Ozploitation on the small screen

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Last month the Alpha Ben of Daily Review Ben Neutze highlighted the preponderance of telemovies and minseries on our small screen in 2014. Channel 7 kicks off the official rating period this Sunday with INXS: Never Tear Us Apart while Channel 9 will broadcast Schapelle the following night. There is also a Gina Rinehart miniseries to look forward to/avoid as well as ANZAC Girls on the ABC.
Clearly any Australian actor who hasn’t at least been cast as “Denpasar Airport Extra #3” should fire their agent.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got no problem with any TV project that keeps Hugh Sheridan off the streets, I just think we are picking the wrong subjects.
Instead of exhaustively documenting every drug smuggler, criminal and musician to draw breath, networks should instead use the medium to revive the slumbering genre of Ozploitation films.
Ozploitation refers to Australian comedy and horror movies made after the introduction of the R rating in in 1971. Young baby boomers going to the cinema or – more likely – the drive-in expected to see two of the following three things: buckets of blood, gratuitous nudity or Graeme Blundell.
I’m not going to say movies like Howling III: The Marsupials and Razorback are classics  but they were certainly popular. In the 2008 documentary Not Quite Hollywood, filmmaker John D. Lamond claimed his racy film Australia After Dark earned as much as the prototypical blockbuster Jaws.
“If it can’t win Silver Jockstrap at the Krakow Film Festival then it can at least fill a slot at the drive in”, said Lamond.
The drive-ins have been swallowed up by McMansion developments but there is still an economically significant chunk of the population willing to watch buxom ladies being terrorised by bad special effects.
Ozploitation’s untapped potential on the small screen can be summed up in one word: Sharknando.
Originally released on the American cable channel SyFy in 2013, the tale of former 90210 heart throb Ian Ziering battling meteorologically displaced sharks drew record ratings and was both praised and panned on social media for its schlocky style.
Sharknado has all the trappings of an Ozploitation classic: killer animals, bad special effects, actresses cast on the basis of their bra size.
Changed the setting from LA to Bondi and replace Tara Reid with a topless Jacki Weaver and it could easily sit on a weekly video rental shelf next to The Cars That Ate Paris and Turkey Shoot.
If Australian TV executives would just pause from deciding how much to pay Lachy Hulme for the inevitable Jamie Packer mini-series, they would see my pitch for the telemovie Drop Bears is a sure fire winner.
An accident at suitably non-specific chemical factory in south east Queensland results in a toxic cloud being released in nearby bushland. The cloud causes mutations in the local koala population, giving the normally docile animals super speed, increased intelligence and a taste for human flesh.
Now it’s up to biologist Barry Minogue (Bruce Samazan) and German backpacker Hette Kaiserslautern (Tammin Sursok) to warn the public to look up and stay alive.
Don’t like that? How about Werebogan? Web designer Finn Lasseter (Whatshisname from Home and Away) is bitten by an itinerant panhandler while visiting the Frankston Pier and the next morning he is aghast to find his ironic moustache tattoo and fauxhawk have transformed in to a Southern Cross and a mullet. Can anthropology professor Malcolm Whitlam (Whichever Daddo brother is available) stop Finn with a silver Bintang or will he infect the entire inner suburbs?
And those were just off the top off my head. You give me a camera, a green screen and Tottie Goldsmith’s phone number and I will give you 85 minutes of government-mandated original Australian drama for the cost of an episode of My Kitchen Rules.
Because that’s the beauty of Ozploitation. People expect laughably bad production values so local networks can stop trying to compete with Game of Thrones and Downton Abbey and instead concentrate of getting just the right amount of blood spatter across Kimberley Davies’ chest.
They’ll also save money on publicity. Stick #werebogan on a bus shelter and it’ll promote itself, meaning the cricket commentators can actually call the action, instead of feigning interest in a group of 1960s midwives.
We stand on a threshold of a glorious era in Australian television. It will take a concerted letter-writing campaign, lots of phone calls to various TV network switchboards and possibly donations to a Kickstarter project I’m in the process of setting up but it will all be worth it next year when we gather in our living rooms to watch the world premiere of Once a Zombie Swagman.

6 responses to “Ozploitation on the small screen

  1. Well, you’ve made ME giggle for the rest of the day. “meteorologically displaced sharks” and #werebogan are winners already …

  2. I can’t understand why there hasn’t been a film adaptation of ‘Funnelweb’ by Richard Ryan. A cracker story for an Ozploitation film

  3. Thanks for mentioning Drop Bears!
    Adelaide based Writer/Director Stephen Banham and I are in financing stage for our comedy horror feature ‘Drop Bears’ (I produced the Australian rom-com feature ‘The Marriage of Figaro’ which was in cinemas in 2009).
    We will be releasing the teaser in the next few weeks. Stay tuned for more!

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