Fragmented Frequencies Dec 2014

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You might not know but Australian film soundtracks have an unexpected synthetic past. Whilst the Ozploitation movement was celebrated a few years back via Mark Hartley’s energetic doco Not Quite Hollywood, until now their scores have largely been ignored. Whilst Mad Max composer Brian May scored more than 30 films in almost 20 years, ran the ABC Showband, and was best known for his grand orchestral Bernard Herrmannesque soundtracks, few are aware of his exploratory synthesizer work. And it occurred by accident.

The makers for 1982’s Turkey Shoot lost almost a third of their budget weeks before shooting, and with limited funds May turned to the synth, creating quasi orchestral multi genre cues, where he wasn’t afraid to get atonal, dissonant or strange, inadvertently borrowing from the pop realm, and developing slightly hysterical Nintendo meltdowns and unnerving Carpenteresque grooves. Whilst the film’s uneven tone (think The Running Man meets Hogan’s Heroes) and gratuitous violence grabbed the headlines, the score really is something special and is being released for the first time by Melbourne archival label Dual Planet.

They’re also offering up another Aussie obscurity, the soundtrack to the 1980, eco doomsday thriller The Chain Reaction. Featuring most of the cast and crew from Mad Max, including executive producer George Miller filming the car chases, it’s a popcorn flick with a classy refined electronic score that it really doesn’t deserve. Andrew Thomas Wilson gets modular, playing Moogs, Rolands and other vintage devices, channeling, Carpenter, Goblin, Tomita and Vangelis, delivering a unique kind of electronic fusion that is still mind blowing some 34 years later.

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Fragmented Films 17th Jan 09

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Exploitation cinema by definition tends to be a little rough around the edges, the edges being plot, acting, production values and budget, which are fearlessly brushed aside to get to the good stuff: gratuitious nudity, big explosions, hyper violence and stupid stunts. Mark Hartley’s witty self depreceating and perhaps overly mythologising Not Quite Hollywood (Madman) opens a gateway to this abyss, reminding us of our own sordid b movie past. Brian Trenchard-Smith comes across well, possibly because he had few pretensions. The Man From Hong Kong (Madman) imports kung fu to Sydney and gets the mix of stunts, nudity and action just right, even setting fire to George Lazenby (James Bond) during one memorable fight scene. Wang Yu (The One Armed Boxer) meanwhile tears Sydney apart with the subtlety of Dirty Harry coming off an ice binge, bedding Rebecca Gilling, killing suspects, destroying restaurants and climbing skyscrapers. The second disc of Extras reveal a pompass ass who would catch flies in his mouth before the love scenes because white women were ‘scum.’

Trenchard-Smith’s Stunt Rock (Madman) is even better, and by that I mean it’s absolutely fucking terrible. So carried away was he by the prowess of stunt man Grant Page (The Man From Hong Kong) that he took him and Sorcery, a terrible heavy metal band (who were also magicians) to LA, set up a few stunts and put the band on stage. If you can find a plot here, then power to you. Again the Extras are excellent.

Dead End Drive In (Madman) is set in the future where the streets are lawless and youth crime is rampant. When a young couple visit the drive in, they discover they’ve been unwittingly trapped in a maximum security prison for teens. It’s a typically schitzo Trenchard-Smith mix of action and social commentary, that ensures that the message never gets in the way of the explosions.

Turkey Shoot, included on Ozploitation Vol.1 (Umbrella) a six disc set cashing in on newfound interest in the genre, is Trenchard-Smith’s crowning glory. Two weeks before filming almost a third of his money disappeared, leaving gaping holes in, well, everything. Yet he soldiered on and delivered a nasty, and inexplicably hilarious sadistic concentration camp tale that is equal part Running Man and Hogans Heroes. It’s a totally mindless piece of schlock that delights in its appalling taste. There’s circus freaks munching on human toes, severed hands and feet, rape, murder, torture and all of the nasty stuff you know and love. In the same set, Roadgames (1981) with Stacey Keach as a truckdiver crossing the Nullabor picks up hitchiker Jamie Lee Curtis. It’s been billed as ‘Rear Window on wheels,’ and is equal parts imaginative, seedy and suspenseful. The Naked Bunyip (1970) a sexumentary with Graeme Blundell, meanwhile is just a fragrant excuse for nudity, and as a result should be encouraged.

Ozploitation Vol. 2 (Umbrella), 7 more flicks, offers up some unexpected gems. Long Weekend (1978) in which an obnoxious couple go camping with little regard for their environment is geniunely creepy as nature strikes back with a vengence. Apparently if you engage in a touch of swinging, shoot a sea cow, run over a kangaroo and throw your litter haphazardly around the bush, then watch out. The Chain Reaction (1980) is a slick nuclear nightmare that tells us that ruthless multi national corporations with hired assasains and governments in their pockets are no match for an angry Aussie bogan with a fast car. Razorback (1984) is a music video come to life, unfortunately as one irate patron suggested a $100 million film with a $10 pig. Fantasm and Fatantasm Comes Again are just blatantly plotless soft core films, questionably erotic vignettes that boast an apperance from porn legend John Holmes. Stone (1974) meanwhile is truly a great film, a hard edged biker film which revels in biker culture. The True Story of Eskimo Nell (1975) is Porky’s meets Rio Grande, by way of Moe. It offers what Peckinpah and Ford forgot to put in their Westerns: farting competitions. “There’s a day coming when I’ll stick my dick in the heart of the earth and the bang will be heard in Alaska,” offers Max Gillies at some point. This is what Ozploitation is all about. Inexplicable crassness and sheer stupidity.