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Karate-kicking midgets! Paper-mache monsters! Busty babes with blades! Filipino genre films of the '70s and '80s had it all. Boasting cheap labour, exotic scenery and non-existent health and safety regulations, the Philippines was a dreamland for exploitation filmmakers whose renegade productions were soon engulfing drive-in screens around the globe like a tidal schlock-wave! At last, the all-too-often overlooked world of drive-in filler from Manilla gets the Mark Hartley (NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD) treatment in Machete Maidens Unleashed! This is the ultimate insiders' account of a faraway backlot where stunt men came cheap, plot was obsolete and the make-up guy was packing heat! Machete Maidens Unleashed! features interviews with cult movie icons Roger Corman, Joe Dante, John Landis, Sid Haig, Eddie Romero and a large assembly of cast, crew and critics, each with a jaw-dropping story to tell about filmmaking with no budget, no scruples, no boundaries and - more often than not - no clothes.... Written by
A fast moving documentary about exploitation film in the late 60's, 70's and early 80's
Directed by Mark Hartley, the man behind Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films, comes Machete Maidens Unleashed. It's a fast moving but pretty informative look at exploitation films in the late 60's, 70's and early 80's. It's main focus is to give explanation about the wild films that came out from the Philippines. Many of the B movie staples came from this era of film. It spans about 15 years where these films were all the rage at Drive-Ins and the rules didn't apply.
The film starts off with showing how production moved from the states to the Philippines after it was liberated by America. The country was very American friendly. Gerry de Leon and Eddie Romero were the first filmmakers to establish themselves and start making films. The first focus was on the Blood Island films of which there were a few. It's funny to hear the filmmakers talk about these films while clips are show. The films were goofy horror movies shot on shoestring budgets with thin plots and bad acting. What brought people to these films were the shocks promised from the trailers. There would be gore, obviously fake gore but monsters, science fiction and terror.
Roger Corman is introduced as producer as his time line crosses with that of Eddie Romero. Corman was a bigger name and he had lofty aspirations. Most of the 'hit' films being produced by him. The montage of what he was known for is hilarious. There's also a montage of all of the elements in a good Corman movie. Having not seen many of his film, it was interesting that he wanted to make the 'best' film with the money he had.
But the films out of this area Corman is known for where highlighted in a feature on women in prison film. These films were actually highly successful because of the way they portrayed women as the heroes. Even though they were meant to titillate and entertain, the films helped the up and coming feminist movement. There are interviews with many of the famous actress such as Pam Grier, Colleen Camp, Judith Brown, Leigh Christian & Gloria Hendry. They were put through the ringer. The interviews are the most fascinating here. There are first hand accounts of what the actresses had to go through. Some of the things they went through will be shocking but not against the times.
Sig Haig gives insight on what he had to go through in these films as well. Being that all these films were R-rated or not rated at all, it was refreshing to see the clips in all their uncensored glory. I would hate to watch a PG-13 version of this film. It wouldn't give the films their shock credit. There are ample amounts of nudity and bloody violence. The highlight of all the interviews is many of the moments with John Landis. He provides uncensored thoughts which are insightful and laugh out loud funny. I could have seen all the uncut footage from his interviews. I know there was more great commentary from the director.
In the middle of the 70's the blaxploitation films were all the rage. Two of the films that led the charge came out Phillippines. Cirio H. Santiago directed TNT Jackson, which many of the actors talked about. It was a film that mixed Kung Fu with full on action and had a black female lead. This section of the documentary is most about the late 70s mixing of martial arts in the B-movie era. The stunt work is highlighted as most of the actors did all their own stunts. And the extra were on board for doing anything. Many were injured and a few died. But it was the idea of being in a 'big' Hollywood film that tested people's limits. A small portion of the film is devoted to Francis Ford Coppola whose Apocalypse Now is infamous for it's filming in Philippines. It's only give a few minutes in the documentary but enough is shown that made me want to dive into Heart of Darkness.
The final stretch of the film speaks about Manila International Film Festival and the growing film market. Jaws and Star Wars are targeted as B-movies that were made on a A-level. With these films the decline of the Philippine cinema began. The final big success was the James Bond type spoof starting homegrown Weng Weng. It was the last hit of this era of B-movie cinema. This documentary was so insightful and entertaining. I wasn't bored for a minute. Given that it is unrated also help. So much footage was shown that I was intrigued to see some of these films as a whole. To my surprise, Netflix does carry many of these films. I can see a B-movie marathon in my future.
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