Reviewed by Scott A. Johnson
Starring Roger Corman, Joe Dante, John Landis, Sid Haig, R. Lee. Ermey, Jack Hill
Directed by Mark Hartley
Director Mark Hartley struck gold again when he unleashed his newest documentary, Machete Maidens Unleashed!, before a mesmerized audience at 2010 Fantastic Fest. To make matters even better, he got to premiere his film as a sort of introduction to Roger Corman’s Sharktopus. While I’m not sure what the crowd expected, what they got was an impressive, heartfelt and inclusive tribute to an incredible time period when films were made cheaply in the Philippines, and even those who weren’t fans of the genre genuinely enjoyed it.
In keeping with the style of movies covered, Hartley plants his tongue firmly in cheek for a great many of the segments. Interviews with stars such as Sid Haig, Colleen Camp, Steve Carver, Pam Grier and a ton of the b-movie queens give every segment a sense of humor and history. To hear them tell of their horrific ordeals in the jungles, the terrible filming conditions, and the real dangers they faced, while laughing and declaring what a good time it really was, is fascinating. It brings the viewers a new respect for those actors and for the sacrifices they made. It also shows that the old adage of “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is very true, at least for these people.
Also present are interviews with directors Joe Dante, Eddie Romero, John Landis and even Roger Corman, who give an amazing sense of insight to the process and to why the films were made the way they were. The stories about using the actual Filipino Army for most of the films are both surreal and hysterical.
In one instance a crew wound up using helicopters that just got done with a strafing run on rebels and had to remind the pilot to switch the ammunition out for blanks. In other cases the stories of the “crazy” stunt men from over there are worth a documentary of their own.
If you are a fan of the three “B’s” (which, according to John Landis, stands for Boobs, Bombs, and Blood) and the exploitation films of the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s, this is a film you need to see. No matter how many of the films mentioned in this documentary you’ve seen, there’s nothing quite like hearing the actors themselves talk about them, especially with such happy nostalgia about what was, from most accounts, a hellish time.
5 out of 5
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