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From the DVD Shelf: Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation! (2008)

June 3rd, 2011
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After watching and enjoying Lost in La Mancha last month, I was in a documentary kind of mood, so I decided to track down a film I remembered reading really positive reviews about upon its release: Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation!

This is a really crazy film!!

This documentary chronicles the Australian film scene of the 1970’s and 1980’s.  During those years, a large group burgeoning filmmakers in Australian produced scores of what some would consider “exploitation” films — meaning low-budget films filled with a ton of sex and violence.  Written and directed by Mark Hartley, Not Quite Hollywood delves into the development and spread in popularity of these films and filmmakers.  The documentary is divided into sections focusing on different types of these Ozploitation films — the sex-comedies, the horror films, etc. — while also spotlighting many of the directors, actors, and actresses who worked on these films.

Sometimes you watch a documentary and it’s clear that, while the film is interesting, it’s pieced together from interviews with just a few subjects.  Not this film.  There are literally HUNDREDS of people who have been interviewed for this film.  It’s clear that Mr. Hartley and his team did an extraordinary amount of work to track down so many of the people with stories to tell about the making of these Australian films.  No stone was left un-turned.  It’s impressive, and at times a bit overwhelming!  The film is edited at an extraordinarily rapid clip — with quick interview snippets running one after the other, often-times running over (or sharing a split-screen with) clips from the many films being discussed.  I can’t remember ever seeing a documentary that unfolds at such an energetic pace.  The result is a film that feels as crazy, unhinged, and FUN as the films being discussed!

And boy, there are some crazy films being discussed.  Other than the Mad Max films, I haven’t seen a single one of the many, many films spotlighted in Not Quite Hollywood.  On the one hand, watching this documentary makes me want to track some of these films down!  On the other hand, it’s a tremendous amount of fun watching this only-the-best-bits summations of all of these wacky films, and I’m not sure they’d be quite as much fun at full-length.  As with the interviews, Mr. Hartley and his team have assembled an extraordinarily vast collection of clips from all sorts of these crazy-looking Australian films.  I should warn you: there’s a LOT of nudity in these clips, and also a lot of crazy, bloody scenes of horror.  But it all seems so silly and good-natured (yes, even the horror has such a childish spatterific “top THIS” sensibility that I didn’t find those clips to be off-putting at all, even though I have a weak stomach for movie gore), that I found myself quickly swept along on a wave of giddiness watching the film unfold.

Not only are the films fun to watch snippets of, but the people interviewed are an absolute riot when reminiscing about these almost-amateur productions.  It’s really fun to see everyone’s good-humored perspectives (even the people who were not so happy when making the films).  Again, I have extraordinary praise for what must have been the herculean task of editing this film together. Each one of the interview bits gets directly to their funny story or their fascinating anecdote.  There’s not a second of time wasted.

In addition to the scores of Australians interviewed, Not Quite Hollywood features extensive interviews with a prominent American filmmaker: Quentin Tarantino.  Mr. Tarantino’s love of exploitation films is well-known, and he waxes poetic with an enormous amount of pleasure when discussing all of these nutty Australian films that he digs so much.  His enthusiasm for these films is infectious.  Films like The Man From Hong Kong, Turkey Shoot, Dead-End Drive In, and Long Weekend are not high cinema by any stretch of the imagination, but clearly these were movies made with a lot of love by people just out to entertain (and hopefully make a few bucks along the way), and it’s hard not to get swept along in Mr. Tarantino’s joyous appreciation for these not-very-well-respected movies.

You don’t need to know anything about Australian exploitation films before watching this documentary (I didn’t), nor do you even need to have much interest in Australian exploitation films (I really don’t).  Not Quite Hollywood is all about the joys of cinema of all kind — good and bad, high and low.  It’s bawdy and naughty and full of raucous entertainment (both from all the nutso clips shown and the very funny interviews).  I can’t imagine anyone who loves movies not enjoying the blazes out of this crazy documentary.

Not sold yet?  Then let me quote from an interview with writer/director Mark Hartley: “If you’ve ever wanted to hear stories about George Lazenby discovering what happens when you agree to be set alight on a film set (you burn) – or about a coked-out and boozed-up Dennis Hopper being pronounced legally dead while filming a local bushranger movie –  or tales of mice getting dressed in rubber werewolf fetus suits – or of real ammunition fired at actors – then this is the film for you.”

‘Nuff said!

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