“It’s a strange industry, the film industry,” Australian producer Philip Adams says at the end of Mark Hartley’s documentary Not Quite Hollywood. “Masterpieces rotting in drawers; mediocrities winning Oscars.” Most movie buffs would agree. But the masterpieces he’s speaking of aren’t necessarily films such as There Will Be Blood—think more along the lines of Howling III: The Marsupials. Oh yes, there still will be blood. Buckets of it, along with bare breasts, lingering full-frontals, graphic sex, and even more graphic violence. Can’t academy members recognize a classic when it explodes in their collective face?
Not Quite Hollywood takes a wildly entertaining look at the era of “Ozploitation,” a period of the 1970s and early ’80s during which filmmakers got their X-rated rocks off Down Under. Hartley interviews dozens of directors, producers, actors, and stuntmen who were involved with these low-budget, high-octane grindhouse flicks. Most are now retirement age but recount their experiences as if they happened three days instead of three decades ago. Better, no one claims to regret a thing.
Unless you’re a devotee of the genre, it’s unlikely you’ll recognize the subjects, though there are a few Hollywood stars who were recruited for these films, including Jamie Lee Curtis, Dennis Hopper, and one-time (literally) James Bond, George Lazenby. Curtis and Lazenby’s toe-dips in the outback industry weren’t all fun: Curtis remembers that she was sometimes shunned because Australians didn’t appreciate an American “stealing” a role from a native actress. And Lazenby was one of the many, many victims of all filmmakers’ complete disregard for safety precautions during shoots, getting burned when the gel protecting him from his ablaze blazer wore off too quickly. (Most of the commentators who talked about such mishaps giddily noted the vérité reactions that such accidents elicited from actors.)
Hopper’s story is both sad and funny: Apparently drunk and Method throughout the shoot of 1976’s Mad Dog Morgan, he also took dangerous risks while ignoring direction, at one point refusing to slip back into the boots the character was wearing for continuity. (“Fuck boots, man! I’m Mad Dog!”) And unsurprisingly, the most frequent, enthusiastic, and recognizable interview subject here is Quentin Tarantino, who’s credited simply as a “fan.” He talks about some of his favorite Ozploitation films, including Patrick, which he admits to quoting visually in Kill Bill. The director also speaks lovingly—or manically—about the genre’s frequently crazy car chases, which he says were filmed in ways “that makes you want to jerk off.” Between the clips and his drool, Death Proof suddenly makes sense.
Hartley and co-editors Jamie Blanks and Sara Edwards assembled Not Quite Hollywood in fast-paced, brightly colored gonzo fashion to match the films to which the doc pays homage. The interviews themselves may be calm and conventional, but in between the doc feels like a feature-length montage of filth. No other current releases—or past ones, for that matter—offer up so many body parts (or fluids), cheesy effects, or death scenes. You’ll gasp and you’ll laugh. And as soon as the film’s finished, your next move will probably be adding some Ozploitation to your Netflix queue.