First of all, let me say on balance I am in favour of Not Quite Hollywood (NQT). I think it is good that these films are being celebrated, not for themselves per se most of the time (though more about this anon) but because it’s part of popular culture/social history that hasn’t been seen or discussed enough. Perhaps I should also add that I am in favour of this film because I really enjoyed it.
There are many things that could have gone wrong that didn’t. For a start, the central role of Tarantino, as virtually the narrator (and, you suspect, the one guy who knows more about these films than anyone - at least in terms of the films’ content) could have been awful precisely because it’s “quite Hollywood” to stick a well-known individual into a documentary to give it cachet. But Tarantino is clearly such a fan that it virtually needn’t be Tarantino; if it had just been some strange, campy funny man in a beanie (that I thought for a long time was a scarf wrapped round his head a la Axl Rose, till I looked at it properly) then it would have been pretty much just as fine.
There are also stylistic things that trouble me, which are probably more indicative of my pedantic and unsettled nature, e.g. the fairly ordinary graphics introducing segments, or the use of late 70s pop and rock music when (a) a lot of the time, we’re talking about early 70s films and (b) this kind of music tended not to be in these kinds of films. Which doesn’t mean it wasn’t amazing to hear “Black Eyed Bruiser” or “This Time” loud over these garish and grainy graphics.
One issue I definitely have with the film is the classifications. What counts as “Ozploitation”? Personally I feel the Barry McKenzie films are a whole different film type, and to put that in the same bag as Alvin Purple (let alone Snapshot) is just ridiculous even if, as someone says in NQH, the McKenzie films were embraced by “morons” who saw “satire as documentary”. You assume that it was decided that since Barry Humphries was clearly so keen to be a part of this film, it was an offer too good to refuse (but then, why no Les Patterson Saves the World)? There are other films that are better than this tag: Long Weekend, for instance, one of QT’s top 5 Australian films - probably one of my top five - full stop - and in no way deserving of being put in a bag with Turkey Shoot. Ditto Stone, a classic in anyone’s language. And, for that matter The Cars that Ate Paris, which is a farce and a satire, certainly, but hardly knocked out for quick gain. Stork, too.
In fact, the way the “ozploitation” tag seems to have been applied is, essentially, what the particular films included in the category were not. They weren’t tasteful 19th century stories pitched at the international arthouse circuit (if such a thing genuinely existed) a la Picnic at Hanging Rock (which incidentally is really a 19th and 20th century story isn’t it - but the point stands I suppose).
And this is driven home again and again in so many ways. This set up is, in fact, a little false because it seems to suggest that films like Picnic at Hanging Rock were pretentious and overly arty and the only ones that got government funding. But surely the “ozploitation” films didn’t need government funding and, by the way, a big part of NQH deals with the multitude of films made under the 10BA tax arrangement which did, essentially, mean government funding, so …? We are often returned to the voices of sanity, Phillip Adams and Bob Ellis, both in different ways repelled and disgusted by so much of the material the film’s dealing with; we didn’t really need to hear so much from them (though Adams’ closing quip is hilarious). Just as an aside, surely Picnic tickled a lot of the same impulses as the “ozploitation” films generally - bit of mystery, bit of horror, bit of popular myth - ???
Additionally, not that it matters all that much, there are a lot of questions unasked and so, of course, unanswered. These include: how did David Hemmings get to have so much to do with the Australian schlock film industry as actor and director? What happened to Jimmy Wang-Yu? The Man from Hong Kong section is probably the most entertaining part of the whole film. And, what kind of world was it where roly poly gay men were seen as most likely to be interested in whipping writhing women?
I saw this film at a Sunday 1:30 session at the Nova, a cinema of the type, incidentally, that would never have screened an “ozploitation” film in its 20- (?) year life. It was a smallish theatre, but full, and the audience were boisterously good-natured. The middle-aged woman next to me was clearly going down memory lane; early in the piece, when a short section of Number 96 was shown, she had a sharp intake of breath which said “oh my god, I’d forgotten all about that television show, how extraordinary I am now seeing a little section of it on a screen at the Nova!”.