Documentary about the cult Ozploitation films of the ’70s/’80s
A popular doc from last year’s Toronto Film Festival, Mark Hartley’s Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild Untold Story of OZPLOITATION! is a movie that can’t be missed by fans of horror, genre and cult films, as it peels back the layers on an era in Australian cinema history where low budget horror, action flicks and raunchy sex comedies permeated Australian theaters. The likes of George Miller (Mad Max) and Russell Mulcahy (Razorback, Resident Evil: Extinction) came out of that era of filmmaking, making films that influenced the likes of James Wan and Leigh Whannell, creators of the “Saw” franchise, and fellow Aussie filmmakers like Greg McLean (Wolf Creek) and the Spierig Brothers (Undead and the upcoming Daybreakers).
On the horror front, the film looks behind-the-scenes of influential films like Richard Franklin’s 1978 thriller Patrick and the1981 follow-up Roadgames starring Jamie Lee Curtis, as well as Colin Eggleston’s Long Weekend, where nature goes nuts and attacks a squabbling couple. The entire film is narrated with a running commentary from America’s own genre enthusiast, Quentin Tarantino, who was greatly influenced by Ozploitation films while making Kill Bill and Death Proof.
ShockTillYouDrop.com dropped an Email line to Hartley to find out more about how this entertaining doc came together.
ShockTillYouDrop.com: I understand this film originated from you putting together docs for DVD extras of some of these films. At what point did you decide it was time to make a larger doc that covered a wider range of these movies?
Mark Hartley: The idea for this documentary was born about 10 years ago when I was directing a large number of music videos. I had discovered these Aussie genre films on TV when I was a kid and loved them, so later when I got the opportunity I hired old school crews who had worked on my favorite Ozploitation films. At lunch, they would recount endless funny, outrageous stories, so I decided someone should tell the tale. The DVD work came later. I thought if I was going to spend a lot of time researching this story, I should try to get paid for it, so I worked with an Australian DVD distribution company releasing a large number of the films that were featured in “Not Quite Hollywood”.
Shock: How large is your own personal collection and how did you go about finding footage from harder-to-find films? Was it archived or did the filmmakers have copies? Did you try to do a lot of the interviews first before deciding which footage or movies to focus on?
Hartley: When I started researching the documentary very few of the films were available on DVD. I had collected a large number of ex-rental VHS copies, and spent weekends raiding country video stores to find a few elusive titles. Some titles like “Night of Fear” and “Australia After Dark” hadn’t been available in any format since their theatrical release.
We cut the film using DVD and VHS footage of the films, then after we knew which material we were using went back to the original film negatives and graded in HD the footage we needed. We were lucky that a majority of the film material was held at the National Film and Sound Archive in Canberra. Other material was found in producer’s garages and various labs around the world.
To get funding in Australia I had to write a script for the documentary which was basically a detailed blueprint for the content, so when conducting the interviews I knew which movies we were focusing on â although not all of them ultimately ended up in the final cut.
Shock: How hard was it tracking down some of these filmmakers and actors? Who was the hardest? Any interesting stories about finding anyone?
Hartley: The Australian film industry is pretty small, so it wasn’t that difficult to track down the interviewees. I had also been in touch with a large number of key cast and crew through the DVD work. Having said that there were a few people who had dropped off the radar â like the actor who had played the title role in “PATRICK”. Australian newspapers ran stories about the search and eventually the actor, Robert Thompson, emailed us. He was in the Middle East teaching English to school kids. Unfortunately, that was a little out of the way and we didn’t get to interview him.
Shock: Are a lot of the filmmakers showcased in the film still working today? Are they generally embarrassed about their involvement in these movies or do they look back fondly at those days? What were the reactions like when you told them you wanted to make a film about this period in Australian film history?
Hartley: When we were trying to raise the finance a question that was continually asked was, “Who is going to want to talk to you about these films?” Amazingly, we discovered the answer was, “Practically everyone who was involved in their production”. We shot close to 100 interviews – including Oscar winners who had cut their teeth on this product (George Miller, John Seale, Russell Boyd), Hollywood cast who’d journeyed down under to appear in them (including Jamie Lee Curtis, Stacy Keach, Dennis Hopper, Susannah York) and many of the local cast and crews. Refreshingly, there was rarely any sense of embarrassment about being involved in Ozploitation, people were very fond of the films and that unique time in Australian cinema.
