When documentarian Mark Hartley, the guy behind the excellent Not Quite Hollywood, set his sights on the violent Filipino machete wielding babe sub-genre I immediately said “What Filipino machete wielding babe sub-genre!?” Because that sounds like something I’d be interested in. I immediately thought about sitting in front of Not Quite Hollywood, pen and pad at the ready, taking copious notes on all the Australian films I had to track down. So naturally I grabbed my writing instruments and went into Machete Maidens Unleashed expecting a list of films for my sexual gratification and entertainment.
My first reaction to MMU was “that was fun.” It played like a greatest hits collection of clips, interspersed with some very excellent commentary from the likes of Roger Corman, Joe Dante, and Sid Haig, among dozens of others. There were plenty of glimpses at bared breasts, a whole lot of stabbings and gunshots, and more one-liners than you can remember. It was fun, but is that all it was?
Unfortunately, I didn’t really vibe with MMU the way I did with Not Quite Hollywood. MMU seemed to play, like I said, as more of a clip show than a coherent documentary and there is a reason for that – when the movie started out, it was going to be a documentary about Weng Weng, a Filipino actor who was born with primordial dwarfism, meaning his adult height was a slight 2 feet, 9 inches. Not that something like that stopped him from portraying Agent 00, a tiny super spy who made a habit of punching dicks.
The problem for Mark Hartley though, when he set out to make a documentary about Weng, was that the mini-actor died of a heart attack nearly twenty years ago. That makes for a bit of a bummer documentary, but also leaves you with very little to cover when he starred in maybe 11 films – though even the number of films he was in isn’t quite known and some are potentially lost forever.
Either way, Hartley found himself with a ton of research into the Filipino subgenres and no subject, so he did what anyone who respects Roger Corman as much as he does would do – he took what he had and made what he could. The end result isn’t as in-depth into the sub-genre as it could be, nor is it as jaw-dropping and diverse as Not Quite Hollywood, but the film is a fun time. It’s definitely worth seeing once for the assorted clips and to hear the stories from those who went and made the films, fighting the elements and, at times, running from the political oppression happening in the region.
For the right price I’d consider buying Machete Maidens Unleashed and keeping it around- it’s the fun, light kind of stuff that you can throw on at a party of movie buffs or just have something going on in the background. I don’t know if I would ever sit down to study it or take notes on what’s being told to me, but for a quick view into the small world of Filipino exploitation cinema, you’re not going to find anything better, or anything with a more stellar group of people gathering around to talk about it.