Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Machete Maidens Unleashed! Bares All for Cheap Thrills

Machete Maidens Unleashed!

What do Martin Scorsese, Pam Grier, Joe Dante, and Jonathan Demme all have in common? Each one got their start in the B-movie genre. Thanks to films like Grindhouse, Black Dynamite, Machete, and the soon to be released Hobo with a Shotgun, the B–movie genre is having a resurgence in mainstream culture. Since Hollywood is embracing the genre once again, it is only fitting to see the hidden gems of the 2010 TIFF finally hit theatres this past weekend.

Machete Maidens Unleashed! is a hilarious documentary that looks at the inner workings of the B-movie genre at the height of its popularity. Focusing on the period between 1960 and 1980, director Mark Hartley’s documentary explores how many of the most memorable B-movies were actually made in the Philippines. Unable to resist the low production cost and the exotic locales, American filmmakers were heading to the Philippines in droves to get their films made. Since the censors rarely watched the types of films that many of the directors, including Roger Corman and Eddie Romero, were producing, they were able to get away with content that would be considered unheard of today. This resulted in a large quantity of outrageous horror films, blaxploitation flicks, and women in prison type of films being shot. As some of the folks Hartley interviewed pointed out, the crazier the idea the more popular the films ended up being.

Mark Hartley does a good job of interviewing many of the big names of the genre as well as experts in the history of the genre. This includes many of the actors and actresses who had to work in some extremely dangerous conditions. One of the highlights of Machete Maidens Unleashed! is the candid conversation that the likes of Corman, Dante, Sid Haig, Marlene Clark, Colleen Clark and countless others provide in the film. The interesting thing about some of the responses is how many of the actresses viewed many of the B-movies as feminist films.

Although many of the films featured a lot of female nudity and, in some cases, violence against women, the B-movie genre was the only genre to feature female leads in action roles. In many ways they were the first female action heroes. Despite some of the atrocities the characters may have endured, by the end of the film, they always rose up against their oppressors and saved the day. If you really think about it, there are very few action films nowadays that feature a female lead. Studios just do not see them as bankable action stars.

While Machete Maidens Unleashed! tracks the era all the way up to when Francis Ford Coppola was filming Apocalypse Now, Hartley himself does not offer any judgment in regards to the genre. He is mostly concerned with shining a light on a film history that very few people know about. Through wonderfully candid interviews and well selected film clips, Hartley crafts an immensely entertaining documentary that will serve as a great introduction to all who are novices of the world of B-movies.


  1. This looks very interesting! Thanks for brining it to my attention!
    I'm not much of a B-movie fan but I am interested in the genre and it's influences especially since there's a resurgence of B-movies at the moment...

  2. @Jack – The film serves as a great introduction to the genre. Similar to Exit Through the Gift Shop, you will be entertained even if you have never seen a B-movie before.


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