Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Mondo Bizarro (1966)

A US imitation of an Italian Mondo movie, Mondo Bizarro offers the viewer all of the usual 'forbidden' (in mid sixties America, at least) delights of nudity, homosexuality, teen wildness and Nazis. Unlike earlier Mondos, though, this one is fairly obviously entirely staged.  Whereas films like Mondo Cane and Women of the World actually were filmed all over the globe, most of Mondo Bizarro's 'travelogue' actually takes place in the US.  Most notoriously, the supposed Arab 'slave auction' sequence was filmed in Griffith Park, Los Angeles, a popular location for low budget movie makers.  Less than five years after the release of the first Mondo movie, all pretense of art has been abandoned in favour of naked exploitation.  Pure titillation has replaced any idea of social commentary, while the talk of 'powerful telephoto lenses' marks a change in emphasis from 'documentary' making to pure voyeurism.

For sure, the first wave of Italian made Mondos were exploitation, but they at least wrapped it all up elegantly, with authentic locations, beautiful cinematography and fantastic musical scores.  Which isn't to say that later films like Mondo Bizarro aren't entertaining, it is just that they feel far less substantive than their predecessors.  But with TV fast catching up with the early Mondos in terms of what they could show and travelogues like Whicker's World (which often covered similar ground, but less sensationally) growing in popularity, the only way forward for MOndo movies was to become ever more 'shocking' and, well, bizarre.  Director R Lee Frost became something of a one man US Mondo making industry, turning out both films like this, utilising original footage and others, like Witchcraft 70, cobbled together from footage from Italian Mondos. 



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