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Not Quite Hollywood

Not Quite Hollywood
2008 / Color / 1:78 anamorphic widescreen / 103 min. / Street Date October 6, 2009 / 26.98
Cinematography Karl Von Moller
Film Editors Jamie Blanks, Sara Edwards, Mark Hartley
Original Music Stephen Cummings, Billy Miller
Produced by Michael Lynch, Craig Griffin
Written and Directed by Mark Hartley

Reviewed by Glenn Erickson

Not Quite Hollywood is an authoritative documentary on an entire cultural wave of Australian filmmaking that flourished in the 1970s and early 1980s, illustrated with eye-opening clips from dozens of the wildest feature films never released in America. Fans of the tacky and the gross will be dazzled by the energy and exuberance of the grindhouse fare produced by Australian exploitation filmmakers.

Written and directed by Mark Hartley, Not Quite Hollywood charts the proliferation of "anything goes" Aussie filmmaking beginning around 1970, presumably with the lifting of strict censorship. Before then, films publicly exhibited in Australia were routinely censored of even mild curse words, which left many late- 60s imports in tatters. The narrator explains that before this time there was no real Australian film industry. Access to creative funding led to an explosion of sex romps with more nudity than their American and English counterparts, exceedingly violent horror films, gross-out comedies that make John Waters look tame, and hair raising action pictures with extremely dangerous stunts.

The many filmmakers interviewed clearly love the attention and have a fine time communicating their wild experiences, whether getting their actors to go naked or encouraging their action players to think that anybody can be a stuntman. Getting set on fire? No problem! They assert that the Australian sense of humor and the absurd naturally leads to extremes in comedy and action; by the evidence on view, we'd have to agree. Viewers accustomed to tame Hollywood product should prepare for a new horizon of cinematic excitement, a lot of it in jaw-dropping bad taste.

Not Quite Hollywood will make you think that Australia is the land of sick humor, giant mammary glands and spectacular auto crashes. The wildly sexist bedroom farces are far more explicit than ours while crude comedies mine every possible scatalogical disaster and squeamish bodily function ... an entire montage is devoted to "chunder" scenes. We're told that the Australian Outback is a vast playground for wilder-than-wild male behavior, and these "Ozsploitation" action films go crazy with car crashes and other forms of jeopardy. As if competing to prove how gutsy they are, stuntmen are seemingly willing to do anything dangerous if it gets on film. There's nothing PC about any of this, by any stretch of the imagination. One producer says that his actors always gave bone-crushing handshakes, as if overcompensating for the notion that only "poofters" would be interested in acting.

Director Hartley organizes the show into chapters based on subject matter. The film clips are edited at a rapid pace and tied together with clever animation that apes the tacky artwork of original ads. Hartley apparently solicited the cooperation of every Australian director and star that appeared in these pictures, and nobody seems the slightest bit regretful about their youthful cinematic indiscretions.

The documentary fills in a yawning gap in our international cinema education. Classy art films by the likes of Peter Weir were not at all representative of Australian filmmaking; for every Picnic at Hanging Rock there were dozens of cheeky comedies and gritty motorcycle pictures. Offshore actors Jamie Lee Curtis, Dennis Hopper and Susannah York go on camera to remark at the "wild west" extremes of filming. By the time the docu touches on films we've heard of, like Mad Max, we're forced to conclude that what we thought we knew about Aussie filmmaking was just the tip of the iceberg.

Magnolia's DVD of Not Quite Hollywood benefits from an excellent post job by the director and his editors; they've found and transferred pristine copies of almost all the films pictured (there must be fifty or sixty) giving us terrific film clips in their proper aspect ratio. The color is bright and the sound is clear. The only subtitles are in Spanish, so get ready to listen carefully to those Australian accents.

The personable Mark Hartley moderates a commentary with too many directors to name. Although one or two exhibit inflated showbiz egos the majority come off as just plain guys who shoot crazy films and then like to get together for a beer, or ten. A very long section of deleted scenes reveals some clips in an editorial state, making us glad that Hartley worked to obtain prime source material. Quentin Tarantino, a major booster of the project, is present in an extra interview and also in a "funding pitch" tape with director John D. Lamond. An image gallery has been included, along with the film's trailer. 1

On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor, Not Quite Hollywood rates:
Movie: Excellent
Video: Excellent
Sound: Excellent
Supplements: Commentary by Mark Hartley with the "Ozsploitation Auteurs"; deleted and extended scenes, Interviews and funding pitches by Quentin Tarantino, Brian Trenchard-Smith, Richard Franklin, John D. Lamond; Image gallery, Trailer
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: October 15, 2009


1. A note from Stephen Cooke, 10.20.09:

Hi Glenn, Fun piece on Not Quite Hollywood, can't wait to get the official DVD (I've had a festival screener for a while). You might want to let readers know there are two six-disc collections of Ozsploitation fare available from Aussie DVD retailers with titles like Turkey Shoot, The True Story of Eskimo Nell, Long Weekend, Fantasm, Harlequin and many others featured in the documentary. The disc sets were actually released around the time of the documentary, and features artwork that matches that of Not Quite Hollywood. Considering how many films you get in each set, the price isn't prohibitive (about $50 each, I think).

And as the partner of a vivacious Aussie gal, I have to tell you that an Oz filmmaker wouldn't say "no problem", the universal phrase down there is "no worries!" -- Stephen C.

DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2009 Glenn Erickson

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