Australia’s cinematic birth and early years as an exploitation darling is the subject of Mark Hartley’s documentary, with lurid scenes from the films themselves interspersed with some enthusiastic talking noggins, notably directors Quentin Tarantino and Brian Trenchard-Smith. Starting out with sex comedies like Alvin Purple, and reaching the Mad Max films by way of The Man From Hong Kong, this is a lively portrait of an anything-goes ethos at work, with crazy film-makers executing crazy films, and an equally wild audience seemingly awaiting each project. Even hardcore genre fans won’t know every film mentioned here, and clips from Dead In Drive In and Mad Dog Morgan are intriguing. Surprisingly, this didn’t reach must of an audience in it’s homeland, but as a calling card overseas, this Oz-sploitation flick lays out the central tenets of a notably fun cinematic subgenre.
Quentin Tarantino’s spec script was an ideal vessel for the late Tony Scott to bring his cinematic style to; it’s something of a mystery why True Romance flopped. It’s a love-story against a drug-war setting in Hollywood; Clarence(Christian Slater) meets Alabama (Patricia Arquette) in Detroit, and the two of them take off with a suitcase of stolen money belonging to Drexl (Gary Oldman). On their way to a hotel-room shoot-out, they encounter a gallery of colourful characters, from Dennis Hopper , unexpectedly wholesome as Clarence’s dad, to Brad Bitt and an addled stoner, with Clarence receiving constant advice from the ghost of Elvis (Val Kilmer). Tarantino’s dialogue crackles, the showdown between Hopper and Christopher Walken is one of the tensest in cinema history, and there’s a poetry and bonhomie that somehow sits nicely with the spiky violence. Tony Scott was sometimes accused of style over substance; True Romance plays its defiantly romantic hand out beautifully.
Quentin Tarantino and ElI Roth’s influence is obvious in this wonderfully slapdash martial arts epic from 2012, with writer/director RZA uncorking the gore as limbs, arterial blood and heads fly like silly string in feudal China. With various parties chasing hidden gold, the action centres of the brothel of Madame Blossom, with those pursuing the prize including Blacksmith (RZA), Silver Lion (Byron Mann) and expatriate Brit Jack Knife (Russell Crowe). The plotting doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, but that’s not a problem when the action is so baroque, with Crowe clearly having fun as a kick-ass Richard Burton and Byron Mann sending himself up to great effect as Silver Lion. The Man With The Iron Fists is a better comedy than a thriller, but it captures the cheerful, anything goes feeling of a Shaw Brothers film to good effect, and even if the film lacks a happy centre, there’s a driving will to entertain that pays off in the end.
Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s 2007 double-feature is often found online in separate parts, Planet Terror and Death Proof, a shame because only by watching the full 191 minute cut are the pleasures of this valentine to bargain basement movie-making fully realized. Planet Terror catches the splattery playground atmosphere of 80’s video fodder pitch-perfectly, as the denizens of a hospital battle against zombie-aliens, with Freddy Rodriguez a leading man with hidden depths such as the ability to run up walls during a fight. When the action switches to Austin Texas for Tarantino’s Death Proof, part of the joke is the way that locations, actors and props are re-used; in the aftermath of Stuntman Mike’s horrific act of vengeance, the action returns to the same hospital, miraculously unscathed by the carnage of the preceding drama. There’s a wealth of in-jokes, cameos and references to enjoy, but most critics missed the point; Grindhouse isn’t about making fun of specific films, but an appreciation and a tribute to the happy-go-lucky ingenuity of low-budget film-making.