Monday, 26 July 2021

Machete Maidens Unleashed

Machete Bolognese

Machete Maidens Unleashed
Australia 2010
Directed by Mark Hartley
Umbrella Entertainment  Blu Ray Zone A/B/C
(as a double bill with Electric Boogaloo -
The Wild, Untold Story of Canon Films)

I think I may be getting jaded as the years go by.

I bought this Blu Ray because I wanted to take another look at Electric Boogaloo - The Wild, Untold Story Of Canon Films, which I saw as part of the London Film Festival back in 2014 (my review is here) and I got fed up with trying to find a UK Blu Release but found this one which, I suspect, is an Australian edition and which is double billed with an earlier documentary by the same director, Machete Maidens Unleashed.

Now, I knew this was about Filipino exploitations films and the title and image of a half naked woman swinging her machete seemed at least a little relevant to my interests. And, it has to be said, it is a finely made documentary but, like I said, I think I may be getting a little jaded about this sort of thing. Either that or I’ve just seen too many of these documentaries that they all blend into one now. Stuff like American Grindhouse (reviewed here) and Corman’s World have got a fair few overlaps and, I guess that’s inevitable when you’re looking at stuff like this.

That being said, if you’ve not seen things like this before it’s probably a real eye opener, even if it concentrates on just a few of the usual suspects to give it a narrative. I guess I’d never realised the strong links between the Filipino productions and the American companies like Roger Corman’s New World Pictures before. I had no idea that fairly famous, household name movies like The Big Bird Cage, TNT Jackson and Firecracker were Filipino productions, for example.

So, yeah, the film starts off by concentrating on the Blood Island films. Now I’ve seen those plus the various, well produced supporting extras from Severin Films already (and reviewed them here) so a sizeable segment on these seemed somehow redundant to me... and then it went into similarly themed territory with all the Corman stuff etc. So, again, it’s not them it’s me... I was expecting a fresh subject but what I got were retreads of things I’d seen tackled before. The documentary is decently enough put together with a fair few talking heads like Corman, John Landis, Joe Dante, Sid Haig etc and I’m happy to see them... I was just expecting something which would give me a big ‘to watch’ list of things and, of course, a lot of this stuff still hasn’t made it onto Blu Ray (or even DVD where the UK is concerned) so if you do find something you need to grab, the lack of a high quality sourced version of it can be a little frustrating, to be honest.

However, like I said, if you’ve not seen a lot of these films or documentaries then you will probably have a really good time with this movie. I certainly don’t begrudge the small price of purchase because, with both Machete Maidens Unleashed and Electric Boogaloo, the films are accompanied by a wealth of extras including, for each, a big compilation of trailers of the respective movies. I’ve yet to watch these two selections as yet (running a total of about two hours between them) but for me... well, I would have paid twice the amount just to get the contents of these extras so I’m pretty happy with this, it has to be said.

One of the things I did learn in this, from some of the American directors and actors who were filming over there on these things, was just how bad the working conditions were... lack of health and safety came up a lot. Plus, things got even more dangerous after the president declared martial law and it was hazardous to be out on the streets after curfew... and everyone seemed armed to the teeth anyway. The other thing I learnt from this was... Pam Grier seemed up for almost anything, which just makes me love her even more and if you want to read a great book about her, well then my review of her autobiography entitled Foxy - A Life In Three Acts can be found here.

I guess I did learn about the history of the situation too... the reasons why the American producers started working there (it was very cheap) and how that all came about. It was also interesting to see someone like John Landis talking about the fan culture surrounding some of the films people direct and how, when someone presents a theory to a director with what he or she was trying to achieve in their movie, the director would normally look at them and nod in acknowledgement but, inside, they were more likely to be thinking... and I quote Landis here... “What the f*** are they talking about?”.

All in all, then, I did have some fun and the film has an incredible opening title sequence using clips from some of the films posterised out in different colours, juxtaposed with bits of animated memorabilia and poster art etc. This maybe raised the bar and set my expectations a little too high but, yeah, a good section of titles.

And that’s about all I’ve got to say about this one. Easily a strong recommendation for people who haven’t seen or don’t know much about this material but it did seem somewhat less niche and commercial to me so, be prepared to coast if you’ve already seen a lot of info on this subject from other sources. Definitely worth getting the Umbrella Entertainment double bill Blu Ray though, if only for the extras. There’s some good stuff on there.

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