Machete Maidens Unleashed is an Australian produced documentary. It’s about American B movies filmed in the Philippines from the 1960s to early 80s. We see interviews from B movie master/legend Roger Corman, as well as other B movie stars such as Sid Haig (House of 1000 corpses) Eddie Garcia, Franco Guerrero, Director John Landis (who has some great lines) and Philipino Pioneer Eddie Romero. R. Lee Ermey of Full Metal Jacket fame gets some screen time. Also included are many B movie babes such as Celeste Yarnall, Marrie Lee, Jayne Kennedy, Rosanne Katon. Also of note are Gloria Hendry, the first black Bond babe from Live and Let Die, and Trina Parks, a black actress who was not a Bond babe but was the first black actress to appear in Bond film, which was Diamonds Are Forever.
For various reasons the Philippines became a place for maverick film makers to make movies on the cheap. Initially American film makers used the setting to make war movies, but then someone had the idea to make a monster movie. 1959′s Terror is a Man, essentially an Island of Dr. Moreau story of a man changed into a cat like creature, paved the way for countless shlock horror titles, which later led to exploitation films filled with women fighting, getting tortured, and getting naked. Movies mentioned include The Big Doll House, Women in Cages, The Hot Box, Ebony Ivory and Jade, Beast of Blood, Beast of the Yellow Night, The One Armed Executioner, and Black Mama White Mama. Basically these movies had the 3 B’s of B movies, beasts, blood, and boobies. Naturally we see clips from all these films showing the wild craziness of the whole scene, interspersed with quotes from advertisements for these films. They would read something to the effect of “She brings seduction and destruction/they wanted a vacation, they got death” etc etc.
There’s a few anecdotes/wild stories from days on the set, but not as many as you’d think. Stuntmen were dirt cheap. One was in a tower that got knocked over by a vehicle. He was supposed to jump out, but got scared and held on, and tragically fell to his death.
Brief mentions of the Philippine dictatorship are given, such as when it was announced over TV stations that Marshall Law was declared. People would get shot on the street for violating simple rules, but these crazy movies were still allowed to be filmed by Americans.
The documentary is very self aware that its topic is junk culture. John Landis has some great lines about how after a few decades pass people look back and over intellectualize what are simply sleazy sex and violence films. However it is noted that as much as they were junk movies they were the only American movies made with female leads, let alone black female leads. One film was noted for having 4 black females as the lead characters, which Hollywood didn’t do for decades.
Apocalypse now is covered, as it was filmed in the Philippines with cooperation from the government. Stories are told of how the army helicopters got “sick” and for a little cash they would feel better. The shoot was brutal, but Vietnam Veteran R. Lee Ermey criticized the film saying it was Cooplola’s fantasy, and that it was nothing like his experiences in Vietnam.
The governments later attempt to bring respect to the region is covered when they put on a film festival, which it’s breakout movie was For Y’ur Height Only, a Bond parody starring midget Weng Weng. Also covered is a new facility that was built for the festival that collapsed killing many workers. Rumors circulated that not all the bodies were recovered, but actually left in the wet concrete.
All in all it’s a fun movie to watch and makes no apologies in reveling in it’s goofy gory explicit glory. More discerning viewers may ask for further analysis on the political front. No one seemed to have any qualms about exploiting these people that lived under a dictatorship. It’s briefly mentioned how later anti-government demonstrators as well as Muslim rebels in the south (where they’re still fighting today) ended the party, as American film makers grew more hesitant of going there. Also very briefly touched on was the demise of the drive in theaters and the growth of the home video market. More insight on this would have been interesting (especially since B movies lived on in the direct to video market). It’s as if they spent so much time with the beasts blood and boobies that they ran out of space and hurriedly tacked this part on at the end while there were still a few reels of film left.
Still, anyone who is watching this movie is probably watching it to see B movie nuttiness, which is exactly what it delivers. 8.8/10.
I’d like to close with one last note. This was the last film I will ever see at the Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival. I’ve come to this every year since 2007, and it’s been my favorite film fest of Korea. It was always well organized, with a friendly staff and great unique selection of films. I saw some crazy imaginative stuff here over the years. Machete Maidens Unleashed is the perfect choice for my last film. It’s gutsy, daring, imaginative, and in it’s own twisted way, reflects the spirit of what PIFF is all about. Best wishes.