If you’ve seen the fabulously entertaining Ozploitation documentary Not Quite Hollywood – which tracks the rise of Down Under genre films in the ’70s and ’80s – then you will be familiar with producer and Quentin Tarantino favorite Antony I. Ginnane, the so-called “Roger Corman of Australia” whose output includes the horror movies Patrick, Dead Kids, and Thirst. “But how can I learn more about these films?” I pretend to hear you cry. Well, good news! This month, Severin Films is releasing all three terror flicks in Blu-ray/DVD combo packs (as well as the self-explanatory DVD, Ozploitation Trailer Explosion) which seemed an excellent excuse to call Ginnane and have him talk about them.
You can read what he had to say below.
British actress Susan Penhaligon stars in this tale of a coma patient with telekinetic powers. A remake, directed by Not Quite Hollywood filmmaker Mark Hartley and starring You’re Next actress Sharni Vinson, can now be seen on VOD.
Antony I. Ginnane: The Australian film industry was just starting to get together, to make its first international series of films that came out and attracted attention in the U.S. and elsewhere. At that point, there was one group of people who were endeavoring to do historical pictures – sort of Merchant Ivory-style pictures – then there were a couple of other people, with me in the forefront, who were more interested in genre.
It was quite a coup to get Susan Penhaligon. That was still a relatively new thing, to bring international actors into Australia. The film was a big success in a number of foreign territories, Italy particularly. In the U.S. it played all over the country state-by-state, as they did in those days. In Australia, the initial reaction was mixed but over the 40-odd years, it’s achieved cult status and that was enough to drive us to do a remake.
Quentin Tarantino is definitely an admirer. He tipped his hat to the film with the spitting scene in Kill Bill – which is a lift from the original picture. I discussed it with him a couple of times when we’ve met and of my movies, apart from Turkey Shoot (a.k.a. Escape 2000) I think it is his favorite film of mine.
A secret society of vampires use mechanized techniques to drain blood from victims in this shocker starring David Hemmings and Henry Silva, among others.
Ginnane: After Patrick I did a movie called Snapshot – which was released in the States as The Day After Halloween, although it didn’t actually have anything to do with Halloween – and then we did Thirst. That was a significantly bigger-budgeted picture than Patrick. That enabled us to bring in David Hemmings and Henry Silva and cast it with some fairly serious local actors as well. If you’re a producer who’s swimming in those circles, there comes a point in time where everybody wants to do a vampire picture. But we wanted to take a different tack to traditional Hammer classical. So the idea of doing a contemporary story where vampirism is a product of an industrialized process and all of that, I thought it was more than interesting.
Dead Kids (1981)
Released in America as Strange Behavior this slasher film was set in the U.S. but actually shot in New Zealand. The film stars Louise Fletcher, Michael Murphy, and Dan Shor, and was cowritten by Bill Condon, who would go on to direct Dreamgirls and the two Breaking Dawn entries in the Twilight franchise.
Ginnane: Bill Condon, who was of course very young then, was a real genre fan at the time. He still is, but he’s obviously moved into other things. That one was an experiment. It was partly a slasher but I always saw it as a bit of a Fritz Lang/Dr. Mabuse-type picture.
Australia had restrictions on the number of foreign actors you could bring in if you had some federal subsidy. Two or three was about the maximum. I wanted to see if it was possible to do essentially an American picture and cast it from wherever in the world I wanted to cast it. And in New Zealand we were allowed to do that. Then I thought, can we actually shoot in New Zealand and make it look like America? This is before CGI or anything like that. So, we had to do it physically. So we did it. Many people who see that film don’t know it wasn’t shot in the United States.
It’s quite quirky and strange but I think it’s why that film and Thirst and Patrick have survived and thrived all these years and why there’s still interest in them. Because all three of them are way outside the norm.
Ginnane talks more about the remakes of Patrick and Turkey Shoot in the new Entertainment Weekly, out this Friday.