From the land of Oz: blood, boobs and bikers

Down Under Drive-In 

From the land of Oz: blood, boobs and bikers

It's fitting that Quentin Tarantino is the first person onscreen to talk about Australian drive-in movies in Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation! The Inglourious Basterds director has spent his entire career paying homage to the type of blood-soaked and boob-stacked films sampled here.

After a brief scene in which a bunch of social critics and filmmakers attempt to link the growth of exploitation movies in the early '70s to homegrown hippie culture, Not Quite Hollywood cuts to one of the country's early genre pics, in which a drunken Aussie snaps a kangaroo's neck. That pretty much sums up the films' reputations among movie critics and highfalutin directors (though they were mega-popular with the people they satirized, much to the filmmakers' chagrin).

Who knew the land down under was such a fountain of exploitation films in the '70s and '80s? Not Tarantino, who says he was lured by the movies' blood, breasts and fast cars, not realizing they were Australian-made until the actors opened their mouths. This fun and enlightening documentary surveys a whole history that cult-movie fans may be aware of, but mainstream moviegoers probably never even knew existed.

Not Quite Hollywood covers T&A, gore and gonzo action films, along with subcategories like kung-fu and biker flicks. Australians Barry Humphries (better known as Dame Edna), George Lazenby (who played James Bond in one film) and George Miller (who directed the Mad Max movies as well as Babe: Pig in the City) weigh in. So do Jamie Lee Curtis, Dennis Hopper and Stacy Keach, all of whom collected paychecks for Ozploitation films.

On one hand, producers, screenwriters and directors welcomed the opportunity to make movies people wanted to see. "If you have nubile young ladies soaking each other under a shower, you're probably going to attract some sort of audience," says one filmmaker. On the other hand, actors weren't hired for their thespian skills. "My breasts were reviewed, as opposed to my performance," bemoans one actress.

In reaction to these movies, prestige films like Picnic at Hanging Rock were released to put Australia on the global movie map. But exploitation filmmakers countered with a slew of slasher pics like Inn of the Damned and a Psycho rip-off called Patrick (which Tarantino cribbed in Kill Bill: Vol. 2).

Most of the clips roll by fast (as do all of the talking heads), so very few have a chance to distinguish themselves. Still, Tarantino's exuberance is just the tip of this documentary's enthusiasm for these films. Best of all, genre fans will find dozens of new titles to track down (I had no interest in seeing Razorback, about an overgrown killer pig, until Tarantino and others dissected it). Ironically, Not Quite Hollywood is probably a better movie than any it pays tribute to.

mgallucci@clevescene.com

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