Last year the ravenous movie maniac Mark Hartley unleashed the infectiously entertaining documentary Not Quite Hollywood, which lovingly traced the run of Australian exploitation films throughout the 1960s, ‘70s, and ‘80s. And now the man is back with a very similar film that casts an endearingly silly spotlight on another nation: namely, the Philippines in Machete Maidens Unleashed.
But wait, you’re probably thinking, how many films were really made in the Phillipines from the late ‘60s to the early ‘80s? I know that’s what I was wondering when I sat down with the salaciously titled Machete Maidens Unleashed!, but I know that Mr. Hartley would fill in all the blanks for me. A few more documentaries like this and Mark Hartley may become the Ken Burns of global explotation cinema. It’s not like he has a shortage of countries and cultures to choose from.
Enjoyably colorful and palpably passionate about its subject matter, Machete Maidens Unleashed! starts out with the earlier and more obscure Filipinoxploitation flicks (such as Mad Doctor of Blood Island, Brides of Blood, and Beasts of Blood; apparently “blood” was always required in the title), and focuses on local “masters” like Eddie Romero, John Ashley, and Vic Diaz -- the majority of the film focuses on how often Roger Corman used the Philippines for very ... specific kinds of movies.
From “prison women” flicks like Women in Cages, The Hot Box, and The Big Bird Cage to politically-themed action movies like Savage! and TNT Jackson, the Philippines provided many of Corman’s best young filmmakers to hone their craft -- in a country where pretty much anything goes. Machete Maidens Unleashed! offers eclectic (and adults only) film clips galore, and the anecdotes are provided by the likes of Joe Dante, Allan Arkush, R. Lee Ermey, Jon Davison, Jack Hill, Sid Haig, John Landis, Dick Miller, Brian Trenchard-Smith, and (of course) Mr. Corman himself.
If Machete Maidens Unleashed! doesn’t pack quite the extended blast of adrenaline that Not Quite Hollywood does, it’s probably because Australia made a lot more flicks (and ones worth talking about), whereas the Filipino output from the same era isn’t quite as lovable. But there’s little denying that with only his second documntary, Mr. Hartley has proven himself to be quite the excellent curator of globally tacky cinema.