Category Archives: Documentary

Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation!

Directed by Mark Hartley
Produced by Craig Griffin & Michael Lynch
Written by Mark Hartley
Music by Stephen Cummings
Germain McMicking & Karl von Moller
Editing by Jamie Blanks, Sara Edwards & Mark Hartley
Distributed by Madman Entertainment
Release date 28 August 2008
Running time 103 minutes
Country Australia
United States
Language English

This is an interesting documentary that looks at some of the exploitation films made in Australia in the 70s & 80s. It’s really amazing how much crap our film industry made in what was supposed to have been its golden age. It seems that if an Aussie film wasn’t filled with gratuitous nudity it would be filled with gratuitous violence. One thing that is glaringly obvious is that very few of the films mentioned are any good, but it is still a watchable doco.

The Devil at Your Heels

Directed by Robert Fortier Produced by Bill Brind, Robert Fortier, Barrie Howells and Adam Symansky Narrated by Gordon Pinsent Starring Ken Carter Distributed by Visionsmiths, Inc. Release date 1981 Running time 1 hr 43 minutes Language English
I think like most Australians I first saw this film in the early 1990s when it was presented by the D-Generation on the ABC. I taped it and watched this film several times but I think that someone eventually recorded over it, so I hadn’t seen this for a bout fifteen years.I have been looking for this ever since and finally acquired another copy of it.
The film is about Ken Carter, a stuntman who dreams of flying a rocket powered car across the St. Lawrence Seaway from Canada to the United States. For five years he tries to make his dream into reality but unfortunately for Ken, while he may have the ambition he does not have the money, resources or talent to do this, but that does not stop him from trying, although when it actually comes time for him to make the jump he loses his nerve.
Ken is a likeable sort of guy and unlike Evel Knievel is someone you’d actually like to have a beer with. Sure, he does seem to have a very high opinion of himself despite the fact that he never achieves even a fraction of what he sets out to do, but unlike the impression I got of Knievel in the Richard Hammond documentary Ken seems like a nice, eccentric guy. The documentary could have treated Ken as a fool but it at least gives him some dignity despite the fact that he does come off as a buffoon with some of what he says. Ken makes the film funny because he doesn’t know his limitations and despite the fact that even a blind man could see that he would not make the jump, Ken just cannot see it himself. Ken and everyone around him are too inept to make this a reality.Ken wasn’t even the one who attempted the jump as he lost his nerve and the backers got Ken’s friend Kenny Powers to do it with disastrous results.
It is a funny film about an awesomely eccentric but very inept guy.

BaadAsssss Cinema

Directed by Isaac Julien
Produced by Paula Jalfon, Colin MacCabe & Caroline Kaplan
Written by Isaac Julien & Adam Finch
Starring Samuel L. Jackson
Pam Grier
Quentin Tarantino
Distributed by Independent Film Channel
Release date August 14, 2002
Running time 60 minutes
Language English

Baadasssss Cinema is a documentary that discusses the blaxploitation movies of the 1970s, and particularly looks at the post popular films such as Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song, Shaft, Black Caesar, Superfly and Coffy. People interviewed include Fred Williamson, Mario Van Peebles, Qeuntin Taratino and the lovely Pam Grier, who talk about the impact that the films had on the black community and on popular culture.
Personally I’ve always liked blaxploitation films (those that I have seen anyway). They are very visual, like the film equivalent of a comic book, with their over the top fashion, violence, stereotypes, great music and bad acting. How can you not love a genre of movie that features something as ridiculous as Pam Grier pulling a gun that was hidden in her afro before shooting the bad guys. It is this sort of thing that makes these films so much fun to watch.
BaadAsssss Cinema also briefly goes into detail about the blaxploitation crossovers that happened as well, such as the blaxploitation/horror films like Blacula (Dracula’s black soul brother) and also the blaxploitation/kung fu crossovers. It was very interesting and gave me a hunger to see more of these incredible blaxploitation films.

The Vanishing Prairie

Directed by James Algar
Produced by Ben Sharpsteen
Written by James Algar & Winston Hibler
Narrated by Winston Hibler
Editing by Lloyd L. Richardson
Release date(s) 17 August 1954
Running time 71 minutes
Country United States

The Vanishing Prairie is another of Walt Disney’s True Life Adventures that is contained on the Walt Disney Legacy Collection Volume 2, which I received for Christmas. A couple of days ago I made a post about the other full-length nature documentary contained on the DVD set, The Living Desert. Like its predecessor, The Vanishing Prairie won the Academy Award for best feature-length documentary.

I think I prefer this movie to The Living Desert, perhaps because this film does not focus so much on snakes (although a rattler does appear), spiders and insects. The Vanishing Prairie does have many memorable and enjoyable scenes such as the buffalo giving birth to a calf, the mountain lion cubs growing from kittens to teenagers and the lives of the prairie dogs, which face many dangers in their daily lives.

Paul Smith’s musical score plays a big part in the way that one feels about this movie and while it can be a little clichéd at times, I do think that it is brilliant too.

I think that the best way to treat this is as entertainment first and then as a nature documentary. When watching this film and The Living Desert I wondered to myself how much of the footage used was genuine and how much was set up or faked. Looking at the extras on the DVD set does give you the answers to this question though which made me quite disappointed, especially since one of the signature sequences of The Vanishing Prairie was faked according to Roy Disney. However there is still a lot of original stuff that they filmed on location and it is all quite fascinating. Still, this is very entertaining stuff which is a complete contrast to the nature documentaries that you see on TV today that I feel are very dry and at times boring.

The Living Desert

Directed by James Algar
Produced by Ben Sharpsteen
Written by James Algar, Winston Hibler
Narrated by Winston Hibler
Music by Paul J. Smith
Cinematography Robert H. Crandall, Paul Kenworthy
Editing by Norman R. Palmer
Distributed by Buena Vista Distribution
Release date(s) 10 November, 1953
Running time 69 minutes

Here is a different type of Disney movie from what I watched yesterday and something that was considered quite revolutionary at the time. Yes, The Living Desert is a nature documentary but it also came out in 1953, long before National Geographic Channel, Animal Planet, Jacques Cousteau and David Attenborough. This title won the Academy Award for best documentary and it is great viewing indeed.

Unlike most of today’s nature documentaries The Living Desert never takes itself or its subjects too seriously. The main focus of the film is to entertain its audience while also educating them about life in the harsh desert environment of America. There are lots of memorable scenes, especially the sequence showing the mating ritual of the scorpions, as well as the battle between the tarantula and the wasp and the mating ritual of the desert tortoise. The Living Desert is a fascinating film that still is fun to watch today almost sixty years after its release.

One feature about the movie that was criticised for upon its release is the musical score by Paul Smith, which many thought was quite hokey and gives the film its lighthearted feel. I feel that the music is appropriate and is what separates a Disney production from any other nature film.

The Living Desert is featured on the Walt Disney Legacy Collection volume 2 which was released a couple of years ago. I actually received this as a Christmas present from my parents and for that I will be eternally grateful. Other Disney True Life Adventures are featured on the DVD set including The Vanishing Prarie which I will write up very soon.