DVD LET­TER­BOX

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv - MICHAEL BODEY

THE release of Mark Hart­ley’s sprightly doc­u­men­tary about the other Aus­tralian film in­dus­try of the 1970s and ’ 80s, Not Quite Hol­ly­wood , re­sulted in an orgy of re-re­leases of the film’s sub­jects.

This month, Dead-End Drive In , Pa­trick , The Man From Hong Kong , Fe­lic­ity and Stunt Rock join the litany of Oz­ploita­tion films that have found new life, in some in­stances in brand new, pris­tine trans­fers to DVD.

Of course, many are of niche in­ter­est; oth­ers are of ab­so­lutely no in­ter­est, no mat­ter how pumped up their ex­pat au­teurs may be with this re­newed at­ten­tion and, if they’re lucky, crit­i­cal re-eval­u­a­tion.

Which is all well and good, but what of the pre-1970 Aus­tralian films? We ac­cept the ’ 70s threw up the Aus­tralian new wave, re­garded as a real film in­dus­try and driven by names such as Weir, Beres­ford, Miller, Schep­isi and Gib­son, and a con­cur­rent Oz­ploita­tion wave of less-es­teemed B and C-grade movies and film­mak­ers.

They have been very well served by the do­mes­tic DVD in­dus­try, which is re-re­leas­ing many films with aban­don.

But that same DVD in­dus­try is ne­glect­ing the films made here be­fore 1970, which is sad­den­ing. Where are the old Dad and Dave films, The Sun­down­ers , Jedda , 40,000 Horse­men , Eureka Stock­ade ?

Ac­cess to th­ese films is com­pli­cated by com­plex copy­right is­sues. To track down rights could be a never-end­ing jour­ney, al­though I will start do­ing some tracking my­self in the weeks ahead.

So back to the Oz­ploita­tion films. In one sense, the repack­aged prod­ucts re­leased by the Um­brella, Shock and Mad­man com­pa­nies are more in­ter­est­ing than the films. Some of the ex­tras or com­men­taries on th­ese of­ten du­bi­ous films are more in­volv­ing than the fea­tures.

The new edi­tion of Brian Tren­chardSmith’s Stunt Rock is a case in point. The di­rec­tor is hon­est enough in his com­men­tary to show some per­spec­tive and not in­dulge in des­per­ate self-jus­ti­fi­ca­tion.

How could you be too se­ri­ous about a film star­ring stunt­man Grant Page, play­ing a stunt­man in LA who, in his spare time, helps a rock band called Sor­cery with its on-stage wiz­ardry? And to think Tren­chard-Smith wanted For­eigner to play the band.

It’s fun lis­ten­ing to Tren­chard-Smith and his stars Page and Mar­garet Ger­ard dis­cuss a film made in the days when Aus­tralian film­mak­ing was rough and al­ways ready.

And that readi­ness is shown bril­liantly in Tren­chard-Smith’s 1973 doc­u­men­tary The Stunt Men, in­cluded as a spe­cial fea­ture on the Stunt Rock DVD.

The sight of shirt­less, hairy Aussie men of the ’ 70s, with cig­gies per­ma­nently at­tached to their lower lip, throw­ing them­selves off cliffs, driv­ing into each other and fall­ing off horses re­minds you how — how should we say it? — soft Aus­tralian films are to­day.

And low-bud­get. For God’s sake, the doco fea­tures a tele­vi­sion ad filmed for a mo­tor­bike shop in Syd­ney’s Gor­don that has more action than all but two of the Aus­tralian films re­leased last year.

There is a rogu­ish­ness to th­ese ac­com­plished stunt­men that is very un­der­stated Aus­tralian. Bob Wood­ham notes drily, af­ter talk­ing of a car-plung­ing-into-ariver stunt that went awry, ‘‘ drown­ing is not a good way to die’’.

And Page, pos­si­bly our great­est stunt artist, blithely ca­reers down a fly­ing fox in his Speedos from a launch­ing pad 53m above Syd­ney’s The Gap.

But noth­ing tops Tren­chard-Smith’s con­fi­dent dec­la­ra­tion that a new fir­ere­pel­lent gel prod­uct is so safe, he’ll set his own arm on fire for the cam­era; he there­after pro­ceeds to burn the be­je­sus out of it. The Stunt Men cer­tainly chron­i­cles a dif­fer­ent time.

bodeym@ theaus­tralian. com. au

Play­ing pool: Stunt­man Grant Page

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