Ozploitation: Exploitation or Fearless Film making?

In the early to mid 20th century, Australian censorship was really repressive, especially for the western world (Moore, p.3, 2012). It is instances like the banning of George Orwell’s first book Down and Out in Paris and London in 1933 which have given Australian censorship its reputation for severity (Moore, p.3, 2012). Australian censorship not only effected literature but also film making, however the 10BA tax laws and the implementation of the R rating in 1971 changed all this. The 10BA tax laws that were first introduced in June 1981, allowed investors to claim a 150 per cent tax concession and to pay tax on only half of any income earned from the investment, resulting in a period of fearlessness and risk taking in Australian film. Watching ‘Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild untold story of Ozploitation!’ (2008) was like opening up a pandora’s box of Australian films not readily available and rarely referenced in the Australian film industry today. Films like Turkey Shoot (1982), Wake in Fright (1971), Long Weekend (1978) and Alvin Purple (1973) all exemplified how the new R rating was taken full advantage of by film makers and nudity, horror, gore and extreme violence became common themes of Ozpolitation films.

In ‘Not Quite Hollywood’ Phillip Adams admitted, “many of us were snobby about genre filmmaking”. However Alvin Purple was the most commercially successful Australian movie of the 1970’s, it had a budget of $200,000 but took 5 million at the box office. It was a film with “progressive instincts that were both informed and complicated by the emergence of feminism as a political movement”,whilst responding to the changing ideas of sexual freedom and “giving the public what they want and rubbing it in prudes faces”. Many of the Ozploitation films were as popular with audiences as they were hated by film critics, they were often compared to popular art house films of the time like Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975) even though they represented an entirely opposite world of film making. Mark Hatley notes that “For every Caddie there was a Felicity. For every Picnic at Hanging Rock there was a Stunt Rock. For every Jimmie Blacksmith there was an Alvin Purple’ (Heller-Nicholas, p.14, 2008) meaning that the boisterous films in Not Quite Hollywood positioned themselves in direct opposition to mainstream Australian film culture. The Ozploitation films act as a “rich mine of valuable cultural artefacts” and Not Quite Hollywood along with the use of Quentin Tarantino’s encyclopaedic knowledge of Australian genre films of this era acknowledges the impact, charm and influence of many of these films.

The creative freedom explored during this time is similar to the spirit that is moving across to the popular web series format that has inspired many young people to make film without the constraints of funding or network support. Web series made in Australia went from just 107 episodes in 2012 to 3,248 in 2016 (The Conversation, 2017) and some of these have been major success stories. Just as web series do, Ozploitation films in many ways counteract the contemporary complaints of Australian film, they were not tame and predictable, and now, web series are being given this same chance to create content that would have struggled in a conservative risk-averse broadcast market.

References

Moore, N., 2012. The Censor’s Library. 1st ed. St Lucia Qld: University of Queensland Press.

Buckmaster, L ‘Alvin Purple rewatched – the raunchy heart of 1970’s Ozploitation’, The Guardian, 2014, visited 9/1/2018 https://www.theguardian.com/film/australia-culture-blog/2014/oct/24/alvin-purple-rewatching-classic-australian-films

Swinburne, S ‘How web series are shaking up Australia’s screen industry’, The Conversation, June 30 2017, visited 3/1/2018https://theconversation.com/how-web-series-are-shaking-up-australias-screen-industry-79844

Heller-Nicholas, A, ‘Ozploitation Revisited: Not Quite Hollywood’, Metro Magazine, No.158, 2008:14-17

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