Thursday, December 18, 2008

Mondo Topless (1966): or, It's Exactly What You Think It Is

If at any point in your life you've wondered whether you could EVER get tired of watching naked Amazon beauties shaking their bodacious ta-tas in your face in the most shamless, joyful way possible, Russ Meyer's Mondo Topless will solve that little mystery for you. Possibly the most absolutely pure distillation of an eccentric director's visual obsessions ever committed to film, this movie offers a solid hour of gigantic bouncing boobs in just about every configuration, all expertly filmed in Meyer's trademark crisp, primary color style, without any consideration of such things as "plot," "character," or anything else that might dilute the filmmaker's glorious, neurotic vision. If you make it to the end credits and find yourself still thinking "Go baby GO!", then congratulations: you're an insatiable perv.

As the name implies, Mondo Topless is patterned after the infamous "Mondo" documentary films that were all the rage in the 60s and 70s. However, whereas the 1962 genre-creator Mondo Cane and its many imitators focused on real-life scenes of animal cruelty, grevious human injury, and strange (often gruesome) cultural practices from the far-flung corners of the globe to shock and titillate audiences, Meyer instead turns his lens on the world of topless dancers. (At the time of filming, topless dancing was still considered largely underground and shockingly perverse by most Americans, restricted in the public mind at least to hellholes of cultural depravity like San Francisco and New York City.) The result is something more than the nudie-cutie drive-in and grindhouse reels that had been the repressed US's main expression of naked-lady fetishism up to that point--it comes across as part documentary, part satire, and all a 100% unfiltered glimpse into Meyer's personal psychosexual fixations.

Translated: free-spirited girls with absolutely colossal breasts shakin' 'em like Polaroids to an endless surf-guitar soundtrack. That's the show, folks. Interested?

Of course you are.

These are the jokes, folks.

Like I said earlier, there's really no plot to speak of here. The whole thing is presented in documentary style, with some of the most hypertensive narration you could imagine laid over a one-hour montage of boob-shaking Meyer girls. Narrator and Meyer-comrade John Furlong (who also provided the spectacular opening narration for Meyer's masterpiece Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!) waxes all Fruedian poetic at top volume, reeling off a series of some of the most groan-worthy double-entendres possible. Here are a few of the gems we get along our Grand Tetons Travelogue:

"This is San Francisco calling! ...With its BULGING PEAKS and DEEP CANYONS, Wide-eyed tourists and vacationeers are still dragged to [the city's] CAPACIOUS BOSOM!"

Furlong gets even more worked up when he moves from double-entendres to straight-out single entendres:


"Darlene Gray--England's answer to THE BIGGEST AND THE BEST!"

"Greta Thornwald, the Nordic Nymph, whose pulchritude is unrivaled by any showgirl in Denmark!"



Shake 'em, don't break 'em,
it took your momma 9 months to make 'em.

Merely reading those lines can't do the narration justice. There were times when I was seriously worried for Furlong's blood-pressure levels--like the go-go club customers in FPKK!, he often sounds more pissed off than titillated, ready to pop a vital blood vessel at any given moment. Furlong's voice-work is so over the top that many have pointed to it as evidence of Meyer's sly satirical wit--however, I'm not at all sure it wasn't meant to be taken seriously.

"BUT ENOUGH OF THIS PALAVER!" (As Furlong screams early on.) What about the girls? Well, they run the gamut from "cute and vivacious" to "kind of scary looking" to "weathered but with great knockers" to "OMFG HOW DOES SHE WALK?" The prize-winner in the latter category is definitely the aforementioned Darlene Gray, who talks about the hardships of having to buy a plus-size dress and then take in the waist to her more modest sub-boobular proportions.

During the lengthy dance sequences, the girls all respond to interview questions about life as a topless dancer, the difference between "topless" and "exotic" dancing (answer: exotic is more about sensuality, topless more about "fun"--i.e., shakin' your money-makers), and their typically free-wheeling attitudes about sex. Probably the most entertaining of these interview segments are those with Sin Lenee and Babette Bardot. Linee is probably the most svelte and least-endowed of the dancers here, and is presented as a kind of flower-child free spirit, always wearing a long strand of love-beads while she moves to the music. For instance, she talks about how she loves being out "in a bunch of green" (the color), and later muses in a far-out voice "Almost any type of music makes me feel sex. Also, color makes me feel sex."

A typical (and awesome) Meyer-ian shot

Bardot, on the other hand, is all Euro-sex kitten, and has some strong opinions on the subject of seduction. "I don't believe a woman should tease a man unless she's going to give him something," she opines early on, and later makes fun of the roundabout seduction techniques of American males. "If he wants sex, he should SAY he wants it! Not say, 'Oh, would you like to see my stamp collection.' Unless he really wants to show his stamp collection, which is nice, but if he wants sex, he should say it!" That's the kind of wisdom we're getting here.

