The lack of depth exhibited by Not Quite Hollywood may relegate the documentary to being simply a cinematic valentine, but its shallowness is nonetheless in tune with its subject: the gory, violent, sex-crazed Australian exploitation films of the ‘70s and ‘80s. A byproduct of the late-‘60s counterculture and ensuing new adults-only R rating, and arising in tandem with respectable art-house fare like Picnic at Hanging Rock, Aussie B movies were dominated by crude, nudity-obsessed farces, gruesome horror shows and thrillers, and down-and-dirty action and biker pics, all genres that were ideal exports for America’s drive-ins. Slender but contextual background on these films’ role in defining national Australian identity proves the appetizer before director Mark Hartley’s main course of copious clips from these disreputable efforts, which are fondly discussed by their principal makers, decried by fuddy duddy critics, and spliced together with a vicarious glee that screams reverence.
No surprise that Quentin Tarantino is the film’s chief champion of “Ozploitation,” and while he’s predictably prone to exaggeration, his enthusiasm for certain industry notables—including Brian Trenchard-Smith, the maestro behind The Man from Hong Kong and Dead-End Drive In—is suitably justified by the accompanying, outrageous footage. QT astutely notes that the thrill of genre flicks comes from their potential for delivering never-before-seen sights, an achievement encapsulated for him by Fair Game‘s insanely inappropriate climax involving a human female hood ornament.
Hartley traces a pretty sharp line through the cinematic movement’s two decades (and mini-resurgence, thanks to 2005’s Wolf Creek), though he provides only sketchy portraits of those actors, directors, and producers in whom he’s most interested, and his cursory address of the films’ enthusiastic misogyny comes to seem like a transparent means of keeping the mood positive and uncomplicated. Still, there’s bracing vitality in Hartley’s depiction of actioners’ hazard productions, in which few safety precautions were taken and balls-to-the-wall guerilla tactics more than once resulted in fatalities. And it’s that uninhibited dynamism, that realistic sense of the envelope being pushed past a reasonable breaking point, that’s most evocatively articulated—and lamented—by Not Quite Hollywood, a go-for-broke energy that all the elaborate CG effects and well-choreographed stunts in the world can’t hope to truly replicate.