"Ozploitation" is the name that was given to the wave of exploitation films produced in Australia in the late 1970s and early 1980s. This flood of cheaply made films was made possible when Australian censorship laws were relaxed early in the 1970s. "Tacky," "tasteless," "lurid" and "fun" are some of the words commonly used to describe these movies.
There had been some notable films produced in Australia to that point, including Nicholas Roeg's Walkabout and Peter Weir's Picnic at Hanging Rock, but the Australian movie industry was still very much in its infancy. Ozploitation films were raw and crude. They had cheap production values and none of the aforementioned films' artistic aspirations. Their chief strength was their reckless intensity that was over the top even by the standards of exploitation film.
Ozploitation is considered to have been launched with the 1970 sex documentary The Naked Bunyip. Its success was followed by 1972's The Adventures of Barry McKenzie, a drunken sex comedy that is notable for providing Dame Edna's film debut.
These films and their makers have been practically written out of Australian film history despite representing some of the country's greatest international successes. The government-subsidized Australian Film Institute felt that genre films were too Americanized and pushed for the production of a more arthouse type of fare. Ironically, one of the most vocal of these opponents was Phillip Adams, producer of Bunyip and Barry McKenzie. Adams alleged that Mad Max was too violent and headed an effort to block its release.
Australian filmmakers sometimes tried to increase their international appeal by employing well-known actors such as Jamie Lee Curtis, Stacy Keach and Olivia Hussey. Dennis Hopper made Mad Dog Morgan during his period of unofficial exile from Hollywood, but he got himself exiled officially from Australia. David Hemmings made some of his last film appearances here before his transition into directing and television.
A number of Ozploitation film actors went on to greater stardom. The most successful Ozploitation films, Mad Max and its sequel Mad Max 2/The Road Warrior, helped make Mel Gibson a household name. Nicole Kidman debuted in BMX Bandits and was considered for Howling 3: The Marsupials but was rejected as too pretty for the role. Barry Humphries' "Dame Edna" character achieved worldwide fame. Directors Bruce Beresford and Peter Weir are responsible for such critical and commercial successes as Breaker Morant, Driving Miss Daisy and Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.
The documentary Not Quite Hollywood is mandatory viewing. It is the only comprehensive study of the genre, and it is hard to imagine that a documentary could be any more fun.
Actors associated with the genre:
- Mel Gibson
- Graeme Blundell
- Barry Humphries
- Roger Ward
- Rod Mullinar
- Gus Mercurio
Directors of Ozploitation films:
- Bruce Beresford
- Peter Weir
- John D. Lamond
- Brian Trenchard-Smith
- Richard Franklin
- Tim Burstall
- George Miller
- Colin Eggleston
- Anthony I. Ginnane
Some notable Ozploitation films:
- The Naked Bunyip
- The Adventures of Barry McKenzie
- Alvin Purple
- The True Story of Eskimo Nell
- The Man From Hong Kong
- Mad Dog Morgan
- Mad Max
- Mad Max 2/The Road Warrior
- Long Weekend
- Road Games
- Turkey Shoot/Escape 2000