director Terry Bourke
Can you imagine this showing up on prime time television in 1972? Apparently neither could Australian Broadcasting Commission. Shot as a pilot for telly, Night of Fear was rejected, then quickly banned before getting a brief theatrical release.
And then came obscurity.
And now, it’s considered the forefather of Ozploitation.
In Night of Fear sex is ruthlessly suggestive, using still nudes cut together to impress much more lurid than what is really shown. It’s still pretty gruesome and racy for the boob tube.
Director Terry Bourke’s inventive style plays like a student film but though much more well-produced. It includes modernist editing styles, juxtaposing images for effect. And it is effective.
On top of all that the film runs dialogue-free.
It’s 54 minute run time and the title sequence’s repetition of images from pieces of the film confirm that this was meant for broadcast.
director John D. Lamond
It can be hard to get your Nightmares straight. Such a generic title has fallen on many a movie. This Nightmares is from 1980 Australia, a slasher-cum-giallo featuring a killer with a penchant for shards of glass.
Like a more classic slasher, killer Cathy (Jenny Neumann), punishes fornicators. Her Freudian moment came early at life (and early in the film), catching her mum being sexually active and then causing the car crash that killed her. Sex and death, sex and death, sex and death.
It’s decent stuff, if also rather unremarkable. This Nightmares may continue to get mixed up with other Nightmares…for me anyways.
director Brian Trenchard-Smith
Quintessential Ozploitation from Brian Trenchard-Smith, the most likely auteur of the genre. Turkey Shoot is admittedly derivative of I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang and The Most Dangerous Game, but in a dystopian future and a lot of random nudity and dismemberment.
In other words, quintessential Ozploitation.
Also, Olivia Hussey: so gorgeous.
director Richard Franklin
Roadgames is a thriller on the road, the Australian highway system to be exact. It’s stylish, almost DaPalma-esque (minus split-screens), though more accurately it name-checks Hitchcock in various ways.
Stacy Keach stars as the chatty (mostly to himself and his pet dingo) trucker, an intellectual of sorts who has taken to the road, hauling meat during a strike. He eventually picks up Jamie Lee Curtis, a child of means dodging her family. They both wind up on the trail of a possible serial killer, also on the highway, dodging in and out.
It’s a plucky affair, a very likable film which lurches towards comedy even at times of the highest intensity. Probably the most polished movie I’ve watched in a while. I guess I’ve been slumming it a lot.
The single best scene takes place in the interior of a roadhouse, a nice 360 shot while Keach tries to dial the cops about his suspicions. As the camera slowly gazes around the room, it takes in a Playboy pinball machine, your typical Outback rednecks, and vivid murals of colonials killing aborigines.
Really good stuff.
director Rod Hardy
The first part of Thirst involves the abduction of a young woman named Kate (Chantal Contouri) by a vampire cult. Though she’s been raised as a normal person, she has aristocratic roots in vampire world, and so they try to convert her. What’s weird about it is that the cult operates a commune/farm where human “cows” are kept for their blood, zoned out people.
Kate’s not down with this biz, not by a long shot. Tries to escape. Gets brought back.
Which leads to the film’s second part, a drug-induced extended nightmare, part lolling dream, mostly surreal weirdness with interesting visual effects. In many ways, this is the film’s most interesting segment.
At some point, you kind of wonder if this is at all supernatural. Are these folks just drinking blood and liking it? Or do they actually develop powers like extended lives? Their fangs are just pop-ins. But then their eyes do glow right before they lunge in for the bite.
Not by any means your typical vampire film. In fact, given the food supply angle, farming humans, it may fit more evenly with other science fiction movies about weird societies.
Still, very interesting.
director Peter Weir
Peter Weir made many very good films over several decades, a spectrum of styles and stories from The Last Wave (1977) to Witness (1985) to The Truman Show (1998), there is a lot of range. So maybe it’s not so strange that his debut feature, the 1974 The Cars That Ate Paris, is both obscure and yet influential.
Though it had direct influence on both Paul Bartel’s Death Race 2000 (1975) and George Miller’s Mad Max (1979), The Cars That Ate Paris is less well-known and less successful. For which the latter may be the cause of the former.
It’s an art film posing as a trash film. Maybe that’s more in the marketing than in the make-up. The title reckons of drive-in movies, but it’s really metaphorical. This fictional town of Paris in rural Australia does become devoured by their car culture. Of course, their car culture consists of causing car accidents to wayward travelers, then mending the people that survive and turning the wrecked vehicles into proto-punk demolition derby things, fueled by the village’s youth. I guess that is a hard story to market easily.
