So once again we have survived.

Not Quite Hollywood + Hurricane Smith

tn_notquitehollywoodNOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD is a pretty good documentary with a really good subject: the history of exploitation movies in Australia. Of course, this is a talking heads and film clips movie, that’s about the only way they could do it. And it tries to cover a broad range of movies over many years, so it doesn’t get real deep into anything. It’s more like a real good TV special than a great movie. It’s a primer, an overview, a sampler to get you started. It gives you a taste of a whole bunch of strange movies you might not have heard of before, points you in some interesting directions, tells you a few good stories. And for that sort of thing it’s very good.

mp_notquitehollywoodApparently alot of Australian cinema is built on the success of a whole bunch of sexploitation movies and broad comedies about puking. So the first half of this is mostly movies I wasn’t very interested in. It does show alot of naked ladies though, in my opinion, for what that’s worth. And a few dudes I think too.

The movie is divided into different categories with colorful, stylized intros made by re-coloring and animating stills from the movies. So the look is pretty cool. Also alot of the footage just jumps off the screen with vivid, feverish colors, even those sexplo movies. Not sure but I suspect they digitally enhanced the colors to make the clips look crazier. But I think that’s fine, it just makes you want to see the movies.

Eventually it starts getting into the cars and the giant crocodiles and what not. They talk about pretty much every Australian movie I’ve seen in the last few years: RAZORBACK, DARK AGE, ROADGAMES, WOLF CREEK, ROGUE. Of course they talk about George Miller doing MAD MAX (the guys who did the first SAW and DEATH SENTENCE talk about hearing legends of this doctor who went out and illegally shot car crashes) and even get into him adding the car chases to THE CHAIN REACTION. And they get heavily into Brian Trenchard-Smith. (The DVD has his conversation with Q. Tarantino, not surprisingly a big fan.)

The best part of the movie is the stories about THE MAN FROM HONG KONG and what a dick Jimmy Wang Yu was. Every single person they talk to seems to think Wang Yu was an asshole of such epic proportions they just have to laugh about it or bite their tongue. They say he was such a bastard and hated actresses so much that right before he had a kissing scene he caught a bunch of flies and ate them! In my opinion that’s not cool. Above average martial arts star, but definitely not a courteous man. Let’s see some manners next time, pal.

They also talk about George Lazenby catching on fire, how he did the stunt himself but burnt his hand, then decked Trenchard-Smith for having convinced him to do it. Lazenby is interviewed and doesn’t believe he really did that, but apologizes in case he’s remembering wrong. You see that Jimmy Wang Yu? That’s how a gentleman acts, you fly-breathed prick.

To be fair, we don’t know Jimmy Wang Yu’s side of the story, maybe he had to eat the flies for health reasons or something.

For all the movies they talk about they edit together all the craziest shots and make them look just incredible. Of course, many of them are gonna seem kind of boring when you actually see the whole movie and have to see all that stuff in context. But I think MAN FROM HONG KONG comes close to living up to the impression its clips make. You’ll definitely want to see it after watching those and hopefully you’ll enjoy it.

There are some pretty good insights into the mindset of these filmatists. They seem very self conscious about how the rest of the world perceives Australian film. They keep mentioning PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK bitterly and talk about struggling with their Australia-ness – sometimes not wanting to mention kangaroos or any other cliches of what Australia is like, other times being more wise about trying to take advantage of the unique qualities of their culture and landscape.

mp_hurricanesmithThis might’ve been a little more exciting if I’d seen less of the the movies discussed, but I still wound up with a list of at least 7 or 8 titles I want to check out. One of them was HURRICANE SMITH starring Carl Weathers. They don’t really talk about it but its poster is shown in a graphic about a wave of Australian movies that were failures. I always wanted to see this one but was afraid to because I knew it could never live up to the half-rhyming power of ACTION JACKSON. I never knew it was Australian either though so this finally gave me an excuse. It’s part of my Australia studies.

Weathers plays Hurrican Smith (usually not called Hurricane), a dude looking for his sister who went to Sydney and disappeared. He hooks up with a prostitute who was her roommate and the prostitute’s America-hating grandpa. He gets in fights with pimps and other criminals using unconvincing moves like knocking a guy out by punching him in the back. He takes part in some Australian activities like some kind of gambling-on-coin-flipping game. Is that a real thing, Australians, or are you just fucking with Carl Weathers?

I kind of like the idea that Hurricane Smith could be a reverse Crocodile Dundee – or I guess a reverse Crocodile Dundee 2 anyway. He’s an American who comes in and doesn’t understand the ways of the Australians. But I don’t know if he shows off any distinctly American culture, unless punching guys out is ours. I doubt it.

See, if that guy in WOLF CREEK had picked up Carl Weathers, I think things would’ve turned out differently. I’m sure they would’ve had a hell of a fight and would’ve had a begrudging respect for each other at the end.

