At the same time that Australian New Wave directors like Peter Weir and Gillian Armstrong were wowing arthouse audiences worldwide, nearby drive-ins and sleaze-merchants were often pitching the likes of Razorback, Roadgames, Alvin Purple, Mad Dog Morgan, and still more of the gamiest, most lurid exploitation films ever made. Mark Hartley’s documentary Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story Of OZploitation! offers an historical overview of the Aussie film industry in the ’70s and ’80s, charting what happened after the government introduced a “for mature audiences” rating, along with piles of showbiz-stimulating grant money. Suddenly an army of opportunists emerged—some artists, some con men—to grab the money and run. (The same thing happened in Canada around the same time; that would make a good documentary too.)
Hartley talks to all the principals he can round up—along with devoted genre fan Quentin Tarantino—and cuts their reminiscences together into the fast-becoming-clichéd “flash-doc” style, with lots of short sound bites and jokey animation connecting frenetically edited archival footage. The downside? The flurry of images and anecdotes is more than little exhausting, and ultimately a little shallow. Hartley only hints at a story about national identity, having to do with the way the Australian B-movie industry often trafficked in the worst kind of self-stereotypes, while simultaneously courting American actors to “class up” their slasher flicks and shoot-’em-ups. Still, if nothing else, Not Quite Hollywood offers plenty of evidence about what made these movies special, from the bad puns and nudity to the buckets of gore. And with all their dull bits excised, a lot of these movies look like neglected pulp masterpieces, ripe for rediscovery on DVD. Think of Not Quite Hollywood as a vividly illustrated catalogue of astonishing smut.