Saturday, May 14, 2011

Machete Maidens Unleashed! (2011)

Mark Hartley, director of Not Quite Hollywood, presents us with a companion piece written, edited and presented almost the exact same way as his outstanding Aussie doco. As with NQH, he delves into B-grade exploitation, this time focusing on the Pilipino industry during the late 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. The country's pioneers of the extremely low budget drive-in efforts are showcased respectfully, but ultimately it focuses from when legendary shlock-king Roger Corman’s New World Pictures got involved early on.

Interviews with Corman, directors such as Joe Dante & John Landis as well as healthy contributions from several actors involved including Sid Haig are insightful and fun. If NQH exposed the many Aussie B-grade movies that defined the local industry, the entertaining comments and vast amount of clips from these Pilipino films in Maidens is a minor revelation. Ultra B-grade to the point of making the films showcased in NQH seem almost high brow, classic exploitation films such as Island of Blood, The Big Doll House and TNT Jackson are revealed as being a major part of the drive-in “genre” with Corman assessing that getting involved, meant he “could make a bigger film with less money”. The significance of these films being made and set amongst the jungles of the country prove integral. Indeed during the 1972 takeover by Ferdinand Marcos, when a strict martial law/curfew was enforced (whom himself still granted full use of the military on the sets), the relevance is even more interesting.

Starting with the gore filled efforts of the pre-Corman involvement, it moves on to showcase such stars as the amazing Pam Grier and Gloria Hendry and give great insight into the feelings of many of the female casts about these films. The “women in prison” genre after all, proved to be a major focus until after the Marcos domination in 1972, action and war took over. Points of note also include how the emergence of black exploitation not set in the United States, was quite pivotal with films such as Savage and TNT Jackson. A brief feature on a quite unique James Bond type midget star, Wang Wang, a distinctive section on Apocalypse Now and the demise of the exploitation film are explored by the end. Boobs, Gore and Stunts in equal amounts are featured quite heavily throughout of course much like the director’s first feature.

A well put together effort as you’d expect from Hartley, that while I only saw the cut down hour long TV version it is ultimately a fitting side piece to NQH. Perhaps it will make a nice Blu-ray extra on that film, but certainly if you enjoyed the former, it’s worth checking out for more of the same, with merely a different setting and a totally new set of talking heads and insight.

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