As anyone who has seen the documentary Not Quite Hollywood knows, Australia experienced its most prolific period of homegrown filmmaking during the ’70s and ’80s. The new permissiveness experienced in the arts combined with a variety of generous film grants from the Australian government, allowing the local filmmakers to let their cinematic ids run wild. A decent amount of these films filtered down to U.S. distribution – the Mad Max films and the early work of Peter Weir amongst the most notable examples – but there’s still a daunting array of these films that cinephiles from other countries have never sampled.
Thankfully, some video companies have made gestures towards importing Aussie genre fare – known to fans as “Ozsploitation” – over the years. Severin Films have recently made an impressive excursion into this territory, issuing impressive special edition blu-ray/DVD sets of Thirst, Dead Kids and Patrick. At the same time, they also issued Ozsploitation Trailer Explosion, a jam-packed DVD that offers nearly three hours’ worth of genre fan-friendly Aussie fare from the ’70s/’80s golden era. The results are an excellent “Cliff’s Notes” primer to this era and a lot of fun, to boot.
Ozsploitation Trailer Explosion is broken into three blocks that can be played separately or all in a row for the ambitious viewer. The first block of trailers is devoted to Australian sexploitation and “ocker comedies.” You’ll discover that Australians had a fondness for sex comedies, often starring Graeme Blundell, and had a unique predilection for sex comedies in historical settings like The True Story Of Eskimo Nell and Eliza Fraser.
The ocker comedies are the most unique part of this block and perhaps the most distinctive of all homegrown Australian cinema trends. These films focused on male protagonists who were often loud, macho and antisocial: thus, they were commercial enough to include plenty of sex, fisticuffs and rude humor but also left the filmmakers room enough to make their own statements on society and masculinity. Stork was the first of these and its trailer is included here as well as the Barry Mackenzie films. Some of these spots, most notably Petersen and The Great McCarthy, play like indie dramas spiced up with exploitation elements.
Next up is a block of horror and thriller items. This block includes some well known flicks that were popular as imports in the U.S. and elsewhere, like the early Richard Franklin films Patrick and Road Games as well as Thirst and the unforgettable trashy Nightmares. There are also some offbeat, gently surreal items like the excellent Summerfield and Peter Weir’s arthouse crossover hit The Last Wave. The most memorably weird inclusion here is the satirical/thriller item The Night The Prowler, which was directed by Jim Sharman of Rocky Horror Picture Show fame.
The last block is entitled “Cars And Action” and as its title suggests, it really brings the thunder with an array of snappy, hard-hitting trailers. Highlights in this area include the quirky biker flick Stone, an effective spot for the gritty heist flick Money Movers and Midnight Spares, which looks an Aussie answer to all of the American car-crash flicks spawned by Smokey And The Bandit.
That said, this block is dominated by a series of spots for the amazing films of Brian Trenchard Smith, an Aussie exploitation auteur whose knack for cinematic excitement has earned him a cult following in recent years. Most of his key titles are here – The Man From Hong Kong, Stunt Rock, Turkey Shoot, BMX Bandits and Dead End Drive-In – and these excellent trailers deliver a barrage of colorful, thrilling action.
In short, Ozsploitation Trailer Explosion lives up to its title, delivering an embarrassment of exploitation-flick riches that also offers a unique glimpse into the character and style of this period in Aussie cinema. Needless to say, students of international genre fare should snap it up.
DVD Notes: This trailer comp fills a dual-layer disc, offering trailers in a variety of formats – 1.33:1, 1.78:1, 2.35:1. Depending on the aspect ratio, these spots are either windowboxed or letterboxed but all are given anamorphic enhancement. Visual quality varies in places, with the odd video-sourced trailer or standards-conversion item, but the majority look quite good in this standard-def presentation.