Barry McKenzie Holds His Own (1974)
A film chronicling a road trip across Europe by a bunch of hard drinking, thick-headed Australians, Barry McKenzie Holds His Own elbows its way into this survey because of the inclusion of a vampire baddie (played by Brit horror stalwart Donald Pleasence). Barry McKenzie Holds His Own may not be a pure horror film, but it does contain moments of genre genius in amongst all the base hilarity.
Puking, getting pissed and shagging Sheilas are the orders of the day (mainly, it has to be said, getting pissed) - it’s a film to be watched in the “Think Australian, Drink Australian” frame of mind - and speaking of the amber nectar, it is also an hour-and-a-half long advert for Fosters lager.
The film opens with the “Australian Minister For Culture” giving a piece to camera about the “Australian cultural renaissance”. “The film you’re about to see makes me proud to be an Australian,” he says, a poster of a huge can of Fosters filling the wall behind him.
Our hero, the perpetually puzzled Barry (Barry Crocker), is travelling to France with his aunt Edna Everage (Barry Humphries) via Frogair - yes, that’s about the level of the comedy here - when she is spotted by a couple of shady foreign types who think that the silver haired beauty is the Queen of England. The pair report back to their boss, Count Plasma (Pleasence, revelling in the chance to overact), the ruler of Transylvania - who reckons a royal visit is just what his country needs to revive their flagging tourist trade. Plasma orders his heavies to kidnap her, adding: “but if you harm so much as a hair of her legs, you will suffer the consequences!”
On arrival in Paris, Barry and Edna meet up with a whole load of his mates from Oz. As they make their way out of the airport the amount of beer cans being carried by the group causes the metal detector to explode. The French police immediately take action and machine gun the offending articles in slow motion (“Poor bastards,” remarks Barry, mourning the loss of his tinnies).
Later, at the top of the Eiffel Tower, Barry “cries Ruth” (translation: vomits) over the edge after eating some poisoned food, and scores a direct hit on his aunt’s would-be kidnappers. He then attempts to rescue a “clean living Australian lass” (translation: harlot) from her job at a strip club, and narrowly avoids getting blown up by Plasma’s boys, who appear to have decided that the best way to get to Edna is to destroy her “bodyguard”. Barry also refuses to have sex with a topless prostitute, over fears that his nose might fall off (Barry has already confided in his doc that he has a “romantic problem”, and he’s convinced that sex with anyone less than pure will result in the loss of this particular part of his anatomy).
The group of scruffy Aussies then go to a lecture entitled “Christ And The Orgasm”, where they meet Barry’s twin brother, Kevin - a priest who’s giving one of the talks. Kevin is slightly more high brow than his brother (“I’ll see-est thou drongos later”), but his similarity to Barry (they’re both played by Barry Crocker) leads to Kevin being attacked by the kidnappers, with Barry having to fill in on the lecture, where he regails the audience with a toe-tapping song called “Ratbags”.
Finally, the kidnappers succeed and take Aunt Edna to London, with Barry in hot pursuit (after pausing for a big punch-up with his brother). Of course, with Barry being Australian and us Brits being a bit uptight, he has to be smuggled back into the UK as an illegal immigrant along with a bunch of Indians.
“I’m studying Kant,” says an obviously educated immigrant girl.
“So am I,” replies Barry, “but I keep failing the practical.”
Barry discovers that Aunt Edna has been spirited away to Transylvania, and assembles a crack troop of his mates (with the old “Anzac spirit”) to help get her back, and the group head off to Plasma’s castle to save the day.
You have to look pretty hard for the horror in Barry Mackenzie, but it is there (luckily, the film is hugely entertaining from start to finish so it is worth watching anyway). Plasma’s butler has a tap in his neck in case his boss fancies a snifter (just like in Vault Of Horror), there’s an incredibly strange segment where a film is shown featuring swimmers being gorily attacked by flesh-eating octopi, and the end has plenty of stakings and an enormous machine which sucks all the blood out of a body (a scruffy-looking Clive James - yes, that Clive James - is plugged into it and produces nothing but lager).
It may be right on the fringes of what constitutes a horror film, but Barry McKenzie Holds His Own is well worth tracking down. Who would have thought that the simple act of opening a can of lager could be so funny?
Updated: February 10, 2010
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