Not Quite Hollywood

Throw another shrimp on the barbie and get ready for the best and worst of Oz-ploitation cinema

The past couple of years have seen the DVD release of some great feature-length documentaries pandering to fans of exploitation films. Going to Pieces took a look at the rise and fall of the slasher genre, while the Friday the 13th and Halloween franchises have both been treated to celebratory retrospective documentaries in the form of His Name Was Jason and Halloween: 25 Years of Terror.

But as much as I enjoyed these and the similar titles that slipped out onto store shelves both here and abroad, I don't think any have given me quite as much satisfaction and pure enjoyment as Not Quite Hollywood.

Filmmaker Mark Hartley's exhaustive documentary charts the history of Australia's exploitation cinema (or Ozploitation as it is lovingly termed) through the 1970s and early '80s. It's a history rich in appalling sexploitation flicks, dire comedies and lame slasher films with killer ice cream trucks. But this period of low-budgets and tax dodges also saw the creation of some genuine classics like Mad Max and the sublime The Long Weekend. It's all a far cry from mainstream-pleasing Aussie fair like Crocodile Dundee or the arthouse-baiting Picnic at Hanging Rock.

Hartley's film is essentially split into three chapters, each covering a different genre. Ockers, Knockers, Pubes and Tubes focuses on sex romps and bawdy comedies, Comatose Killers and Outback Thrillers revels in gory horror flicks and High Octane Disasters and Kung Fu Masters treats us to car chases and explosive action movies. Each is packed full of sensational clips that will have exploitation fans racing for the internet to start ordering DVDs. But where the film really excels is in its range of interviews and talking heads. While the presence of Ozploitation fan Quentin Tarantino all over the documentary might annoy some, there's no doubt that he has a real passion for the subject and has plenty of knowledge about the films and filmmakers to impart.

Hartley has also done an excellent job in rounding up many of the leading figures in the Ozploitation movement, including producers, directors, actors, actresses and critics to talk about the making of the films and the difficulties they faced. These no-holds barred comments deliver plenty of laughs ('It was a far worse film than anyone could have imagined' says actress Lynda Stone of the 1982 'classic' Turkey Shoot - better known as Blood Camp Thatcher here in the UK) and superb anecdotes about firing live rounds at actors on set and the dangers of dressing up a mouse like a werewolf foetus. Joining these homegrown talents are some familiar faces from the US, including Stacey Keach, Jamie Lee Curtis and Dennis Hopper, all talking about their experience of making Ozploitation films like Roadgames and Mad Dog Morgan back in the day.

It's fascinating stuff, and I really can't recommend it enough. While my DVD collection already played host to the likes of Mad Max, The Long Weekend, Razorback, Roadgames and Patrick, this excellent documentary has opened my eyes to a world of exploitation cinema a was barely even aware existed. Sure, some like Howling III: The Marsupials and Sky Pirates are just utter shit (trust me, I remember renting both of them on VHS in the late '80s), but there's still a world of exploitation gems to be unearthed. And for us newcomers, there's no better treasure map than Not Quite Hollywood.

I've nothing negative to say when it comes to the film's presentation on DVD either. The anamorphic 1.78:1 imagery looks about as good as a documentary featuring lots of talking heads will ever look. Meanwhile the film clips themselves can only look as good as the source material allows, and it's often in surprisingly good shape. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack smacks a little of overkill, as none of the films featured were ever originally mastered in 5.1, so all it really has to work with is some elements of the score in the surround speakers. At least the dialogue is clean and pinned to the centre channel. A basic stereo mix is also included.

Although a documentary like this is essentially a glorified DVD 'extra feature' in its own right, that hasn't stopped Optimum sourcing some interesting bonus features for the disc. Hidden away in the Set-Up menu is a fun feature-length commentary by filmmaker Mark Hartley and a selection of 'Ozploitation Auteurs' who provide some more anecdotes about the featured films. Moving on to the Extras menu, there's a 20min panel discussion with several Ozploitation filmmakers, a 23min interview with documentary maker Mark Hartley and 13mins of Quentin Tarantino chatting to legendary Ozploitation filmmaker Brian Trenchard-Smith.

Optimum Home Entertainment, Region 2 DVD, £18, On sale now