Here is a transcript of Friday’s “bonzer” introduction to the Ozploitation Double Bill of Not Quite Hollywood and Roadgames.
Here’s a question – who’s your favourite movie ‘Bruce’? Some would say it’s king of the sweaty vests, Bruce Willis. Others might plump for Bruce the relentless killer shark from 1975’s JAWS. My ‘Fringes’ colleague here at QUAD, Peter Munford, host of our regular Asian ‘Satori Screen’ events, would undoubtedly claim that only martial arts emperor, Bruce Lee, is worthy of the accolade. But for me there’s only one possible winner. Bruce Spence.
Well, do you remember that bloke who turns up halfway through MAD MAX 2 and absolutely steals the whole bloody show, playing the crazy pilot and completely taking your attention away from Mel Gibson, the leather-clad and mohicaned marauders, and even the souped-up monster vehicles? The guy in the gyro copter? Yeah, that Bruce Spence. So good that they brought him back to play a different character in MAD MAX BEYOND THUNDERDOME.
There’s more where Bruce came from. Australian cinema is loaded with memorable actors playing striking, unusual characters. King of the Ockers, Chips Rafferty; sex-starved, Foster’s chugging Barry Crocker; dependable Jack Thompson; rugged Bryan Brown; creepy John Jarratt; anti-Semitic and anti-English Mel Gibson; aboriginal national hero David Gulpillil; cross-dressing satirist Barry Humphries; sexy Angela Punch McGregor; sinister Frank Thring; gothic songsmith Nick Cave; versatile Guy Pearce. Just a few of the bonzer Aussie movie stars whose influence and impact has spread into the greater world beyond, and I’ve not even mentioned Nicole Kidman, Paul Hogan, Geoffrey Rush, Noah Taylor, Russell Crowe, Eric Bana, Heath Ledger, Hugo Weaving, Cate Blanchett, Toni Collette, or The Tasmanian Devil.
And what about their directors? Admittedly it was the work of two foreigners, our own Nic Roeg and Canadian Ted Kotcheff, with WALKABOUT and WAKE IN FRIGHT, who kickstarted the boom in new Aussie cinema in the early seventies, but the indigenous cultural types soon picked up cameras and joined in. Bruce Beresford moved on from BARRY McKENZIE HOLDS HIS OWN to the even lewder-sounding DRIVING MISS DAISY; Fred Schepisi triumphed in the States with ROXANNE; Peter Weir progressed from a series of stunning and unusually eerie horror fantasies, THE CARS THAT ATE PARIS, PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK, THE LAST WAVE and THE PLUMBER, to helm the likes of GREEN CARD, THE YEAR OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY and MASTER AND COMMANDER; John Hillcoat crafted the astonishing GHOSTS… OF THE CIVIL DEAD and THE PROPOSITION before taking us on an apocalyptic journey down THE ROAD; and George Miller, director of the classic MAD MAX trilogy, proved himself equally adept at family fare with the quite magical BABE and HAPPY FEET films.
Tonight at Fright Club we’re here for an epic celebration of the best in Antipodean cinema. New Zealand ruled the roost in the Southern Hemisphere for a while via Peter Jackson’s Wingnut Films and some overlong, bloated productions about dwarves, wizards and rings, but Australia is a country with a proud tradition in modern cinema – perhaps best-known currently for the dazzling spectacle of Baz Luhrmann’s extravaganzas or as the base for the filming of STAR WARS sequels ATTACK OF THE CLONES and REVENGE OF THE SITH, but hopefully tonight’s offerings will demonstrate what “the greatest little country in the world”, as the locals call it, was capable of in challenging the West’s accepted view of cinema.
Aussie movies are fairly typical of their culture and attitudes as a whole. They may try to convince us of their highbrow credentials with the Sydney Opera House, Dame Nellie Melba, and Rod Hull and Emu, but we all know that lurking under the surface lies the gasoline fury of Mad Max, the chomping incisors of Rogue the killer crocodile, the knob gags of the mighty Barry McKenzie, the monstrous ecological terrors of LONG WEEKEND, the telekinetic power of PATRICK, and the whirlwind force of nature that is Jacki Weaver in ANIMAL KINGDOM.
