Saturday, November 14, 2009

Blogorium Review: Not Quite Hollywood

There are some documentaries that you want to have a piece of paper and a pen handy for. Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession, A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Cinema and My Voyage to Italy. Hell, I've watched the 42nd Street Forever discs making a note of movies that bear further investigation. Not Quite Hollywood is just such a documentary, although like Z Channel, the stories that link the Ozploitation movement is as fascinating as the clips themselves.

Australian Cinema is something I know very little about. Not Quite Hollywood is the story of films many of us have never heard of from the land down under. Bawdy sex comedies. Twisted horror pictures. A "nature gone wild" movie I MUST see. Action films with stuntmen who miraculously didn't die. Oh, and Mad Max.

Mad Max gets its own small piece of Not Quite Hollywood, but it's far from the most important movement in Australian cinema. No one mentions The Road Warrior or Beyond Thunderdome. In fact, what's amazing is that very few Australian directors tried copying George Miller's Mad Max formula. The Italians ripped it off instead just as they did with comatose ESP horror film Patrick, one of the handful of other movies I'd heard of before.

In fact, for a documentary loaded with movies, I'd only heard of (or seen) maybe seven: Mad Max, Patrick, Dead End Drive-In, Stunt Rock, Stone, Road Games, and The Cars That Ate Paris. If you count their discussion of Picnic at Hanging Rock, My Brilliant Career, and Walkabout, then it goes up to ten.

If Not Quite Hollywood were boiled down merely to the stories of producer John D. Lamond, director Brian Trenchard-Smith, and stuntman Grant Page, it would still be a fascinating documentary, but director Mark Hartley gives the full scope of Australian genre films, or Ozploitation. Quentin Tarantino is a sort-of guide into this Dante's Inferno of bizarre cinema, popping up to tell you about this movie or that film or "how fucked up is that?!" And he's not exaggerating. I've seen some wild stuff before, but I regret spending most of my exploitation interest in New Zealand. It does contextualize Peter Jackson's early work a bit more.

What I love is that most of the people involved are totally honest about their intentions, whether it was to make a quick buck, to titillate audiences, or just to make fucked up movies. To hear Stunt Rock described as "basically a ninety-minute trailer" with "the kind of band you'd find on one day's notice" explains a lot. The stories Grant Page tells about various horrible accidents he lived from on almost all of these movies, or Brian Trenchard-Smith setting himself on fire to prove to George Lazenby is was safe in The Man from Hong Kong, it's just amazing stuff.

I can't recommend this documentary enough. I now have a long list of films to seek out, and I'll be sharing as many trailers as I can find tomorrow for your viewing excitement. Just telling you about Pacific Banana, Turkey Shoot, Frog Dreaming, Plugg, Deathcheaters, and The Return of Captain Invincible doesn't do the trick. Or Lamond's Indiana Jones ripoff, Sky Pirates, which is about the secret power of Easter Island.

Rent this. Right now. If you can find it, buy it. Not Quite Hollywood, like Z Channel, is essential viewing.

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