-comers...
Except those Down Under p’raps. Few Australian commentators were happy about Ozploitation’s alleged stain on the nation’s cultural standing or producers’ tendency to fly over foreign stars like Jamie Lee Curtis and Dennis Hopper. “Tony Ginnane and his work should be burned to the ground and its ashes sown with salt,” complains sour critic Bob Ellis.
Others disagree. “I never thought Australia needed culture,” argues screenwriter Barry Humphries, who unleashed Oz comedy icons Barry McKenzie and Dame Edna on the world. “Culture, after all, is cheese.” If that’s true, there’s definitely a lot of over-ripe Aussie Camembert here – the kind of movies that are more fun to watch snippets of than sit through in their entirety.
Still, the strength of this smart, passionate doc is that it’ll entice self-respecting cult movie fans to empty their wallets as they add dodgy movies like Long Weekend, Dead-End Drive In and horrendous rubber croc flick Dark Age to their DVD collection. Will we feel Ozploited? Yes, but we’ll love every minute of it…
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