In 1972 The Adventures of Barry McKenzie, written by future Driving Miss Daisy director Bruce Beresford and Dame Edna performer Barry Humphries and based on Humphries’ comic strip character, was a big success in Australia. A crass, ribald culture clash comedy detailing the hijinks that ensue when none-more-Aussie Barry McKenzie encounters the British in London, it did some decent business. Two years later in 1974 the inevitable sequel followed with Barry McKenzie Holds His Own (our aching sides…). Although arguably part of the Ozploitation set of films, this sort of thing might not initially seem like Starburst’s wheelhouse but there’s one part of it that fits our bill.
Following on directly from the end of the first film (which you don’t need to have seen to follow this) McKenzie has left England in disgrace and is, in theory, meant to be on his way home with his aunt Edna. But on a stop in Paris on the journey home, two henchmen of the Transylvanian Culture minister Erich, Count Plasma (what sort of Count could he be?) mistake Edna for the Queen of England and kidnap her to become a tourist attraction. Now it’s up to McKenzie and some of his mates to save his aunt from the vampiric Count (oh, that sort of Count). The first film had cameos from British stars of the time like Spike Milligan and Peter Cook. It continues here with appearances from the likes of Roy Kinnear and John Le Mesurier and most of all from Donald Pleasence as Erich.
The Mckenzie character is a specific parody of the stereotypical image of an Australian - loud, boorish, sex-obsessed, crude and frequently drunk. In the film he comes into contact with other national stereotypes - stuck-up English, sexy French, creepy Europeans. We suppose if you’re in a weird, twisted mood you could find some of it amusing but for modern audiences it’s inevitably dampened by the rampant and tiresome casual sexism, blatant homophobia and xenophobia. At least Pleasence is his usual self here, a committed and professional scene stealer. His Count was added in presumably because they needed something approximating a plot to hang all the silly jokes on, but he’s good fun nevertheless.
An Australian version of something like the ‘70s sex comedies Britain produced, or features centred around one joke character (like Ali G or Mr Bean for British references), it’s a low culture comedy that doesn’t transcend its origins that’s only going to appeal to fans of the style, those who know the films already or those who explore Australian film history. To everyone else it’s likely to be no more than a pretty dreadful relic of times gone by.
BARRY MCKENZIE HOLDS HIS OWN (1974) / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: BRUCE BERESFORD / SCREENPLAY: BRUCE BERESFORD, BARRY HUMPHRIES / STARRING: BARRY CROCKER, BARRY HUMPHRIES, DONALD PLEASENCE, DICK BENTLEY / REEASE DATE: OUT NOW