Written by: Various
Directed by: Various
Reviewed by: Brett Gallman
65 Jaw-Dropping Vintage Coming Attractions of Sex, Action, & Horror from Down Under!
Has any countryís film industry done more to damage its homelandís reputation than Australiaís? Between its cinematic rural maniacs and most of Peter Weirís early filmography, Iíve pretty much made it a priority to avoid the Outback at all costs. The only time Australia has seemed appealing on film, it was also doubling as a post-apocalyptic wasteland full of war machines, badasses, and Mel Gibson. Of course, none of this precludes its films from being fucking awesome, especially when theyíre of the Ozploitation variety, a label thatís not so much a subgenre as it is a convenient umbrella housing the Outbackís seedier underbelly. With Ozploitation Trailer Explosion, the folks at Intervision have collected all of this nightmare fuel alongside some other, more appealing material that dispels the notion that the country is nothing but psychos, kangaroos, and psychotic kangaroos (itís mostly that, though, I think).
Unlike other trailer compilations, Ozploitation Explosion doesnít bother with a frame or any pretense of unity. Instead, itís exactly what it sounds like: an eruption of Ozploitation trailers that have been scooped up and organized into three categories: horror/thrillers, sexploitation/ocker comedies, and cars/action, and itís a collection that nicely captures the breadth and width of about fifteen yearsí worth of balls-out filmmaking that introduced the world to Australiaís wacky B-movie industry. Actually, ďwackyĒ is an immense understatement. Letís go with deranged, fucked-up, bawdy, raunchy, badass, and HOLY SHIT, THATíS A SCARY KANGAROO. Iím sure every countryís exploitation scene is similarly eclectic and awesome, but itís incredible to see Australiaís condensed into 165 minutes of pure lunacy like this.
For obvious reasons, weíll start with the horror/thriller genre, where youíll find the predictable heavy-hitters (The Last Wave, Patrick, Dead Kids, Thirst, Road Games) scattered among lesser-known offerings, like the recently rediscovered Wake in Fright (itís the one thatíll give you nightmares about kangaroos). The reel proceeds mostly chronologically, so youíre able to see Australia work through the various genres that were slipping in and out of popularity at the time. Itís a journey that takes you from the rural backwoods (Wake in Fright, Night of Fear) to Ozís own spin on the old, dark house (Inn of the Damned, and The Night Prowler) before careening into the slasher genre (Snapshot, Nightmares). Along the way are some unique pit-stops: Harlequin is a film Iíve had sitting around for years that I need to make time for, while Next of Kin and Cassandra are a pair of 80s movies begging for rediscovery (or it could be that theyíre obscure for a reason and their trailer-cutters did a fantastic jobóeither way, Iíd like to find out). Fans with any sort of familiarity with Ozploitation are likely to only consider a few of these surprises, but some of these trailers at least put a face to the name, so to speak, as some of these films are still without a DVD release in Region 1.
Iím personally not as well-versed in Aussie sex comedies, so the collection here is a revelation. Remember all that stuff I said about Australia being a horrifying place to be avoided? Ignore all of it. If these trailers are any indication, it was a hell of a place to live, at least during the 70s. Most of the sexploitation Iíve encountered is pretty free-wheeling, but these Oz offerings seem especially ribald and contemptuous of puritanical attitudes towards sex. The countryís particular brand is the ďOcker comedy,Ē which follow the exploits of various horndogs (Stork, Alvin Purple, Barry McKenzie), with female counterpart Felicity later joining the debauchery. All of these seem to be outrageous romps, and I imagine each features little plot and plenty of convenient excuses to get folks naked (the trailer for Felicity even highlights her desire to do it anywhere at any time!).
On the other hand, films like Fantasm, Fantasm Comes Again, Libido, and The ABC of Love & Sex Australia Style dispense with plot altogether and take the form of pseudo-documentaries that explore love, sex, and even venereal diseases, which is just a fancy way of dressing up their softcore and hardcore pornos. Theyíre not fooling anybody. Most of the trailers here had me desperately trying to track down these movies; sure, thereís some disconcerting moments that date them as pure 70s (at least two featured women begging to be raped), but theyíre so outrageous, even to someone like myself who has dabbled in bizarre sex comedies before. Truthfully, 70s sexploitation hasnít always been my favorite scene because itís typically so low-rent, but Iím willing to blame it on simply encountering a bad batch. Maybe I just need to go Down Under.
The final category, cars and action, doesnít have much of a through-line beyond asking audiences to bask in a ridiculous amount of carnage and fire. Naturally, the section kicks off with the countryís most bizarre vehicular film, The Cars that Ate Paris before moving on to an eclectic set that features everything from crime movies (Money Movers, Stone) to a cool-looking World War II flick (Combat Force Z). Highlights in between include The FJ Holden (think American Graffiti Down Under), BMX Bandits, Mad Dog Morgan (a moody, violent western starring Dennis Hopper), and Dead End Drive-In, one of a few dystopian films in the collection (and also one of the weirdest movies Iíve ever seen). Another, Turkey Shoot, imagines that hunting humans would have become legal in 1995, while another similarly-themed film (Fair Game) simply supposes that sweaty savages enjoy hunting down random girls in the Outback.
Thereís a lot of flotsam on the backend of this section, where Australiaís attempt to keep up with Hollywood was obvious in stuff like Sky Pirates (a self-admitted riff on Raiders of the Lost Ark and Romancing the Stone) and The Time Guardian, a wild looking sci-fi adventure involving an attempt to travel back in time to save humanity. And then thereís The Man from Hong Kong, a kung-fu flick from Ozploitation MVP Brian Trenchard-Smith whose trailer sold me on a hand-to-hand fight where one of the combatants is one fire. It might be my new favorite movie.
But itís hard to know for sure because Iíll have to track it down. That segues to my only real complaint about this compilation, which itís not even responsible for: some of these films look great but are still difficult to see, at least if you havenít invested in a region-free player (a purchase thatís been on my ďto doĒ list for a decade). Even after gorging on this collection for nearly three hours, it still had me furiously researching the availability of most of its titles as they paraded by. Thatís a testament to both the content and the selection, so Ozploitation Trailer Explosion does its job in whetting oneís appetite for the material. Given that itís simply a bunch of trailers, it canít do much more than that, but it makes for a good companion piece to Mark Hartleyís Not Quite Hollywood, an Ozploitation documentary from 2008 that features interviews from the eraís major players that bring context to the madness presented here. Trailer Explosion is more of an unfiltered crazy quilt whose lack of context is often the source of the intrigue, as the previews highlight the exploitation genre's tendency to dare its audience to witness the wildest, craziest stuff imaginable. Hopefully, Intervision and sister company Severin will be able to also deliver some of these titles. I've gotta see how it ends for that poor, fiery bastard in Man From Hong Kong. Buy it!
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