The tone falls into the cracks between comedy and exploitation action and something more stylish, artistic, and profound. Which is why it’s hard to know exactly how to feel about it.
But it does have this iconic VW bug covered in spikes and more than a few germs of ideas lurking to inspire other future film-makers into something more significant.
director Philip Brophy
Body Melt dissolves, explodes, and eviscerates characters with wanton glee. The horror/comedy skips along like the early Peter Jackson films that supposedly inspired writer/director Philip Brophy. It’s a satire about health supplements gone awry, and I’m far from the first to be brought to mind of Street Trash (1987) in watching it.
It’s choppy and uneven, even inconsistent at times. It kicks off with a bang. The title sequence is awesome, followed by hyperactive cutting and humor at a breakneck pace. In a tiny cul-de-sac in a pre-fab Australian suburbia, the people go merrily about their lives without realizing they are the test subjects of a vitamin corporation, so intent on physical development and profits that multiple super-weird splatters of test subjects fail to stop their greed and mania.
Meanwhile, out in the boonies, a family of mutant Outback hillbillies waylays a couple of the test subjects while killing a kangaroo for its adrenal glands, which are popped like pills. Somehow this all ties together in the end with some history between the corporation’s doctor and the Outback patriarch.
But really, it’s all about the practical effects. And while some are more polished than others, the cheerful execution of outrageous gags is the film’s true selling point. It’s silly and gruesome and a lot of fun.
director Mark Hartley
Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films is director Mark Harley’s third documentary on alternative or subculture movie history, following Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation! (2008) and Machete Maidens Unleashed! (2010). This time he turns his historical perspective, interview lens, and films clips on The Cannon Group and in particular Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, the two Israeli cousins who turned a small independent studio into a temporary player in Hollywood in the glorious 1980’s.
Everyone has their own relationship with the films from Cannon, and I too recall the odd mixture of optimism and pessimism that struck me when I sat down for a movie and saw that logo come together. They truly channeled the independent spirit and strategies honed by the likes of Roger Corman, only they really wanted a place at the bigger Hollywood table. In a lot of ways they extended the cult and drive-in genres beyond the 1960’s and 1970’s deeper into the 1980’s than perhaps any one else really did.
They made a lot of junk. Some of it great junk. Some of it serious junk. Some of the junk transformed into movie classics and much-loved flicks.
Hartley’s approach is pretty standard fare, but he gets some good stories, some reasonable (and less reasonable) takes on things, stokes ironic nostalgia, and invokes a number of imitations of Golan and Globus. It seems anyone who ever met them learned to do an impression.
director Rolf de Heer
I stumbled on the existence of Rolf de Heer’s Bad Boy Bubby from some lists on Letterboxd of various things like “weird”, “obscure”, and “mindfuck”. I wasn’t familiar with it, an Australian film from 1994.
It’s a story of a man-child, Bubby (Nicholas Hope), who has been raised in a hovel by his overweight, obsessive mother. He’s been kept in a state of childlike idiocy, believing that the outside world is overwhelmed by poisonous gas (his mother dons a gas mask for her ventures to the outside). When his long-lost father returns after some thirty-odd years and starts up with his mother, his world is sprung open and Bubby is released on the world and the world on him.
Oh, did I mention his incestuous relationship with Mum? Or that he winds up killing his parents (and his cat) by wrapping them in clingfilm? His mentally-challenged and completely delusional being is highly at odds with the world of which he has no concept. He learns phrases by repeating back what he hears. He hooks up with a sexually-active Salvation Army gal, a rock band, and heads out on a trajectory that seems certain for doom, including a brutal period in prison, but winds up instead as a rock star performance artist and ultimately discovers a level of humanity in the end.
Really, it actually struck me as an alternate Forrest Gump, which interestingly was also from 1994. He’s an idiot man-child who succeeds in the world despite his ultimate mental issues and challenges. Of course, there is a lot more extremity, bizarreness, and oddly perhaps reality than Gump. It seems like this might be an interesting contrast. I don’t think I’ve seen Gump since 1994 so I’m speculating from memory on this.
Really, ultimately, Bubby is a humane tale, dark and weird as it is.
director George Miller
viewed: 05/17/2015 at Century San Francisco Centre 9 and XD, SF, CA
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this is probably the best movie of the year.
It’s a seriously fun two hours of near nonstop action and cars and violence. I can’t say how awesome it is that 70 year old George Miller came back to Mad Max, as he’s directed all of the films in the series, though the last one thirty years prior, and has landed in 2015 with one of the most vital and entertaining action movies in years and years.