Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Machete Maidens Unleashed! (Review)

Machete Maidens Unleashed!

Machete Maidens Unleashed (2010)

Directed by Mark Hartley

[part of the NYAFF 2011]

I've been looking forward to checking out Mark Hartley's latest documentary Machete Maidens Unleashed for a while now. After checking out the trailer, I was salivating to see the history of Filipino exploitation films as I was too young to know what these films were and how they were made. Thanks to the New York Asian Film Festival (NYAFF2011) my dream is now a reality. Hartley, who last made Ozploitation a household name (that's Australian exploitation flicks) with Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation! takes on the world of exploitation films created in the jungle depths of the Philippines and interviews the bejesus out of everybody who ever made one.

Machete Maidens Unleashed is an awesome in depth look into a period of filmmaking history where anything went, labor was cheap, the blood poured and the boobs, well they were real and they were spectacular. Hartley takes the footage, the gimmicks, the taglines and interviews from the likes of Roger Corman, John Landis, legendary Filipino director Eddie Romero and others to tell the story of what it was like to film mutated creatures, hot women in prison, blaxsploitation and rebellious war flicks. It's a fast paced doc, getting a soundbyte here while simultaneously flashing boobs in your face and decapitating an arm.

What you gain is a clear understanding of filmmaking via New World Pictures (Corman's company) and the people under him. It's nostalgic, funny and mesmerizing to watch. And it's clearly one of the best movies of 2011 in my opinion.

Boring Plot-O-Matic

A fast moving odyssey into the subterranean world of the rarely explored province of Filipino genre filmmaking.

Awesome Review-O-Matic

The movie is broken apart via the different genres filmed in the Philippines. These include:
  • Blood Island series of films
  • Women in prison films (eg. The Big Dollhouse, Black Mama, White Mama)
  • War/Revolution films
  • Blaxsploitation films (eg. Savage, TNT Jackson)
  • Hollywood parodies (eg. Weng Weng)
  • Apocalypse Now history
All the sections are really interesting in their own right. The Philippines was a haven for Corman and his directors to shoot low budget films that look like big giant blockbusters. They flew in beautiful actresses including breakout star Pam Grier and just had them kick ass and get naked. With the blessing of dictator Ferdinand Marcos and the Filipino army and stuntmen at their disposal, New World Pictures was able to make popular genre films for what seems like less than a buck and make millions.

It's just crazy interesting to look back at real exploitation films and see how they were made. These days, "exploitation films" via the Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino are big budget spectaculars. But seeing the original bizarre plots, bad acting, gratuitous nudity and unreal stunts and how it all came to be is something Generation X,Y and Z never really had a chance to experience.

The interviews, though rapidly short are full of one line soundbytes and moments of WTF. Roger Corman gives you accounts of his library of films filmed in these islands. Joe Dante and Allan Arkush give you an insight look into how they cut trailers where the trailers were made to sell the film with gimmicks and non existent plot lines. I loved the interviews with the Filipino directors which included Eddie Romero and Cirio Santiago. They were Filipinos who made American movies. Romero's take on his experience with Corman is one of genuine admiration. He strived to make Grade A movies and never thought he was making B movies. Santiago directed so many classics such as Savage and TNT Jackson. To think a Filipino director made blaxsploitation blows my fuckin mind. Just freakin fascinating.

The film was originally suppose to be Hartley's attempt to profile Weng Weng, the midget who made James Bond spoofs. There is a section here in Machete Maidens Unleashed on Weng Weng and it's also a hoot. We even get an interview with Filipino film historians, critics and other film luminaries about this universe of crazy filmmaking.

But the documentary's proudest moment has gotta be the endless boob shots. The women in prison movies then women in chains turned revenge flicks is the money shot of the documentary. Beautiful women and their breasts are endlessly looped to show you that these may have been the first films where women were leads and played action heroes. Is it total exploitation or a glimpse into 70s feminism? Thinking about it hurts my head. We get interviews with the actresses and it's just absolutely wild to see what they look like now compared to their hotness decades ago. Pam Grier is still freakin hot.

Machete Maidens Unleashed! is a manic albeit short look into the world of guerrilla filmmaking. There have been other docs profiling Corman and his flicks but none gets you sweaty, bloody and stiff like this one does. It's got me checking Netflix to see if I can watch some of these films in their entirety.

We use the term exploitation film so loosely these days. Anything that resembles something that might be a reboot of a genre from the 60s, 70s or 80s is given that label. But true exploitation films are exactly that. They exploited the audience's perceptions and desires. If the audience dug gratuitous nudity, you made a film that had tons of it. If the viewers wanted blood and guts, you cut off an arm. If you wanted to see a naked black woman kick ass with her boobs all bouncy, you made that happen. Those films were true exploitation and we'll never have a "golden" age like that again. Machete Maidens Unleashed! is your chance to see a history of filmmaking that is the epitome of WTF movies.

And also who doesn't like seeing a hot topless girl fire machine guns.




Tons and tons and tons!

WTF moment

I question why I haven't seen more women in prison films

The Jaded Viewer's Final Prognosis

NYAFF 2011 film festival opens on 7/1. I've created a list of films to check out at this year's festival. Machete Maidens Unleashed screens on July 2nd at 7pm and is followed by a showing of Raw Force.

Head over to the official site for more info.

The Vitals

Check out the trailer!

1 comment:

  1. I didn't enjoy this as much as his previous documentary "Not Quite Hollywood" and even though it features John Landis, who is enthusiastic as always, the films on show here didn't get me as excited which was kind of a shame. I also missed Tarantino's view point on the films on offer, seeing how he made so many fun points in the first documentary which added so much to my watch list, unlike this one which added perhaps a handful at best.