5 Questions with MACHETE MAIDENS UNLEASHED director Mark Hartley

Contributed by Todd Brown of Twitch Film.

Though Not Quite Hollywood director Mark Hartley finds himself in Real to Reel this year instead of Midnight Madness, his Machete Maidens Unleashed is still very much midnight material.

A delirious guided tour through the exploitation films produced in the Philippines throughout the 1980s, it probably features a higher body count than anything in the official Madness selection, to say nothing of the copious nudity, crazy latex creatures and the presence of genre icons Joe Dante, John Landis and Roger Corman among the key interview subjects. Yep, this one's as crazy as they come and Hartley was good enough to answer a few questions.

Did you have any intentions to go back into this sort of territory after Not Quite Hollywood? What drew you to the film?

To be honest I really had no interest in making another doc after NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD - and when the producer approached me about this film I initially said “No”. At that point it was a very different film – focused purely on Weng Weng, the Filipino dwarf answer to James Bond. But I thought I should at least do some research so I appeared to know what I was talking about when I declined the project. I quickly discovered that there was a bigger, more interesting (at least to me) story to explore. In a nutshell the Philippines was in the grip of a brutal dictatorship. Fighting back was forbidden, chaos was contained, indecency was punished and there was absolutely no sign of revolution – yet, these were the key ingredients of the films that the legendary b-movie mogul, Roger Corman, was producing over there at that time!

So I re-invented the doc as a fish-out-of-water story about a motley group of Americans going over to this very dangerous foreign land (for the sake of saving a few bucks) and producing subject matter that was outlawed over there. Cue the montage of jaw-dropping clips!

When assembling your list of interview subjects who did you most look forward to talking to? Who was the most intimidating?

Part of the appeal of the doc’s new subject matter was the chance to meet some of my childhood film-making idols such as Joe Dante, Allan Arkush and Steve Carver who were all working for Corman at the time and involved in the marketing of his Filipino productions. Recruiting John Landis as a “genre specialist” was also a major thrill for me. I’d worn my copies of Cult Movies 1, 2 and 3 into the ground from constant re-reading so meeting author Danny Peary was also a pleasure.

To be honest I didn’t find any interviewees intimidating – they were all very generous with their time and wild stories. Getting Roger Corman to sign on took a bit of perseverance, as I knew he was the most important figure in the telling of this story.

Was there anybody you really wanted to talk to but just couldn't get?

Like NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD I discovered that there was a lot of good will towards this project simply because the story had never been told, and people were keen to tell their incredible tales, so almost everybody we approached is featured in the doc. A couple of people were just too busy (including Jonathan Demme), but we only had a couple of people flat turn us down - Pam Grier and Jeanne Bell. Thankfully garrulous interviewees like Sid Haig, Dick Miller, Chris Mitchum, R. Lee Ermey, Margaret Markov, Gloria Hendry and many others more than make up for the few omissions.

Has anyone done a tally of the number of naked breasts in the film?

No, but I’ll give a packet of Tim Tams to anyone up for the challenge! And please note, breasts are only one-third of the film’s content – don’t forget the blood and beasts!

How are these films looked on in the Philippines now? Are they viewed as local or American? Do the people who worked on them take pride in their contributions?

What was really interesting is that all the American interviewees working on these crazy productions remembered them like they were yesterday because it must have been such an incredible culture shock for them. Sid Haig says in the doc that as he opened the door to his Manila hotel room he saw a gigantic rat carrying a kitten through the window!!! Celeste Yarnall says when she arrived on set the first day she discovered her dressing room was a cave that also doubled for the men’s latrine! But for the Filipino cast and crew it was business as usual – and when I interviewed them, many couldn’t even remember the films because they have CVs boasting hundreds and hundreds of credits. So I guess I was lucky changing the concept of the doc to be more of a fish-out-of-water story.

Check out the official Machete Maidens Unleashed trailer below!

Machete Maidens Unleashed screens:

Sunday, September 12. 8PM, AMC10
Tuesday, September 14. 5:00PM, AMC10
Saturday, September 18, 12:30PM, AMC7

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