Not Quite Hollywood
Here in the United States we suffer from hubris especially in our perspective in our national place in the world. It is true that this county has been responsible for many advances and innovations but we are not the only part of the world that is capable of also furthering the arts and sciences. We are also not alone when it comes to pandering to the lowest common denominator in the realm of entertainment. For the illustrious world of cinema this would include the preeminence of our nation with regard to what has come to be known as grind house flicks. This particular format of movies dealt with one thing; exploitation. Films of this sort didn’t concern themselves with such trivia elements as plot, character development or social significance. Instead these grind house flicks sought to cram as much nudity, violence and other puerile topics into a movie as possible. As a teenager I used to take the subway into Manhattan every Saturday, usually with some friends and we would hit the old broken down grind house theaters. For a couple of bucks you typically got to see two movies, albeit none were ever anything near being called a successful or particularly good film. There were a lot of movies that typically ended up in those theaters; black exploitation, sex- ploitation and from Hong Kong so called ‘chop-saki’ films. We here in the States were not the only place producing these flicks. Starting in the early seventies change in the Australian motion picture codes changed permitting them to join the world of exploitation cinema. Fortunately for all of us film buffs that count grind house movies as a guilty pleasure there is a documentary that examines the origins, growth proliferation of Australian grind house movies dubbed here as ‘Oz ploitation’ ; ‘Not Quite Hollywood’. Up front it should be noted that the film maker choose to demonstrate the points made in this film by the ample use of examples so there are plenty of scenes that include sex and violence.
This documentary was written and directed by Mark Hartley who has been honing his skills both areas for a number of years now. Most of his experiences has been in that growing niche market; the ‘making of ‘featurette’. At first glance his may not seem like much of training for a young documentarian but there has to be considerable validity to this career path since Mr. Hartley’s film under consideration here is amazingly well crafted, smartly directed, informative and most importantly extremely entertaining. One of the best things about the presentation of the material here is how Hartley was able to capture the freewheeling disregard for conventional film making that was one of the hall marks of the ‘B’ flick that came out of Australia during that decade. Because of a recent experiment by Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriquez which brought media attention on the long forgotten grind house flick much as been said in print and film about exploitation movies here perhaps those hailing from Asia but little attention had been paid to the low budget flick imported from down under.
Hartley certain did an extremely complete job covering this material with interviews conducted with some film professionals from the States, England and of course Australia. One of the first points made was how these quick and dirty movies were often carried over during a period of time when proper Australian cinema was exporting such worthy films as ‘Breaker Morant’. Australia had become a buzz word referring to edgy film but quickly gave the lower end of the spectrum entrance at least with the American grind houses. It is pointed out that most of these lower end movies were not commonly touted as originating in Australia but at the first line of dialogue it was obvious. For this documentary Hartley seems to revel in the excess of that decade. Right from the start he provides an environment for the viewer that will propel you thirty years into the past. The graphics and music are particular to the time and segments of the film have aged to make them look like the overly worn film shown in those theaters.
While most of the films in this category are known only to die hard film buffs a few have made the transition and are known buy the collective consciousness of the audience. One of the most famous was ‘Mad Max’. This was the break out film for one of the richest actor/directors around; Mel Gibson. He might spend $00 million on one of his films now but then they didn’t even have the right permits. This gonzo method of filming comes across extremely well here with the break neck pace Hartley infuses in the film. The genus of this work is how it manages to inform the audience far more than most would expect. Hartley details the socio-political global environment that became the breeding ground for exploitative movie making. The entry into the seventies saw a multitude of changes in just about every aspect of society. Feminism was on the rise; the war in Vietnam had carried over to affect the youth in Australia and the old moral restrictions were beginning the fall to the wayside. Cinema has always offered society a reflection of itself so it should come as a surprise that these movies would echo the anti-establishment attitudes of the youth. Perhaps a slightly slow pace that would foster a greater degree of illumination on the points being made but this intended to be primarily fun to watch not a lecture hall session. Every devotee of fast and cheaply made flick will be impressed with this documentary and for those out there that used to frequent the grind house circuit this will bring back a ton of memories.