Documentaries about B-movies can be great because you get to see all the best parts. The stories from behind the scenes are way more entertaining than the results of those stories. Machete Maidens Unleashed focuses on the wave of films set in the Philippines and it’s ultimately the same story as any Roger Corman bio, but it’s a fun highlight reel.
Maybe it’s a reflection of the subject matter, but most of the clips in Machete Maidens Unleashed did not make me want to see many of the films. Director Mark Hartley’s Ozploitation doc Not Quite Hollywood did and most Corman retrospectives do. Only Black Mama, White Mama and Woman Hunt seem like they may be worth watching the whole movie, and Big Bird Cage looks kind of funny.
In the ‘70s, the Philippines offered an inexpensive place to shoot, jungle locations, experienced stunt and explosives technicians and plenty of actors. So a lot of Corman movies shot there and Edgar Sinco Ramero made a few of his own too. Hartley got big names to speak, including John Landis, Joe Dante, Pam Grier briefly and even R. Lee Ermey!
The documentary itself is energetic, with Jamie Blanks score pumping through clips and soundbites. Stories of the marketing are more ingenious than the cost cutting productions. An up chuck cup is William Castle-esque, and a warning buzzer for the scary parts would be a public service if the movie were actually scary.
Even with the descriptions, clips of some intestines, decapitations and cheap monsters are hardly salacious. There are plenty of booby clips too. The discussion of a feminist movement shows the actresses are good sports, and the segment has nonstop nudity. The Cover Girl Models tag line is hilarious.
There are a few old stories retold. We know about the Ebony Trailblazer Award and the reused shot of the exploding helicopter. Hartley covers the production of Apocalypse Now with all the Hearts of Darkness issues we know, but that was a monumental production for the region.
The film ends with the rise of the blockbuster, which is covered in all of these documentaries. That is old news but it the end of every story. Once good special effects movies started coming out, they couldn’t get away with the knockoffs. I missed this film at Fantastic Fest so I’m glad I got to see it at ActionFest. It didn’t do any damage to my Netflix queue but it’s a good highlights reel.