Our documentary this evening is entitled NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD, a phrase that accurately encapsulates the off-kilter manner of the finest cult movies to emerge from Oz. The plots of films such as TURKEY SHOOT, THIRST, HARLEQUIN or CELIA may sound fairly familiar if you read them in synopsis on paper, but experienced on screen Australian movies take tried and tested staple themes, grab ’em by the scruff of the neck, haul them through the bush scrubland, pour several tinnies down their parched throats, and make them fight a kangaroo before unleashing them upon an unsuspecting world. Ragged but robust, thick-ear yet compellingly unique, Aussie flicks may be steeped in movie history but have a flavour all their own. NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD captures this admirably. I hope you’ve all brought a pen and notebook along with you, since you’ll be furiously jotting down titles that you want to see while the documentary wends its way through some of the best films on offer from Down Under.
Our companion film on the double bill this evening is 1981’s ROAD GAMES, a movie I saw on the big screen in Derby on its original release and never expected to clap eyes on in a cinema again. Directed by Richard Franklin, one of Ozploitation’s major figures, and starring scream queen supreme Jamie Lee Curtis and the always-impressive Stacey Keach, ROAD GAMES is a taut, tense, Hitchcockian thriller which riffs on the slasher movie cliches of the early 80s while adding a touch of class to the mix. A major figure on the Australian film scene that I haven’t mentioned so far is screenwriter Everett de Roche, the man who wrote almost every classic Aussie horror movie and thriller of the late seventies and early 80s. De Roche had worked on the telekinesis shocker PATRICK with Franklin, and suggested that as a follow up they ought to join forces for a movie thieving the plot of REAR WINDOW. De Roche’s inspired twist was that the film ought to take place in a truck! Franklin was actually a good friend of Alfred Hitchcock, having met the master of suspense while studying at the University of Southern California, and jumped at the challenge. ROAD GAMES was the result, a fine piece of work. Don’t take my word for it, and you don’t even need the evidence of your own eyes in this instance. All you do need to know is that when Hollywood, in its wisdom, decided in 1983 that the time was right for a sequel to the all-time-classic PSYCHO, it was Richard Franklin they hired to take on that impossible task, based largely on his work in this movie. Franklin made a damn good fist of PSYCHO II as well, against all the odds and surprising the critics.
Aussie exploitation is thriving. This very month we’ve seen really exciting trailers for MAD MAX: FURY ROAD and chilling new horror THE BABADOOK unleashed on line, and at QUAD this week we’ve featured David Michod’s excellent new movie THE ROVER, a mixture of post-apocalyptic mood, dialogue-driven drama, and grim double-barrelled gunplay. There’s plenty more to come from Australia, but tonight’s films give us a chance to revel in the golden era their filmmakers have already sent our way. It’s not quite Hollywood, sure, but when the movies are as great and memorable as MAD MAX, TURKEY SHOOT, MAD DOG MORGAN, THIRST, BARRY McKENZIE HOLDS HIS OWN, THE CHANT OF JIMMIE BLACKSMITH, BREAKER MORANT and ROAD GAMES, who cares? The big U.S. Studios would have been proud of such a roster of quality product. So forget American, British and European fare for one night, and enter the wonderful world of Oz.
Don’t miss the bumper month of Fright Club screenings in September:
Then on 12th Septmember, you thought it would never happen on a cinema screen but the infamous Nekromantik (18), has been certificated and will be gracing Fright Club screens.
And Last but by no means least, Devil’s Tower (15) arrives at QUAD. Shot in Derby by Derby based filmmaker Owen Tooth, produced by Dominic Burns (UFO, Allies) and written by….me! Adam J Marsh! Oh and starring former Emmerdale actress Roxanne Pallett and Jason Mewes of Clerks, Jay And Silent Bob fame.
– Adam J Marsh