Here is Quentin Tarantino to introduce us to the wild world of Ozploitation, that is the Australian exploitation movies in the action, horror, thriller and sex genres that proliferated throughout the nineteen-seventies and -eighties, and were seen by him in American drive-ins and grindhouses at the time. This documentary takes in as many of these films as it can for an hour and forty minutes, interviewing the casts, the crews, the critics and the fans who were involved, and makes the bold claim that these works better represent the Aussie personality than any of the highbrow entries into that country's New Wave...
Documentaries about film have been largely relegated to the extras on DVDs and Blu-rays nowadays, so how refreshing it was to see one of them receive a cinema release. What prevents Not Quite Hollywood from being a bloated series of interviews that would be better suited to being watched when you have nothing better to do once the film you've seen is over is that it captures something - quite a lot, actually - of a time and place that could apply to many nations and their movie industries outside the United States. This was a time when censorship in some of those areas was growing more permissive, and Australia was no exception.
Director and writer Mark Hartley is careful to set up an introduction to the mayhem to follow with a look at what the cultural climate there was like before all cinematic hell broke loose, and in many ways it was similar to what was going on in the United Kingdom, another country labouring under strict laws as to what you could and couldn't show onscreen. Like there, Australia enjoyed greater freedoms in showing nudity, sex and violence during the seventies, but unlike Britain, Oz underwent a fresh leap in creativity that not only saw its highbrow movies being embraced around the world, but the lower rent productions as well.
As the film shows, not everyone back home was pleased at this, and many regarded the exploitation movies as needless attempts at cashing in on the American market - Jamie Lee Curtis shows up to admit she was given a hard time while making Road Games when it was felt she was taking the job an Australian actress could have handled. But what we have here is a complete endorsement of this work, telling us that producers like Antony I. Ginane and directors like Brian Trenchard Smith were absolutely justified in aiming for commerce, as they often hit more entertainment heights than their better thought of rivals.
The editing is fast and furious, and a sequence where the cost of dangerous stunts is taken into account (there were a few deaths) apart, the tone is lighthearted and generating a good few laughs when you hear the outrageous anecdotes. These include the antics of Dennis Hopper when he made Mad Dog Morgan, the apparent invincibility of those stuntmen lucky enough not to die (though injuries were common), and the horrified reaction of the establishment towards such tawdry crowdpleasers. The interviewees are well chosen even if too many barely get a sentence out before we are on to the next one, but the ones who count do get to say enough to make their participation worth it, and it's often nice to put faces to names. Tarantino especially reminds us why movie buffs warmed to him with his enthusiasm for films that had been neglected by who he describes as "snobs", and it's difficult not to cheer Not Quite Hollywood along when it flings up another crazy clip. There's a happy ending, too, as Ozploitation is seen to be making a comeback. Music by Stephen Cummings and Billy Miller.