A documentary by Mark Hartley. Unrated. Plays Thursday to Saturday, June 2 to 4, at the Pacific Cinémathí¨que
Ever wonder what Quentin Tarantino was gorging himself on during his video-store-clerk years? Based on the never less than fascinating (not to mention fascinatingly insane) Machete Maidens Unleashed!, the shot-in-the-Philippines B movies of the ’60s and ’70s were a major part of his diet. If your dream night is a grindhouse triple bill of Black Mama, White Mama, Vampire Hookers, and Women in Cages, get ready to thrill to this machine-gun-paced documentary, in which Australian director Mark Hartley explores one of the more obscure corners of cult-classic heaven.
A clear labour of love, Machete Maiden Unleashed! outlines how cheap extras, low production costs, and an unapologetically cavalier attitude toward safety standards made the Philippines a mecca for low-budget American filmmakers during the heyday of North American drive-ins. With the likes of Roger Corman leading the way, the country cranked out nudity-laden, violence-heavy shlock at a dizzying pace. From blaxploitation kung-fu films to papier-mí¢ché monster movies to bare-breasted-chicks-in-prison flicks, nothing was considered too violent, racy, or inappropriate for North American audiences.
Hartley’s great coup here is assembling a crazily disparate cast of characters (exploitation-flick icon Sid Haig, blaxploitation ass kicker Pam Grier, American comedy director John Landis) with one thing in common: a relentless enthusiasm for the subject matter. All involved make a concrete case that what was going on behind the scenes was even more outrageous than what trashaholics saw on-screen.
Machete Maidens Unleashed! makes some interesting observations about how changing attitudes toward sex, violence, and race relations had exploitation directors exploding old boundaries in the ’60s and ’70s, and how the B-movie industry was ultimately destroyed by movies like Jaws, which applied big-budgets to low-rent ideas.
Ultimately though, this is one glorious deification of blood-spurting, boob-baring crap. Somehow you just know Tarantino owns at least two copies of the awesomely awful Filipino spy flick For Y’ur Height Only, starring, as Machete Maidens Unleashed! proudly trumpets, Weng Weng the karate-kicking midget.
Watch the trailer for Machete Maidens Unleashed!.