Even though the two Grindhouse films by Tarantino and Rodriguez were ill received at the box office they did renew the cinemagoer’s interest in the exploitation genre. Take Machete as an example, or the recent Hobo With a Shotgun starring Rutger Hauer. Both derived from fake trailers that were featured alongside the Grindhouse films of the directors. But films like this have been made since the late sixties. People would go see them at the local drive-in, while most of them were shot in a land far, far away… The Philippines!
Monsters, evil prison regimes and killers were but excuses to exploit damsels in distress in tons of exploitation films from the late sixties and seventies. Women got both literally and figuratively stripped down to the core for the pleasure of cheap thrills and nudity. The documentary Machete Maidens Unleashed dives deep into time and space, to a place where violence was common and human life was held in low regard. The world of the Philipino film industry had close to no rules in that era, so anything that could go… went. The flicks were produced under the golden law of the three Bs: Blood, Beasts and Breasts!
A great amount of key figures speak openheartedly about the times they made films there. Most notably Roger Corman, king of the profitable B-flick. Under his supervision a combination of paper-mâché monsters, plastic swords and topless women turned into films that made a fortune compared to the amount of money it cost to produce them. Directors like Ron Howard and James Cameron rose to fame working for Corman. Other speakers in the documentary are directors like Joe Dante, Allan Arkush, Eddie Romero and John Landis. With a smile and together with a bunch of actresses that time forgot they reflect on their moments of film making in the Philippines.
As mentioned: anything was possible at that time. “Human life was cheap, film was cheap… it was a great place to make a picture!” says one of the many directors. Stunt actors were all locals who would do anything for some coin. If one told them to jump off a cliff they’d probably do it even before the ‘action’. If a stuntman got hurt too badly he would be sent home with less than five bucks pay. The Philippine army was eager to help as well. That way Coppola had a lot of material available during the shoot of Apocalypse Now. At another set the army flew in two choppers that had been bombing rebels just a few hours earlier. The commander said he would unarm the rockets to do the scene. The cast and crew agreed.
All kinds of facts, quotes and anecdotes like the ones above are presented in an incredible high pace. It is funny and at times even unbelievable. Probably even the greatest fan of exploitation will hear about films they didn’t know about yet. They can not be blamed, as these films were produced so frequently that it would even make a rabbit feel ashamed about its rate of reproduction. And sleazy as these films may have been, some people even claim that they helped liberating women’s rights. It’s the kind of girl power with topless actresses.
Director John Landis says any ethical way of watching these kind of films is rubbish. The films he and his colleagues made were about just a couple of things: sex, violence and cheap thrills. Note to self: go watch them!