Other than that it's all surf-guitar and Furlong, who narrates a few European dance numbers from Belgium, Paris, and Denmark (which are obviously NOT photographed in Europe, but rather on the same draped studio set--two of the models, supposedly nations apart, even sport the same leather belt) and some other strange sequences, such as Babette's opening nude drive through San Francisco, an underwater photography sequence, and a delineation of what it takes to be a successful topless dancer:

"A body well above the average in physical beauty, unblemished by an uneven suntan! A bustline that is firm and youthful! The topless dancer's face as well must bear an equal burden with the body, encouraging sensuous and provocative expression, supplementing her physically exciting figure!"

Buxotic: It's like Quixotic, only it's not windmills you're tilting at, IYKWIM...

Made immediately after Faster Pussycat! Kill Kill! and two years before his next big success Vixen!, Mondo Topless may very well be the closest Meyer ever came to filming what was actually going on in his vibrantly twisted imagination. Despite all the flesh on display throughout, there is no actual sex anywhere in the movie--in fact, save for a few street scenes and Furlong's maniacal voice, no male figures of any description appear at all. It's all just rock music, smiling faces, and big bouncing breasts.

Meyer, who despite his title as "King of the Nudies" was on the record as being disgusted by hardcore and graphic simulated sex scenes (in his later movies he did film some of these, but reportedly always for financial rather than artistic reasons), preferred the joyful, innocently sexual pin-up mystique to just about anything else, and it shows here--all the girls in Mondo Topless seem to be having a blast, rocking out to the surf-guitar and reveling in their feminine beauty. For Meyer, it must have been a little slice of heaven.

For viewers used to plot and character and "stuff making sense," Mondo Topless may prove a bit wearing. Even with its scant 1-hour runtime, I found myself fast-forwarding through some of the less-inspired dance numbers. But as a cultural artifact and a document of a fascinatingly twisted filmmaker's not-so-secret obsessions, Mondo Topless is aces. 2.5 thumbs from your friendly Vicar.

Talk to me, baby!

Yes, they're reel.


Tenebrous Kate said...

I'd argue that the movie also has a lot to offer for Loud Staccato Narrator fetishists like me.

OH CRAP! That was the Out-Loud Voice--I meant to say like my friend. Or... I read about it in an article... or something like that.

Awesome review of this curious little (enormous?) flick, Vicar. One of the things I've found amusing about Meyer's body of work is that sex is an almost entirely above-the-waistline effort, while steering carefully clear of ever wandering above the neck ;)

The Duke of DVD said...

Bravo, dearest Vicar, for bringing the word "buxotic" to our attention. I simply must remember to use it in my everyday vernacular, whether to describe the attributes of my latest serving girl or the qualities of a mother opossum found in the nave a fortnight ago.

Meyer deserves all of the praise one can throw his way. While giant fun bags aren't quite my bag, baby, I do appreciate his worship of the female form. The fact that he included little to no sausage just underscores his dedication.

Karswell said...

MONDO BLOGGO: just in time for this review comes along a nice 'n floppy blog I just happened to stumble upon yesterday:

prof. grewbeard said...

Mondo Topless sounds wonderful. but could it better than my all-time favorite boob-a-rama, My Tale Is Hot?...

The Vicar of VHS said...

Empress--if you love Loud Staccato Narrators, you should definitely spin this one up. Or should I say, NOW IS THE TIME TO INSERT THIS DISC INTO THE WAITING APERTURE OF YOUR BUZZING DVD DRIVE, WHERE IT CAN SPIN, BABY, SPIN, LIKE A DERVISH OF PIXELLATED PASSION! ;)

Duke--even if the giant funbag obsession doesn't work for you, there's still something hypnotic about Meyer's devotion here. Either that, or I share more with him than I should probably admit in public, Damn!

Karswell--thanks for the link! If anyone wants to check out some footage from the movie in question, click on over!

And finally, Professor--I haven't seen "My Tale is Hot," but now I'm interested. Too late to update my xmas list, though...

Rev. Fred Phantom said...

This and Black Snake are the only two Meyer films to pass me by over the years. Not sure why. I don't think I was even aware that this was on DVD. Excellent review of a film that sounds hard to review.

The Vicar of VHS said...


I believe the only official DVD of this one is a region 2 PAL release, part of an expensive Meyer box set.

However, it's still possible to come by the movie in the US, if you know what I mean...

No, wait, THAT'S not what I mean!

Although, come to think of it... ;)

The Future Russ Meyer said...

Thank you for the full, well-rounded review. I sincerely believe that any adult who was once breast-fed or knows what a bra is should watch Mondo Topless. It is classic cinema, nipping on the heels of his previous release, "Faster Pussycat, Kill! Kill!" and is certainly a titillating masterwork of the genius of Russ Meyer. But remember, it is merely a sensitive part -- some say the pinnacle -- of the large body of his legendary, mountainous accomplishments.

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