Review: Machete Maidens Unleashed

*Original post on horror-movies.ca

Oh man – SO MANY BOOBS – always a good time, even when you already have boobs of your own. You just find yourself comparing yours to all the others.

That said and out of the way, I recently learned a lot about some of the coolest movies I never knew existed from the latest Mark Hartley exploitation adventure Machete Maidens Unleashed! – a documentary discussing in VERY EXPLICIT DETAIL how Roger Corman trafficked his money hungry film fantasies out of the Philippines in the 70’s and into our American drive-in’s.

Who knew Corman was filming and forming an entire genre of films for pennies-on-the-dollar during the rule of Filipino Dictator Ferdinand Marcos?  Apparently lots of people, and I enjoyed their talking head commentary. John Landis, Joe Dante, and the rest of classic cult-movie rat pack all ganged up and shared their ‘titillating’ stories about this exploitative film revolution, as well as their resent and forced respect for The Roger Corman School of Film, notorious for cranking out low quality, high profit movies under the direction and acting of the then unknown. [Looking at you, Demme]

Also, see what I did there? Titillating? I know I know… just that there were a lot of boobs in this documentary. And even though women were used as sex symbols in pretty much all of these films, let’s not forget that we’re talking about a cinematic movement that also broke down race and gender barriers. Women became heroes. And spies. And karate chopping bad-asses. I admired the actresses’ good spirits and still fond memories of filming under less than par conditions all of the time to help make this revolution happen.

And speaking of revolution, my mind was blown to learn that in some cases, anti-government residents were actually being shot down across the street while films were being made. Real safe, right? Yeah… apparently the US was granted an amnesty of sorts for saving the Philippines from Japanese rule, which gave Americans free cinematic reign. Of course this lead to abuse: dangerous shooting conditions, including loaded props used just hours earlier for actual war. And Filipino’s were often hired as stuntmen, regarded as ‘breakables’, and had their deaths captured on film for our American entertainment.

And guess what? That’s not what halted mass production.

It’s Jaws that is credited for the demise of Corman’s Filipino exploitation reign. The films quality and success forced audiences to rethink how and what they were willing to spend their movie money on. During the last mile, the documentary pulls in Apocalypse Now which was also filmed in the Philippines, as a “but then we did this” kind of rebuttal moment. It felt forced, out of place.

If anything, Machete Maidens Unleashed! has convinced me to dust off those low budget betas and enjoy some bat-crazy bad monsters and karate kicking midgets — I’m sure it will do the same for you. It’s definitely worth a one-time viewing for a lifetime of endless conversation starter material. I feel like a walking exploitation genre encyclopedia now.

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One thought on “Review: Machete Maidens Unleashed

  1. I was also surprised about the danger in filming over there. I mean I know it wasn’t super safe but I figured more precautions would have been made. I guess money talks though. I loved this doc as well and if you have not seen American Grindhouse I encourage you to do so. Great write up!

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