The Adventures of Barry McKenzie (1972)

Well that was an interesting historical experience. I was amused by the bit in Not Quite Hollywood where Barry Humphries laments the success of this film (and it was a big hit, IMDB says it raked in a million dollars at a time when that was actually worth something; that’d be about $9m in today’s money, a sum I’m sure plenty of local filmmakers these days would be delighted to rake in)… not because he wanted it to fail, obviously, but because the “wrong” people liked it, i.e. the people he’d been satirising in the film, the real Bazzas, the ill-educated parochial chauvinist racist sexist anti-Semitic homophobic alcoholic sex maniac stereotype that he saw as the “average Australian”. I’ve never read the Barry McKenzie cartoons (which were, apparently, banned here in the 60s) so don’t know quite how far the film derived from them; he was reasonably well-known in the UK during the 60s, though, so it certainly made evident sense to have Bazza’s screen adventures begin there. The film wastes little time in establishing Bazza as the ghastly creature described above; it’s not so wild an exaggeration of the “average Australian” that I haven’t met people like that to some extent myself, but it still has a kind of over-the-top aspect to it… wherein perhaps lies the problem, it’s like the determination to be excessive and ludicrous gets in the way of the film actually being funny (and the slightly aimless feel of the episodic structure doesn’t help much). Or maybe it’s just dated terribly in its concerns or something, I don’t know. I’d never actually seen this before, and I had trouble even trying to imagine what 1972 audiences saw in it. It’s curious, though, how local audiences rejected depictions of themselves that films like Wake in Fright offered, but this grotesquerie, which was meant even more nastily, was enthusiastically received and endorsed by them. Struggling to work that out.

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