The history of a largely unknown film genre
Loves: Good documentaries
I like to think I'm pretty worldly when it comes to film, thanks in large part to DVD, as niche studios like Criterion, the now-departed New Yorker Films, and Anchor Bay have imported a vast variety of films from across the globe, but outside of the classics like Picnic at Hanging Rock and Walkabout, or more recent films like Wolf Creek and the severely underrated Young Einstein, the world of Australian cinema has gone mostly unexplored by your humble reviewer, and probably by a large percentage of film fans. Fortunately for us, director Mark Hartley has delivered Not Quite Hollywood, an excellent oral history of the unique flavor of B-movie that was developed down-under, offered up by the people involved and the people it's influenced, among whom there are quite a few fantastic personalities that are a lot of fun to listen to.
From the moment the movie starts, with drive-in style credit screens, you have a solid sense of the film's tone, and that's a fun, entirely non-judgemental view of Australia's less-than-staid cult film history, which is broken up into neat chapters, starting off with the sex comedies and sexploitation films that naturally garner plenty of attention. Here, you get to hear from the actors and actresses involved, and see plenty of clips of nudity, both female and male (including a double-take inducing full-frontal shot of porn star John Holmes, who was part of the tale incredibly.) There's no noticeable regret, and quite a few fond remembrances for this wave of naughty movie making.
The movie touches on the major areas of Australian film, including the legitimate movies like the aforementioned Picnic, but it's obvious the real stories are found in the more lurid and sensational genres, like the splatter-horror flicks and the wild action thrillers, which helped give the world Mad Max. There are some truly interesting and mostly unknown movies in the Aussie catalog, along with some incredible stinkers, a fact the film doesn't shy away from. The inclusion of some American stars like Dennis Hopper (who seems to need a chapter unto himself for his role in Mad Dog Morgan), Stacy Keach and Jamie Lee Curtis helps make this foreign world a bit more accessible as well.
While the participation of those who actually participated in making these films is invaluable, resulting in incredible on-set stories about corners being cut and actors dying, and a whole segment on the awful experiences on the set of The Man from Hong Kong, some unbiased perspective was needed, and who better to provide insight into the world of cult cinema than Mr, Video Store himself, Quentin Tarantino. Putting on his fanboy hat and pulling it down tight, Tarantino appears frequently throughout the documentary to talk about the movies he enjoys most from Australia, often praising how they could return to theaters today and still work. His enthusiasm for these movies makes it easy to fall under his sway in regards to these films. A bit less neutral, due to them being Australian filmmakers themselves, James Wan and Leigh Wannell (Saw), Greg McLean (Wolf Creek) and Jamie Blanks (Urban Legend) all talk about the influence of their nation's film past on their work, showing the reach of this somewhat unknown world.
The best part of this movie is the way, for most viewers, it will act as a guide to a whole new world of movies to hunt down and consume, which, if you're a film fan, is like manna from heaven. (My own personal wishlist grew by several, sadly unavailable on DVD titles) That this benefit is intertwined with a entertaining and fascinating documentary makes this a must-see for fans of cult flicks and film history aficionados.