DVD Reviews: ‘Australia After Dark’ and ‘The ABC’s of Love and Sex’

Two grindhouse Ozsploitation classics finally come to home video, with all the sex, nudity and grub-eating intact.

Devon Ashbyby Devon Ashby

Intervision Media, the distribution company that will live in my heart forever as the triumphant reissuer of the lost Canadian schlock monstrosity Things, continues their epic journey into awesomeness this month with DVD reissues of two early Mondo-style sex documentaries by Australian genre director John Lamond – Australia After Dark and ABC’s of Love and Sex: Australia Style! Lamond’s seminal work (all puns intended) was featured in Mark Hartley’s 2008 documentary Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation, and Hartley joins Lamond on the commentary tracks for both reissues.

Mondo Cane, an Italian-produced documentary from 1962, famously aped traditional travelogue docs by compiling violent, sexually explicit, and culturally bizarre footage into a loosely connected, half-assed narrative assemblage. It was a fast, cheap, and easy formula, and it sparked a subgenre of vaguely related imitations, culminating in straight-to-video abominations like Faces of Death in the ‘80s and ‘90s before ultimately being forced into obsolescence by digital cable and YouTube. Lamond’s first film, Australia After Dark, is a pretty standard Mondo, focusing attention on the weird, vulgar crap characteristic of pretty much all countries, but in this case, Australia in particular. The flow of After Dark is disjointed and inexplicable – abrupt transitions from sexy naked ladies to footage of people eating grubs, for example – and its lack of narrative focus makes it seem occasionally overlong and meandering, but in its defense, it’s much heavier on nudity and sex than most films of its type. The more outrageous scenes of debauchery are obviously staged (typical for the subgenre) but their fakeness in no way detracts from the film’s entertainment value.

Rather than underscore the geographic focus (Australia is barely mentioned, despite being awkwardly shoehorned into the film’s title), ABC’s of Love and Sex kitsches up the faux-educational approach with some peppy muzak, a novelty framing device, and soothing, authoritative narration. As Lamond elaborates in his commentary, pretty much every shot of the movie contains some image or verbal reference offensive to Australian censors, from innocuous gatherings of snarky homosexuals to solemn instruction on proper condom use. Of the two films, ABC’s is definitely the strongest, with a more consistent mood and cozier thematic underpinning, as well as better sex. Parts of the film were shot in Sweden, where prostitution and obscenity laws were far less restrictive than in Australia, so the film even manages to sneak in a couple of brief, snuggly, Vaseline-lensed hardcore sequences.

The only thing mildly disappointing about Intervision’s DVD reissues is the DVDs themselves. With movies like this, it can be hard to dig up much extracurricular material, but fans of vintage schlock eat up trailers and 8-reel shorts like candy, so even a promo reel for other Intervision releases would have been a welcome inclusion. Both cover boxes claim that trailer reels are present on the disc, but they must be hidden pretty cleverly, because I sure as hell couldn’t find them. On the upside, the transfers both look nice, and the commentary tracks with Hartley and Lamond are funny, informative, and do a nice job providing historical context for the uninitiated. Overall, both worthy purchases.

CRAVEONLINE RATING (Australia After Dark): 6.5/10

CRAVEONLINE RATING (ABC's of Love and Sex): 8/10