“If you like outrageous cinema, you live and breathe to wait for those weird moments that happen every once in a while in genre cinema, where it’s like, you can’t believe you’re seeing what you’re seeing.”
– Quentin Tarantino in Not Quite Hollywood
The early 1970s to the late 1980s was a unique moment in Australian cinema history; a time when censorship was reigned in and home-grown production flourished, resulting in a flurry of exploitation films – sex comedies, horror movies and action thrillers – that pushed buttons and boundaries, trampled over taste and decency, but also offered artistry within their escapism, giving audiences sights and sounds unlike anything they had seen in Australia before. While the more critically esteemed New Wave cinema of Walkabout (Nicolas Roeg, 1971), Picnic at Hanging Rock (Peter Weir, 1975) and My Brilliant Career (Gillian Armstrong, 1979) presented a refined image of Australia, early genre films like Stork (Tim Burstall, 1971), The Adventures of Barry McKenzie (Bruce Beresford, 1972) and The True Story of Eskimo Nell (Richard Franklin, 1975) were seen as portraying a more crude side of Australian society.
All this and more is chronicled in Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation!, a wide-ranging documentary on Australian exploitation cinema, also known as “Ozploitation”, which is full of anecdotes and observations from associated filmmakers and commentators. Beginning with a grainy, scratched drive-in movie snack bar trailer, Mark Hartley’s film immediately evokes the grindhouse cinema aesthetic and experience so beloved of Quentin Tarantino. This is fitting as the latter is an “Ozploitation” fan and a major contributor to this documentary, bestowing praise on many of these genre films including The Man From Hong Kong (Brian Trenchard-Smith and Yu Wang, 1975), Long Weekend (Colin Eggleston, 1978) and Next of Kin (Tony Williams, 1981). Tarantino’s unbridled enthusiasm, coupled with an encyclopaedic knowledge of cinema, makes him an ideal commentator on the unique appeal of exploitation films.
A key moment in Not Quite Hollywood is a segment with Tarantino devoted to Fair Game (Mario Andreacchio, 1986), a thriller featuring Cassandra Delaney as a woman in the Australian outback who is terrorised by a group of men driving a menacing truck, eventually fighting back against her tormenters. The segment presents a typically animated and verbose Tarantino in front of the camera, interspersed with various clips from Andreacchio’s film. Tarantino calls Fair Game “a female Straw Dogs”, introduces the idea of those special moments of genre cinema where “you can’t believe you’re seeing what you’re seeing”, then cites the following sequence as an example of this concept: “after fucking the girl over like crazy, they strip her nude and they tie her to the front of their monster truck. And then they just proceed to drive down the road at 100 miles an hour with her tied naked to the front of the truck, all right, so she’s a human hood ornament.”
This “hood ornament” sequence from Fair Game will no doubt strike those watching it as appalling and astonishing, a reaction apparently shared by Tarantino. After describing it, he incredulously asks,
Who in the fuck thought of that? What brain thought of it, who let them do it and then, when they did it, what the fuck was going through their minds as they’re shooting this sequence? To me, that’s the reason you watch exploitation cinema, is to have a moment like: “Is this actually happening? Am I actually seeing this? Am I having an acid flashback or is this going on?” It’s a classic moment in genre cinema, hands down.
It is a sequence that clearly stood out for others, too: for instance, Andrew L. Urban’s review calls it “Iconic stuff” (1). It also seems to have influenced Tarantino’s Grindhouse contribution Death Proof (2007), in the scene where stuntwoman Zoë Bell hangs on the hood of a speeding car while menaced by Kurt Russell’s sadistic Stuntman Mike. This segment with Tarantino illustrates what he seeks from exploitation films as a fan and how it informs his work as a filmmaker.
This key moment in Not Quite Hollywood goes beyond the iconography and influence of the “hood ornament” sequence as Tarantino’s film fan thesis also suggests the essential appeal of exploitation cinema in general. For him, it seems that genre movies have the potential to show the type of extreme moments that other, tamer films cannot offer, making people amazed by what they are seeing, but also question what it is they are watching and how exactly it came into being. Unlike much of Hartley’s film, this segment with Tarantino is not presenting a historical note or anecdotal tale from an “Ozploitation” filmmaker, but is an excited critical analysis from a committed fan. When Variety reviewed Not Quite Hollywood they concluded that the film was “Energetic almost to the brink of excess” (2), which could also serve as an apt description of the “Ozploitation” films it chronicles, the era in which those films were produced, as well as this memorable segment with Tarantino, which shows his uninhibited passion for – and witty observations of – those unforgettable moments of exploitation cinema.
- Andrew L. Urban, “Fair Game: DVD”, Urban Cinefile 25 September 2008: http://www.urbancinefile.com.au/home/view.asp?a=14841&s=DVD.
- Dennis Harvey, “Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation”, Variety 20 September 2008: http://variety.com/2008/film/reviews/not-quite-hollywood-the-wild-untold-story-of-ozploitation-1200470402/.