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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

AUSTRALIA AFTER DARK -- DVD review by porfle

If you're in the mood for something spicy, saucy, and hot, try some buffalo wings.  Otherwise, you may prefer AUSTRALIA AFTER DARK (1975), one of the dullest schock-u-mentaries ever.  It's like cashing in all your boredom points and taking a cross-country bus ride to Yawnsville.

Ozploitation director John Lamond, who would later give us NIGHTMARES (so to speak) and FELICITY, leads us on a MONDO CANE-inspired tour through the down-under of Down Under with this disjointed cinematic grab bag.  Opening with what looks like a poor man's Bond-movie titles sequence (nude blonde slowly rotates against black backdrop as strobe light flashes) and some understandably sad-looking aborigines, we're then treated to a leisurely succession of unrelated vignettes ranging in interest from slight to none, roughly half of which involve naked people. 

Unfortunately, Lamond's lens seems to have attracted some of the homeliest 'roo babes in Ozzie Land like moths to a flame, and some of them brought their butt-nekkid boyfriends with them.  As the monotonous narrator drones relentlessly on, we watch them sunbathing in the nude, swimming in the nude, painting each other's nude bodies, and nuding it up during Satan-worshipping rituals and custom bikini fittings.

The low-budget cinematography and painful 70s fashions combine with the meandering narrative to create an effect that's strangely enervating.  A promising drive through the King's Cross district (sort of like Times Square in its sleazy days) leads to a body-painting segment that resembles an old Alka-Seltzer ad.  A visit to a gathering of sado-masochists ends just as someone's being racked up, then segues into a study of ancient aboriginal rock paintings, a tour of the gallows at Old Melbourne Gaol, and an upper-class restaurant that serves snakes and grubs.  It's kind of like watching "History Channel After Dark."

More weirdly boring stuff includes a bunch of beer-guzzling losers in a field betting on a game in which they toss coins onto an outstretched blanket, followed by some waterless boat races held in an arid region (even during this non-sexual sequence, the camera lingers under a stairway and peeks up the skirts of passing girls like a dirty old man).  Then, before we've had a chance to catch our breath, the film whisks us out to the airport to watch planes taxi around for awhile.  It's exciting because this is how jet-setters travel to different places!

After tattling on the inordinate alcoholic intake (52 gallons per person annually) in Australia's Northern territories and showing us more sad aborigines boozing their troubles away, we go to the country's gay capitol, Perth, to witness (gasp) two guys getting married.  This sequence proves once and for all that gay weddings are just as boring as straight ones, and we don't even get cake.  A sexually-ambiguous stripper performs, then a woman talks about all the "saucer craft" that have landed in her field as we see a montage of familiar UFO photographs.

Things start to heat up a tad when a naked blonde is tied to an inverted cross and boffed by a guy in a fright mask (it's those pesky Satan-worshippers I mentioned before).  A lengthy stretch near the end tries to regain our dwindling attention by focusing entirely on nude women engaged in various activities such as bathing in milk and mud (the latter being a spiritual return to the primordial slime or whatever) and having guys slurp food off their bodies.  Dispensing with the subject of Australia altogether, the narrator then gives us a lecture on what a "fetish" is while a lingerie-clad woman poses.

In the penultimate segment, we meet transvestite oddball Count Cornelius, who is what you might call a "lifestyle comedian."  The Count amuses himself by spouting proclamations ("Beautiful schoolgirls remind me of sexy nuns") and festooning his environment with placards containing "Laugh-In" style one-liners.  Talk about After-Darksville!  The film mercifully draws to a close at last with some relaxing shots of a nude Gina Allen snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef with some fish, as the narrator informs us that she's returning to--you guessed it--the primordial something or other.

After trying to find a way to enjoy this movie--the usually surefire "so bad it's good" deal wasn't working here--I finally realized that a trancelike surrender is required to endure it, much like the educational films they tried to bore us to death with in grade school (only with more full-frontal nudity).  One of the nicer things about AUSTRALIA AFTER DARK is that the score seems to have been gleaned from the same music library used by the better porn filmmakers of the 70s.

The DVD from Intervision is "fully restored from a print discovered in the cellar of the Lower Wonga Drive-In" and is widescreen with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.  There's an audio commentary with director Lamond and "Not Quite Hollywood" director Mark Hartley, but my copy of the DVD seems to be missing the trailer reel mentioned on the box. 

About as shocking and titillating as a pile of wet socks, AUSTRALIA AFTER DARK does boast a kind of tranquil monotony, and is, in the words of Douglas Adams, "mostly harmless."  Finally making it to the end credits is a catharsis similar to walking out of the hospital after a long stay--you feel weak as a kitten but pleasantly relieved that it's over.

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