Sunday, February 20, 2011

DVD REVIEW: Barry McKenzie Holds His Own (1974)

Pt. 4 of 6 reviews from the OZPLOITATION VOLUME 3 (6-Disc Set)

LABEL: Umbrella Entertainment
REGION: Region 0 PAL
DURATION: 93 mins
DIRECTOR: Bruce Breseford
CAST: Barry Crocker, Barry Humphries, Donald Pleasance

PLOT: Aunt Edna Everage (Barry Humphries) is returning from London with her hapless loud-mouthed, sex crazed nephew, Barry McKenzie (Barry Crocker), when she is mistaken for the Queen of England by a couple of Eastern European ratbags. She is kidnapped and taken to Transylvanian in a bid to boost their struggling tourist industry. Excitement brews and Fosters flows as Bazza sets out to rescue the Dame-to-be in distress from the clutches of Erich Count Plasma (Donald Pleasence), the sinister head of the Transylvanian Tourist Commission. Can Bazza pull it off?

FILM: Australia had a nearly non-existent film industry prior to the early-70's and when vulgar comedies like the Barry McKenzie series made a splash the culturally elite of Australia were mortified by the exploitation of the unsophisticated ocker image. Obviously bereft of a funny bone these folks don't understand that you gotta be able to laugh at yourself once in awhilevand while the elite balked at the outlandish depictions of the Aussie everyman  director Bruce Bedeford's sequel to THE ADVENTURES OF BARRY MCKENZIE (1972) reveled in it. Much as with LES PATTERSON SAVES THE WORLD (1987) this sequel to finds the frosty Fosters swilling Barry 'Bazza' McKenzie in France where his Aussie-centric mannerisms offend people of all nationalities and persuasions. This time out McKenzie (Barry Crocker) and his Aunt Edna (Barry Humphries) are in Paris, France on a stop over from London en route to Australia when Barry runs into his sky-pilot twin brother Reverend Kevin McKenzie at a Catholic seminar entitles 'Christ and the Orgasm". The encounter  leads to Barry standing in for his brother in front of a Catholic seminar performing a colorful song describing what the term "ratbag" means, it's a very fun musical number. While there Aunt Edna is confused for the Queen of England by henchmen of the Transyvanian Tourist Commissioner, Count Erich Plasma (Donald Pleasance) who has hatched a misguided scheme to boost tourism in his obscure little province by kidnapping the Queen of England. The henchmen grab the old gal and take her to Transylvania where she seems to think she is merely a VIP guest of the Count's leading to some humorous miscommunication between the two. Can Barry McKenzie save her before Count Plasma realizes his error and drains Edna of her precious bodily fluids?

Bazza as played by Crockers is a naive, misguided oaf of a man completely oblivious to his wrong-thinking ways not unlike Jay from Kevin Smith's Clerks films and it's easy to forgive his terrible ways. The twin brother plot line was quite extraneous and added very little aside from a great musical number early on. It was nice to catch Barry Humphries' Dame Edna as well as several character throughout including Senator Douglas Manton whom introduces the film similarly to the Mortimer Young DVD intro of THE BIG LEBOWSKI (1998). Pleasance so good in so many films including  RAW MEAT (1972) and HALLOWEEN (1978) is just too eccentrically corny as Count Plasma, the character seems beneath him to be honest. 

If you're a fan of irreverent comedies there's a lot to like here,  some of the gags run on  a bit long as there's only so many "poofter" references you can take in one sitting. The physical comedy is entertaining including a great kung fun fighting sequence and a few gross-out scenes, one having Bazza "cry ruth" which is Aussie speak for throwing up aka "chundering" aka "technicolor yawn" from the height of the Eiffel Tower with a great delayed impact that just plasters the Transylvanian agents. The Aussie wordplay is vibrant and wonderful though most of it would be unintelligible if it weren't not for the Bazzaspeak in-film subtitles. For me the oddest and most wonderful scene involves Bazza try to smuggle dozen of cans of Fosters into the country but is caught by airport security who rip off the bullet-belt of ale and throw it to the ground and machine gun the suds into oblivion and the fending off a the Count via a crucifix of Fosters's cans. Not a great comedy but appropriately silly and fun.
DVD: Barry McKenzie Holds His Own comes to us from Umbrella Entertainment as part of the 6-disc OZPLOITATION VOL. 3 set. Presented in "Chunderama" which translates to a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that does not look pristine by any means but is probably better than the film has ever look in previous editions. It's grainy, soft and non-too vibrant but given the age of the film and it's better than you might think. The audio is mono and no subtitles are offered aside from the in-movie subtitles which help translate some of Bazza's more challenging Bazzaisms.

- AUDIO COMMENTARY BY ACTOR BARRY CROCKER - A decent commentary with plenty of anecdotes from the star of the film.
- BARRY HUMPHRIES GIVES US THE GOOD OIL (24:07) - An interview featurette (filmed in 2003). Humphries gives us the comic strip origins of the McKenzie character as well as a great story about pitching an idea about a 3rd film wherein McKenzie would travel to America. The film never did happen but he recounts how familiar the premise of Crocodile Dundee seemed just a few years later. Humphries is always a great interview, very unapologetic and wry.
- BARRY MCKENZIE: OGRE OR OCKE? (50 mins) - an interesting made for Australian TV documentary with film footage, footage of the film's premier, it's censorship and some great interviews with the always enjoyable Barry Humphries and a film critic whom truly seem to despise the film and Humphries inparticular.  
- BEHIND THE SCENES FOOTAGE (32:17)- very raw BTS b-roll footage.
- TEASER TRAILERS (3:46) - three teaser trailers featuring either Edna or Bazza introducing the films to theatre goers.
- TV SPOTS (2:21)

VERDICT:  Barry McKenzie Holds His Own (1974) is a bit of a slog at times but is still an amusing ozploitation comedy. The adventures of  the uncouth Australian making a spectacle of himself while abroad is a fun time, if extremely uneven. There's an over abundance on insensitive racial humor, gay-bashing and plenty of crudity for the sake of comedy but these characterizations are stereotypes of the perceptions of Australians at the time; crude, smutty people descended from British penal colonies, more so than any true celebration of racism and bigotry. Barry McKenzie Holds His Own will never be mistaken for great cinema but it will most definitely elicit a few chuckles. Not a whole-hearted recommend but I think it's worth a watch with at least 3-4 beers.
**1/2 (2.5 out of 5 stars)

This is pt. 4 of six reviews forthcoming from UMBRELLA ENTERTAINMENT's OZPLOITATION VOL. 3. It's chock full of Aussie Ozploitation goodness featuring some of the most madcap and erotic exploitation films from the land down under. Prepare yourself for reviews of the following films to come your way in short order. Listed below are the other six films on the set. Up next for review: FELICITY (1980)