NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD: THE WILD, UNTOLD STORY OF OZPLOITATION!
4 out of 5 stars
Director: Mark Hartley
Stars: Quentin Tarantino, George Miller, Brian-Trenchard Smith, Jamie Lee Curtis, Stacy Keach, Dennis Hopper, Philippe Mora, Bob Ellis
America’s never cornered the market on exploitation movies — a massive repertoire of Eurotrash cinema proves there’s as big an appetite for sex and violence across the Atlantic. But both continents have overshadowed another that does not get its due in the realm of B-movies: Australia. Throughout the Seventies and Eighties the land Down Under delivered high octane action flicks, bawdy sex comedies and twisted horror tales even as it became known for acclaimed arthouse fare like Picnic At Hanging Rock and Breaker Morant. Not Quite Hollywood documentary director Mark Hartley is not interested in that more Oscar-friendly contingent. He’s all about the car crashes, cleavage and creatures that inhabited Aussie cinema starting in the Seventies — as one interviewee declares, a little bit of nudity and a little bit of crudity — and the positive effect that they actually had on the country’s burgeoning film industry.
Australia was not originally known for having high profile cinematic releases that traversed the globe. The country tended to import far more films than it exported, but a group of low budget entrepreneurs decided to take advantage of a newly instituted R rating for viewers 18 and older starting in 1971, and they consistently rolled out a plethora of adult-oriented movies like the sex romp Alvin Purple, gritty biker movie Stone and creepy fear flick Patrick. Yet while it is easy to dismiss so many of the films profiled in Not Quite Hollywood as pure trash, Hartley wisely uses the 100 minutes he has — distilled down from five years worth of interviews — to get past the exploding heads, projectile vomiting and bouncing breasts that detractors will instantly decry and explore how some of these films were quite good in spite of their flaws, critics be damned. He also shows how their success helped their higher profile counterparts gain worldwide attention and also heralded a new Aussie production boom. They even attracted some popular Hollywood talent (listed above) who offer up their recollections in this documentary.
Juxtaposing interviews with directors like Brian-Trenchard Smith and George Miller, various actors, pithy and snooty film critic Bob Ellis and amped-up Ozploitation junkie Quentin Tarantino, director Hartley and editors Jamie Blanks and Sara Edwards create a smart and funny discourse about the Australian New Wave of the Seventies and Eighties and profile all the crazy characters that defined it. Hartley delves into the sociopolitical ramifications of these movies and how the public and media reacted to them. (Naturally the former liked them more.) Not all the films are great (far from it) but one has to appreciate the lunacy of the dangerous bike and fight stunts from movies like Stone and Mad Max. They’d never get away with such unsupervised shenanigans today. (To Jamie Lee Curtis’ amazement, fearless stuntman Grant Page is still alive.) Some of the horror shockers even had some interesting concepts and served up sumptuous cinematography. And Hartley has a powerful champion on his side in Tarantino, who is a walking encyclopedia of Ozploitation, waxing ebullient about his favorite flicks as if they were cut from the same cloth as Citizen Kane and Casablanca. (One spoiler complaint: They show the endings of a couple of movies.)
Ultimately Not Quite Hollywood is a hilariously fun, cleverly assembled look at a genre of Australian films that had been written off by its country’s cultural critics for being schlock and not representative of its values. Or perhaps to the dismay of some, as is implied, occasionally too representative of them. One Australian critic has called the film a bit misleading as some of the more highbrow Oz filmmakers like Peter Weir were trying to be commercially viable as well back then, but they seem to have gone about it in a different way. Whether you want a serious discussion about this underappreciated cinema movement, or just like to watch stuff blow up and see people run around naked, Mark Hartley’s film has a little something for everyone. Just like a good Ozploitation movie should.