Not Quite Hollywood

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Venue: Melbourne International Film Festival.

SYDNEY -- Their artistic merit was dubious to say the least, but Australian B-movies of the '70s and '80s certainly were a hoot. And so is "Not Quite Hollywood," first-time filmmaker Mark Hartley's kinetic celebration of the energetic, ambitious, often atrocious, genre films dubbed "Ozploitation." The documentary, a hit at the recent Melbourne and Brisbane film festivals and headed for Toronto in September, commandeers the gung-ho spirit that fueled the guilty-pleasure schlock of its subject matter.

Hartley sets a cracking pace from the outset, delivering a superbly edited best-of-the-worst montage, interspersed with scandalous anecdotes and some hilarious insights into seat-of-your-pants filmmaking. Film geeks will eat up the "cool stuff" that sends celebrity devotee Quentin Tarantino into raptures -- the buckets of blood, high-octane car chases and oodles of nudity -- but the docu works on two levels.

Beyond mere titillation -- and some good-natured laughs at the expense of genre cliches -- "Not Quite Hollywood" has a sociological edge. A distinct cultural cringe led Australians to laud such arty period pieces as "Picnic at Hanging Rock" and "My Brilliant Career" while sweeping the taboo-breaking sex comedies, splatter and action films such as "Alvin Purple," "Stork," "The Man From Hong Kong" and "Patrick" under the rug. But these films often were popular, both in Australia and overseas, and "Not Quite Hollywood" serves to fill the gaps in the film history books.

Perfectly pitched to slice through any modern notions of prudishness, Hartley's parade of underappreciated clips is punctuated by an enthusiastic Tarantino, who included an homage to "Patrick" in "Kill Bill-Vol. 1."

A number of respected Australian actresses look back with bemusement at their own topless antics. Dennis Hopper remembers being pronounced dead when doctors took his blood-alcohol reading while filming "Mad Dog Morgan." And director George Miller recalls the death-defying antics undertaken while shooting Mel Gibson in 1979's breakthrough actioner "Mad Max."

There's a wistful those were the days" mood, but Hartley also makes room for some clear-eyed criticism: One participant remembers the 1982 gorefest "Turkey Shoot" as "a puerile bunch of crap."

Production: City Films Worldwide. Screenwriter/director: Mark Hartley. Executive producers: Bruno Charlesworth, Jonathan Shteinman, Paul Wiegard, Nick Batzias.  Producers: Michael Lynch, Craig Griffin.  Director of photography: Karl von Moller. Music: Stephen Cummings and Billy Miller. Editors: Jamie Blanks, Sara Edwards, Mark Hartley. No MPAA rating, 100 minutes.

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