1975, as well as being the banner year for art films, also saw two films that would more properly define "Ozploitation": Brian Trenchard-Smith's kung-faux action thriller The Man From Hong Kong, starring former flop James Bond George Lazenby and the One-Armed Swordsman himself, Jimmy Wang Yu, and Terry Bourke's Inn of the Damned, starring the Australian-born, long-exiled actress Judith Anderson.
Trenchard-Smith (1946- ) is often identified as the premiere artisan of Australian trash film. Having moved down under in the '60s, he had directed TV documentaries and edited film previews before making his feature debut with The Love Epidemic in 1974. His subsequent roster of films swung between poles of entertaining schlock, including Dead-End Drive-In (1986), and the youth-oriented BMX Bandits (1982) and Frog Dreaming (a.k.a. The Quest, 1987), and irredeemable crap, like Turkey Shoot (a.k.a. Escape 2000, 1982). Inn of the Damned, on the other hand, was the second feature directed by Bourke, a former stuntman whose first film had been a failed TV pilot expanded for theatrical release. Inn transposed a gothic concept - a murderous inn-keeping family disposing of passing travelers - into rural Victoria in the 1890s, and was then the first in a string of antipodean horror and action films with a gamy low-budget flavor. Bourke himself followed it with a sexy private eye flick, Plugg (1976), and a less successful horror film in 1982, Lady, Stay Dead.
Antony I. Ginnane (1949- ) was to be the impresario behind many of these low-rent epics. Ginnane had dabbled in film distribution and had written, directed, and produced a film himself, Sympathy in Summer (1971), whilst still a law student. Sympathy, ironically, was an attempt to make a sensitive, artistic type of film, where the next film he produced, 1976's Fantasm, was a soft-core porn flick shot mostly in Los Angeles, stringing together a series of erotic re-enactments of supposedly common female sexual fantasies. It was a hit, and inspired a sequel, entitled, obviously, Fantasm Comes Again (1978). The first film's credited director was one Richard Bruce, the pseudonym of Richard Franklin (1949-2007), a film critic and student who had spent time learning his craft abroad, including on the set of Hitchcock's Topaz (1969). Franklin's directorial debut had been 1975's The True Story of Eskimo Nell, a sexual satire based on a classic bawdy song, but his predilection for Hitchcockian suspense, which would eventually see him make Psycho 2 (1983) in Hollywood, gained its first airing with the tacky drama of a paralysed psychic, Patrick (1978), and the rather more polished Road Games in 1981.
Road Games sported two American stars, Jamie Lee Curtis and Stacy Keach, perhaps the most prominent example of Ginnane's surest tactic of importing reasonably well-known foreign names to bolster local casts. Others included Henry Silva in The Thirst (1979), Ken Wahl and George Peppard in The Race for the Yankee Zephyr (1981), Robert Powell and Broderick Crawford in Harlequin (a.k.a. Dark Forces, 1980), and Steve Railsback and Olivia Hussey in Turkey Shoot. Ginnane's films rarely made an overt splash, quite often going straight to video, but they were often economical and popular enough in that new medium to have long, profitable lives.
The most steadfast of Ginnane's imported stars was British actor David Hemmings (1941-2003), who not only appeared in The Thirst, Harlequin, and The Survivor, but also directed the latter film. Perhaps the best of all these works is Rod Hardy's The Thirst, a cleverly conceived vampire thriller with a pointed genre metaphor for the history of imperialist exploitation. Another director in the Ginnane stable to rise to bigger things was Simon Wincer (1943- ), who had done much television work before directing Snapshot (1979), a murky psycho-killer flick, and Harlequin, a blunt, deliberately vague political parable based on the Rasputin myth, films which displayed Wincer's talents sufficiently to land him the job of directing 1983's altogether classier Phar Lap.
Trenchard-Smith and Ginnane were not, however, between them entirely responsible for all the Ozploitation flicks of the '70s and early '80s. Some established directors tackled action films in this climate, but the likes of Michael Thornhill's Harvest of Hate and Tim Burstall's Attack Force Z (1981) ended up doing more harm to their careers than good. Colin Eggleston, who had helmed Fantasm Comes Again for Ginnane under a pseudonym, produced as well as directed Long Weekend (1979), an eerie, if crude, yarn about a city couple (John Hargreaves and Briony Behets) whose camping holiday turns bewildering and finally destructive when their careless violence to nature results in their being terrorized by animals and their own latent insecurities, leading to both their deaths.
Long Weekend evoked, in a down-market fashion, the same anxiety based in nature that had given Picnic at Hanging Rock some of its force, with a more explicitly contemporary, environmentalist edge, and was as such one of the most original Aussie genre films. Few however displayed as much sophistication. 1984's Razorback lay at the other end of the conceptual spectrum, an absurd Jaws variation sporting a colossal man-eating pig as its monster. Razorback was distinguished, however, by a pungent atmosphere that channelled Wake in Fright's outback paranoia, provided by the director, Russell Mulcahy (1953- ), who had developed his style in music videos, and was snapped up by Hollywood.
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