It’s a watchable movie and not really bad, but definitely not memorable. In fact I’ve already forgotten most of it, including the explanation of why he’s occasionally called Hurricane. It’s always nice to see Weathers in a lead role, obviously. But that’s the main thing it’s got going for it. The most NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD moment is a stunt where he jumps a speed boat through a house. That was cool. But I can see why this wasn’t a smash hit.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Thursday, July 2nd, 2009 at 11:53 pm and is filed under Documentary, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

16 Responses to “Not Quite Hollywood + Hurricane Smith”

  1. Speaking as an Australian that coin-flipping game is absolutely real, it’s called Two-Up.

    Haven’t seen this documentary yet but I’ve already seen most of the films you’ve mentioned. I remember people being surprised about Tarantino being a fan of these films, but lets face it… motherfucker loves pretty much everything and will spout hyperbole at the drop of a hat. I think the dude needs to tone things down a little or we will have another Hell Ride on our hands.

  2. oh man I go on Netflix planning to put Nt Quite Hollywood in my queue and I see it’s not out on dvd yet! what gives?

  3. Sorry about that, forgot to mention that it was an import DVD. I thought the American one was coming out soon but now I can’t find any evidence of a release date.

  4. Vern any chance of a Public Enemies review?

  5. Vern, just last night I watched Richard Franklin’s PATRICK. It’s not nearly as good as ROAD GAMES, but if you haven’t seen it it’s worth your time. It has a similar, vaguely HItchcockian vibe and I found it fairly engrossing for the first 2/3rds or so. It builds to a somewhat underwhelming ending, which sucks, but overall still a solid movie.

    It’s about a coma patient who turns out to have psychic powers, so I think that means that Lucio Fulci’s AENIGMA is a knock-off. Also, the Italians made an unofficial sequel called PATRICK STILL LIVES. Which leads me to conclude that PATRICK must have been some sort of runaway success in Italy and there was high demand for PATRICK-esque movies there in the 80’s.

  6. Didn’t Goblin do the score for that one? Or was it only for the Italian version?

  7. Naw, I’m pretty sure it was non-Queen Brian May who did the music.

  8. Christian Brimo

    July 5th, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    You should check out RUNNING ON EMPTY, which was playing in the background of a rock club I go to. Hot girls and cars, basically. You’d love it.

    Australia is so tiny its hilarious. My mate runs a cult film night and he was auctioning off a copy of STUNT ROCK. Turns out the star/head stuntman was in the pub filming a movie, so he came up and said a few words. Last week they were showing NEVER TOO YOUNG TO DIE and George Lazenby’s niece was in the audience. Everybody knows somebody who worked on Mad Max, and Dolph Lundgren used to work as a bouncer in various nightclubs… hell my dad was an extra on the first PUNISHER film

    I’ve only been here 5 years but it seems like most ‘Australian’ films are these low key drama type things. There’s a new one coming out called LAST RIDE with Hugo Weaving that looks pretty interesting

  9. Christian Brimo

    July 5th, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    oh and you need to see WAKE IN FRIGHT. its not really ‘badass cinema’. its more of a fucked up horror film that explains things like Two-Up and gambling and booze and the outback

  10. What the hell was that one called they were talking about? Lost Weekend I think. Nature fights back. That’s on the must see list.

  11. Oh also, Vern, I’m curious: why were they so bitter about PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK? Do they feel it’s an inaccurate portrayal of their country? Are they jealous of its success? Is something about it offensive to Australians? I’m a fan of that movie myself, so I’d like to know if I should avoid bringing it up if I ever get into a conversation about movies with an Australian.

  12. I’m not sure but my sense was it’s too arty for the tastes of these particular directors and yeah, they resented its success and felt a pressure to make movies like that.

  13. Christian Brimo

    July 6th, 2009 at 4:33 pm

    Weird… I haven’t met any Aussies who hated it. I could ask around

  14. CrustaceanHate

    July 6th, 2009 at 7:53 pm

    Yeah, I saw LAST RIDE yesterday and it was great. The cinematography is great (there’s a scene on this shallow lake that’s just incredible) and it’s easily Hugo Weaving’s best performance ever. I think Vern would probably appreciate it. Australia has made some excellent character dramas in the last few years but I wish we’d make some awesome genre films again. I’ve never heard of this dislike of PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK either. As far as I know it’s recognised as a classic by pretty much everyone. Maybe the directors feel it gives an arty and some might say boring impression of Australian cinema.

  15. CrustaceanHate

    July 9th, 2009 at 5:25 pm

    I saw this one last night and you were right, I don’t know what filters or colour-correction or whatever they used on those clips, but they look AMAZING. Also the title sequence is fantastic.

  16. I’m surprised no mention was made of Mad Max 2, really. Sure, it’s of a much higher quality than the first film, and more epic in scope, but for the industry as a whole it was huge.

    Also, I expect another documentary pretty soon about the burgeoning Australian animation industry, which now owes a lot to George Miller’s Happy Feet.

    I expect too much. Always disappointed am I.

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