The fascination with “Ozploitation” that arose among cult-movie buffs in the wake of Mark Hartley’s documentary Not Quite Hollywood continues to pay dividends with the DVD release of John D. Lamond’s 1975 mondo doc Australia After Dark and its oddball 1978 follow-up The ABCs Of Love And Sex—Australia Style!. Both mix a scholarly tone and some decent documentary footage with copious amounts of nudity and grotesquerie, much of which was staged for Lamond’s camera. In other words, these movies are classic post-Mondo Cane drive-in fare, viewed through a Down Under lens.
In Australia After Dark, Lamond guides viewers through his country’s “shocking” wonders: nude beaches, body-painting salons, S&M dungeons, Satanic masses, gay weddings, custom bikini-fitting, et cetera. Lamond also finds time for a detour to an aboriginal village for an unusually serious consideration of alcoholism among the native population, and he ducks into a kitchen to watch a gourmet chef fry up some wriggling grubs and snakes. The idea is to make Australia look like a paradise for libertines and adventurers, which is why the voiceover narration isn’t as overtly judgmental as these kinds of sleaze-tours usually are. That choice also makes Australia After Dark more lighthearted and fun than the usual mondo, distinguished by its poetic descriptions of hippie decadence and rattlesnake-carving. (“The gleaming skin peels away like the black mesh stockings off a stripper’s thigh.”)
The ABCs Of Love And Sex—Australia Style! is more innovative in its approach to “factsploitation.” Assigning a letter to different clinical sex-ed topics—A is for “anatomy,” B is for “birth,” C is for “contraception,” and so on—The ABCs offers footage of breastfeeding babies, nude models lounging on satin sheets, hot-oil massages and the like, mostly shot in a brightly lit, colorfully dressed studio. The movie has the look and tone of a TV commercial, except the product being pitched is orgasms. The tradeoff for the more artful approach is that The ABCs is oddly less sexy and more repetitive than the more docu-realistic After Dark. (Though the 1978 film does includes a couple of short hardcore segments.) But again, Lamond’s frankness—combined with his non-moralistic take on subjects like homosexuality—saves the movie from the creepy hypocrisy of so many sexploitation films, which try to sell audiences smut while making them feel bad for wanting to see it. By contrast, Lamond’s bait-and-switch is to promise scandal, then greet it with the live-and-let-live shrug it properly deserves.
Key features: The real selling point of both discs are the commentary tracks with Lamond and Hartley, who together tell the story of these movies, Lamond’s early career, and the seat-of-the-pants Australian exploitation scene of the 1970s.