Mark Hartley is already a name well known to fans of horror and exploitation fare thanks to his great documentary Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story Of Ozploitation. It looked back at a time and a place that really wouldn’t ever come around again. The investment and opportunities available in Australia a few decades ago led to a boom in moviemaking that the country has never recaptured, although it has certainly thrived on a great succession of film-makers brought up with the cinema of those wild, adventurous times. Machete Maidens Unleashed is about a lot of movies made under similiar circumstances.
With many resources available, and workers available for ridiculously small sums of money, the Phillipines became a very attractive prospect in the 1970s to low-budget, independent film-makers who wanted to make their money go a long way while providing entertaining schlock for the drive-in audiences. The Filipino film wasn’t really a movie focused on the geography of the area or the local culture. It was a film infused with the cheap, and often dangerous, method of film-making that threw standard exploitation material in to a jungle setting. Blood was shed, breasts were bared and rubber monsters would often appear to “fill your very core with fear” (you can tell that I made up that tagline, it’s nowhere near as brilliant or sensational as the real things). Many of these movies were more about marketing and economic use of material but that didn’t stop them finding a place in the hearts of horror and exploitation fans.
Mark Hartley does a great job, once again, of filling a documentary with great anecdote after anecdote while at the same time putting everything in a very specific context that helps even the uninitiated understand how these movies came about and why they still have fans who regard them with affection. In a strange way, this shows that purely economical considerations can still lead to fun and memorable movies (necessity is, after all, the mother of invention). It’s also nice to see the many well-known faces who worked on a number of these movies – Sid Haig, Pam Grier, Joe Dante, Eddie Romero, etc – talking about them in a way that is gently mocking without being instantly dismissive. These were steps, for many people, on the way to greater success. Just like any other independent movies. Unsurprisingly, Roger Corman is the focus for most of the screentime and casts his inimitable shadow over all of the proceedings.
Expect gratuitous nudity, occasional gore and non-stop lunacy of a very surreal kind. Machete Maidens Unleashed both explores the Filipino movie and, with the mix of inspired clips and great editing, also feels like one. Well worth watching if you’re a fan of exploitation fare and still worth watching if you’re not.
WRITER/DIRECTOR: MARK HARTLEY
FEATURES: ROGER CORMAN, JOHN LANDIS, JOE DANTE, EDDIE ROMERO, SID HAIG, CIRIO H. SANTIAGO, JACK HILL, DICK MILLER, PAM GRIER, JUDY BROWN, STEVE CARVER
RUNTIME: 84 MINS APPROX