Film Review:  Not Quite Hollywood:    The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation!

Engaging, fast-paced documentary about the glory days of Australian exploitation movies that will delight existing fans of scurrilous films from Down Ynder and recruit new one from the ranks of moviegoers who aren't offended by extensive nudity, violence

Mark Hartley's rip-snorting documentary Not Quite Hollywood celebrates the golden age of "Ozploitation"—Australian exploitation filmmaking of the 1970s and ’80s—with a barrage of clips from sex comedies, horror pictures, thrillers and biker movies, interspersed with interviews with directors, producers, actors, critics and, of course, Quentin Tarantino. In the late 1960s, Australia had no mainstream film industry of which to speak, but the combination of the political and social upheavals of the era, a newly established government ministry and the relaxation of strict censorship laws inspired a generation of filmmakers whose work—films like Breaker Morant, My Brilliant Career, Picnic at Hanging Rock and The Getting of Wisdom—dazzled international audiences.

Ozploitation was the mainstream's rude, vulgar, boisterous cousin, the lout who tells dirty jokes in front of maiden aunties, moons nuns, passes wind at the dinner table and drinks until he pukes on the vicar. Ozploitation pictures reveled in full-frontal nudity, gore-soaked violence and insanely over-the-top stunts, executed with "safety is for poofters" disregard for life and limb. If you cut out the interviews, Not Quite Hollywood would be a highly entertaining barrage of épater le bourgeous outrages, including projectile vomiting, sociopathic bullies, kangaroos, bike gangs, bizarre monsters (cue the giant killer pig of Russell Mulcahy's 1984 Razorback), naked girls and vehicular mayhem.

But the interviews are a blast. Almost without exception, the middle-aged participants are frank, funny, unpretentious and unrepentant about their anything-goes pasts. Certain directors are conspicuous by their absence—notably Picnic at Hanging Rock's Peter Weir and Gillian Armstrong, one of the few female directors of the era—but other thoroughly respectable marquee names show up and tell all, including Fred Schepisi (The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith), Bruce Beresford (The Getting of Wisdom), Richard Franklin (Roadgames), George Miller (Mad Max) and Simon Wincer (Phar Lap). Low-budget director Philippe Mora recalls turning down a young Nicole Kidman for the lead in 1987's Howling III: The Marsupials. Actresses Lynette Curran, Briony Behets, Deborah Gray, Glory Annen, Carla Hoogeveen and Sigrid Thornton have a good giggle about their careers. Yes, they say, they all spent an awful lot of time stripping off their gear, but that's how things were back then, everybody had fun—if half the tales of on-set carousing are true, it's wonder anyone got film into the cameras or laid cable without electrocuting themselves—and it's rather nice to have a record of what they looked like when they were young (for the record, they all still look terrific, and to all appearances without the help of plastic surgery). Saw creators James Wan and Leigh Wannell confide that without Mad Max, there would be no jigsaw franchise: The first movie's signature sequence was inspired by a scene in which Mel Gibson's Max chains a cycle savage to an about-to-explode RV, hands him a saw and tells him he can try to cut the chain and die, or cut off his foot and live.

But the standout is writer-director-actor Barry Humphries, Australia's answer to John Waters. He made a career out of lampooning Outback trailer trash, prudish middle-class snobs, racists and self-deluded horndogs and, with the considerably less famous Tim Burstall, led the cinematic assault on propriety, politeness and common decency. Humphries is consistantly witty, perceptive and irreverent, whether divulging his secret formula for making chunder (puke) or opining puckishly that had there been more chunder in Picnic at Hanging Rock, "it would have been an even greater film."

The exception is critic and filmmaker Bob Ellis, who's both utterly humorless and singularly mean-spirited. Of Antony I. Ginnane, a producer often compared to Roger Corman, he declares that both the man and his movies "should be burned to the ground and the ashes sown with salt." Of Burstall, who died in 2004, he sneers, "He was scum, really…a crablouse on the Australian film industry," though he's forced to concede that without the success of Burstall's saucy, cheerfully juvenile sex comedies, that industry might have died aborning. His sourness just underscores the documentary's pervasive atmosphere of rollicking fun, which makes the era's fast, cheap, out-of-control filmmaking seem like a nonstop party.