Most Ozploitation filmmakers have kept on working. For example, Brian Trenchard-Smith (“Man From Hong Kong”) is about to start feature film #36 in Tasmania reuniting with “Turkey Shoot” producer Antony I. Ginnane.
Shock: How much time did you generally spend with them, especially Quentin Tarantino who one imagines could spend hours talking about the genre films from Australia? Did he talk at all about how some of them, like “Fair Game”, directly influenced his own work?
Hartley: Tarantino was the first person we shot â even before we had any finance â and his interview was used to pitch the project. We spent 3 hours talking with him. 30 mins of that time was Quentin and Trenchard-Smith chatting to each other about their careers. This interview was shot before Quentin made “Death Proof”, so he hadn’t yet paid homage to “Fair Game”, but he spoke about “Kill Bill” referencing “Patrick.” The other interviews ranged from one hour to four hours depending on how involved they were with the Ozploitation movement.
Shock: One of the things that stands out is the inclusion of “Mad Max” mainly because it did eventually get turned into a Hollywood studio franchise. Why do you think other Australian filmmakers weren’t able to break out like George Miller was able to do?
Hartley: I assume that most Americans are more familiar with “The Road Warrior” than the original “Mad Max”. The original film was very much a gonzo renegade production, shot on weekends with very little money and no permits. The original didn’t make much money in the US (where it was released dubbed!) â but it was phenomenally huge in Japan and that’s why Warner Bros. bankrolled the sequels. Other Ozploitation films did break out outside of Australia though not in America â “The Man From Hong Kong” was the number one box office champ of Pakistan (!) and “Patrick” was so popular in Italy it spawned an unauthorized spaghetti sequel.
Shock: What were some of the significant things you had to cut out of the movie that may appear on a future DVD?
Hartley: The Australian DVD contains 70 minutes of deleted/extended scenes and includes segments on “Frog Dreaming”, “Plugg”, “The True Story of Eskimo Nell, “Alison’s Birthday”, “Deathcheaters” “Sky Pirates”, “Scobie Malone” and “Petersen” which unfortunately had to be cut from the film. Hopefully these will be included on the US DVD.
Shock: Some of the films played with negative Australian stereotypes which were embraced at the time. What is the general feeling about those movies these days? Do you feel they’re bound for a resurrection of sorts or do they just have a cult audience who enjoy the nostalgia factor?
Hartley: I think that (at least in Australia) this documentary has prompted a reappraisal of these films with many screenings accompanied by Ozploitation retrospectives. Some of the titles (like “Roadgames”, “Long Weekend” and “The Man From Hong Kong”) are finally being appreciated for what they are â incredibly well crafted entertainment. Jamie Blanks (who served as co-editor on NQH) has recently remade “Long Weekend” and films such as “Stunt Rock”, “Stone” and “Felicity” have debuted on US DVD.
Shock: Besides James Wan, Leigh Whannell and Greg McLean–are you seeing the influence of these movies on any other Ozzie filmmakers? Who are some that might be worth looking out for and why?
Hartley: I’m looking forward to the Spierig Brothers new vampire film “Daybreakers” and word has it that Dr George Miller is about to finally start work on the latest Mad Max film, “Fury Road,” shooting 3D! That should be a helluva ride and hopefully reclaim Australia’s position as the best stunt and car chase creators.
Young Aussie kids are seeing “Not Quite Hollywood” and saying “we can’t believe Australia ever made films like that!”, so hopefully the documentary will inspire the next generation of local filmmakers just like the Ozploitation films inspired me.
Shock: Being that most Americans probably will not have seen many or any of these movies, why do think it’s important for them to see this movie and be aware of this period in Australian film culture?
Hartley: I think the word “important” shouldn’t be used at all in relation to “Not Quite Hollywood”! This is not a “worthy” documentary and being aware of Ozploitation is not going to help anyone in their day to day life â but for 100 minutes you might find yourself laughing and gasping at an equally unique and outrageous time in cinema. The film promises non-stop money shots. I hope it doesn’t disappoint.
Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild Untold Story of Ozploitation! opens in New York and L.A. on Friday, July 31.
Source: Edward Douglas