Can you believe it took this long for me to see my first Ozploitation film?
To warm up for the momentous occasion, I began the evening at Amour for dinner.
There were people eating in the dining room, including a couple who appeared to be on a date night, but I was the sole occupant of the bar.
Edith Piaf was on the stereo, I had a flight of Roses in front of me and I had no idea what was in store. Already it was my kind of evening.
I chatted with one of the servers, a native of Louisiana (with the accent to prove it) who'd moved to Texas (and chortled over the differences in how the same words were pronounced differently in each state) and spent summers in D.C.
There was even a compliment on my joie de vivre and it's common knowledge how I appreciate a good compliment.
But the kitchen deserved more compliments than me.
Beginning with a sublime chilled vichyssoise, I moved on to vol au vent filled with creamed corn, pork belly and crawfish, a French take on southern ingredients so good I intend to go back and have it again.
And while I should have stopped there, I didn't, enjoying first an escargot and leek tart and then the tomato tart, as brilliantly colored as it was flavored. All hail tomato and corn season. I know I do.
When my server asked if I wanted dessert, I laughed. As if.
On this balmy evening, I did manage to find room for a perfectly lovely summer red, the luxurious and full-bodied 2012 Domaine Brusset, savoring every sip of my half glass and reveling in its depth of flavor.
While I usually eschew reds during the summer, this one was too beautiful to resist (yea, that's what he said).
Stuffed and happy, I said my farewells to go to the River City Not So Classic Movie Night, no doubt leaving behind a trail of envy at my plans.
Or derisive laughter.
Moments after arriving at River City Classic Bar & Grill, two sisters I'd met before asked if they could join me at my booth and I welcomed the company.
As usual, we got to see some pretty hilarious shorts before the main feature.
The first was about explaining sexuality to "the retarded" (yes, they used that word) and had a scene where a woman sits down on the bed where a teen is under the covers and asks him, "Do you know what a wet dream is?" and goes on to warn him that he'll have many more.
In another, Mom opens Johnny's bedroom door to discover him masturbating, so she a) explains the concept of responsibility for his behavior to him and b) promises never to open his door without knocking again.
It wasn't long after that a woman sitting at the bar moaned, "This just goes on way too long!" just as the scene where one guy at a urinal starts rubbing the back of the guy at the next urinal and we heard about inappropriate touching.
It was hard to top the hilarity and shock value of that gem, but the animated "Cautious Twins" about bad strangers preying on children had its moments, as did "Shake Hands with Danger," a film about workplace safety.
"Be careless for a moment, spend a lifetime with the blues," was the stated theme as machine parts went flying, body parts were bloodied and tractor treads rolled over innocent bystanders.
Finally, the room was darkened and "Gang Wars" began, starring, I kid you not, War Hawk Tanzania.
Only problem was that wasn't tonight's feature. Seems the planned film had been forgotten and belatedly collected, so five minutes into the gang wars, that movie was stopped and the real one put in.
"The Man from Hong Kong," billed as a co-production between Australia and Hong Kong, was a classic '70s martial arts film modeled on a James Bond flick.
It began with two bad guys exchanging briefcases (drugs and cash, no doubt) before the Hong Kong hood is captured and says to the Aussie cop, "Stick your head up your arse and close it around you."
I ask you, do we even have insults that good in this country? I think not.
The movie's theme song was instantly familiar, Jigsaw's "Sky High," a catchy Top 40 ditty that made me wonder how (why?) an Australian/Hong Kong production had chosen a British band to introduce the action.
Sadly, some things will forever remain a mystery.
One of the sisters sitting with me, the one with whom I'd shared my onion rings a few weeks back, offered me some of her chicken wings, so I had one before eating my hot fudge sundae, better than it had to be with real whipped cream courtesy of the kitchen and Ghiradelli hot fudge.
As you might guess with a cheesy 1975 "B" movie, cliches were rampant, such as when the woman who lands via hang glider asks the Chinese cop hero, "What's so special about the Special Branch?" and they cut to the two of them having sex.
"You're my first Chinese!" she squeals and the crowd let out a politically incorrect groan.
And because it was 1975, everyone -cops, drug dealers, old ladies on the street - had on bellbottoms and all the men had long hair and porn 'staches.
There was an inordinate amount of fight scenes, the kind where the added sound effects never quite match up with who was being hit at any given moment.
In car chase sequences, cars rolled and somehow immediately burst into flames. After the third time it happened, a guy near me said, "Never saw that coming!"
With a movie like this, nothing much happens that you don't see coming from a mile away.
When we finally see the big crime boss, Wilton, the same guy commented, "Oooh, pinky ring, bad sign." True that. Good guys don't wear pinky rings.
Mr. Big was played by George Lazenby, he of one James Bond movie fame and here sporting a Tom Selleck-worthy mustache.
He was the kind of evil man who entertains party guests by shooting an apple off his blond girlfriend's head with a crossbow.
The political incorrectness extended to the dialog with lines like "Never met a Chinese yet who didn't have a yellow streak." Ouch.
And don't even get me started on the special effects. As a guy in the booth beside me put it, "Is that blood on his track suit? Cause it looks like strawberry jelly."
After our Hong Kong hero gets injured, he is rescued and whisked away to the country by a nubile young student whose father happens to be a vet and can sew him back up, good as new.
Once he's up and able, they go horseback riding and next thing we know, some singer who sounds suspiciously like Olivia Newton-John is singing, "Baby, baby, I think I love you," followed by sunny, dappled scenes of fields and lakes and the two of them looking intently at each other.
"On golden pond?" a guy joked. "Where's the barf bag?" asked a woman near me.
But while our hero may allow a temporary frolic, he needs to get back to business hunting down the bad guy. When the girl asks why, he says it's because he's Chinese.
She's already in love, so now she wants to be Chinese too, so she stretches her eyes sideways with her fingers and asks, "Will plastic surgery do?"
Wrong on so many levels.
"Do you think you've recovered enough for me to make love to you?" she asks our hero. "I think I can stand the pain," he deadpans.
As we're given a sunlit, lingering shot of her pre-orgasmic face, a girl at the bar called out, "I think he went down under!"
That, my friends, is what Ozploitation films are all about.
Of course there was a prolonged car chase that devolved into demolition derby style antics - hood flying off, doors snapped off, spontaneous combustion - but that was probably true of all '70s movies, not just martial arts films.
Or maybe that was the Australian contribution to the film (besides accents so thick they almost needed subtitles).
The whole movie was one unfortunate memory of bad fashion choices, best put by one of the sisters who said, "A lot of bad '70s brown outfits." Head to toe brown in many cases.
During the big climax scene, our hero stuffed a grenade in the bad guy's mouth and began wrapping tape around his head to hold it in.
"Oh, getting kinky now, huh?" someone teased from the bar.
Once the grenade went off, the secret cache of explosives detonated and the top of bad guy's penthouse was blown off, the cheesy familiar strains of "Sky High" came up as one of the truly epic Australian/Hong Kong, James Bond rip-off, martial arts movies ever made ended.
"That was amazing," a stranger said to me as I paid for my hot fudge sundae.
Never saw that coming.