Following the unleashing of the five-star special edition of Russ Meyer's FASTER PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL!, Arrow Films dipped into the 18 films they licensed from RM Films and came up with....MONDO TOPLESS?! It's an odd choice to release in the introductory group of six Russ Meyer Special Edition DVD's, because it's not one of his better films. For my money, COMMON LAW CABIN or GOOD MORNING...AND GOODBYE! (both starring the undeservedly least-known Meyer starlet, Alaina Capri) would have been better single-disc choices, but perhaps because this barely feature-length feature was chosen because it was Meyer's recovery film after the disastrous theatrical release of FASTER PUSSYCAT. Whatever the reason, it's an atypical Meyer film with some of the largest bosoms he ever filmed!
Plot? Who needs plot when you gather together seven incredibly well-developed gals and throw in rare footage from Meyer's long-unseen EUROPE IN THE RAW and screen-test footage of Lorna Maitland? MONDO TOPLESS plays like it was edited by someone suffering from ADD, but you can tell that Meyer loves every torturous minute! At just 60 minutes and feverishly narrated by Meyer favorite John Furlong, the film begins with a quickie tour of San Francisco, as gargantuan Babette Bardot drives through the hills topless. Silicone queen Pat Barringer (AGONY OF LOVE, ORGY OF THE DEAD) looks her most unrestrained and relaxed in this film as opposed to her wooden performances and awkward dance routines in other films from Harry Novak, Zoltan Spencer and others. She does her routine at the top of a telephone tower and also shakes her meal tickets in Meyer's swimming pool and in a sandy desert. Darlene Grey gets down with her bad self to the tunes of a transistor radio in the middle of the desert then takes time to dip into a muddy lake for Russ' camera. Sin Linee, a blonde hippie girl, runs excitedly through the forest, allowing nature to glimpse at her good stuff, and does a go-go routine in an abandoned shack and takes a shower at a watering hole. Diane Young, a pigtailed blonde who resembles a lovelier version of Celeste Holm, gets down on a quiet beach, gyrating to the music from her trusty tape deck! Raven-haired Darla Paris carries a radio with her as she frugs like a pro in the woods. Donna X stays inside her apartment, but is just as uninhibited a dancer as the other ladies. Bouncy Babette Bardot is perhaps the most intriguing of the stars of MONDO TOPLESS, with her topless cavorting on a railroad track and as a train roars past her sticking in the memory! She also does a strip tease on a house's porch!
You can tell which girls in MONDO TOPLESS are from EUROPE IN THE RAW, as their hairdos are distinctly more 1963 and where Meyer shoots his new ladies in the outdoors in constant motion, the stock footage ladies pose like models in their outdoor scenes and the rest take place in-doors. Veronique Gabriel does little but sit and snap her fingers to the music, but the towering camera angle accents her lusty figure. Greta Thorwald isn't particularly breasty, but this Dutch blonde apparently was a big draw in Copenhagen. An average-built Denise Duval, nude guitar player Gigi La Touche, and twisting Yvette Le Grand draw audiences in Paris, a topless model is photographed underwater, Abundavita entices Berliners with her bizarre mask and costume, and Heide Richter performs in Hamburg. Lorna Maitland appears in the only color footage of her career, as she lounges in the desert sun and those amazing mammaries are still pretty...well...amazing all these years later. It's no wonder she became Russ' first silver screen superstar! Most fascinatingly is Lorna's audio interview discussing how she got the part of Lorna in the film of the same title and working with Meyer on the film, and black-and-white scenes from LORNA are also included.
After the clothed antics of his last two films, MOTOR PSYCHO! and FASTER PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL!, Meyer switched to color and piled as many nude bazookas and gazongas as he could into this bizarre sort-of-documentary. Not all of the girls are impressively top-heavy, though; Sin Linee, Darla Paris, Diane Young, and Donna X are definitely less-endowed than Pat Barringer, Babette Bardot, and Darlene Grey, so their routines are less interesting than they could be. Paris even claims she's a 36D but it sure doesn't look like it! It's a fascinating creative choice for Meyer to interview these dancers and include their answers playing over their enticing dance routines. Apparently Meyer was going to leave the audio of him asking the questions in the finished product, but was convinced that for pacing reasons, it would be better to cut himself out. They don't reveal too many insights, but it's great to hear the inner workings of what 60s strippers think about disrobing for gawking on-lookers. You might recognize some of the fantastic library music from the opening dressing-room sequence from Bob Cresse and Lee Frost's MONDO BIZARRO! MONDO TOPLESS is also the loudest film Russ Meyer would ever make; the music, narration and interviews never end, so every single second of the film bombards the ear while the quick editing, shaking tits and odd camera angles assault the eyes. You just might get a headache from this film, despite its short running time, but it's at least a unique experience like no other.
The bonafide star of MONDO TOPLESS is Babette Bardot, a Swedish-French stripper who claimed she was a distant cousin of Babette Bardot and would star as...er...Babette, the scene-stealing French harlot in COMMON LAW CABIN! The mysterious blonde bombshell reportedly also had an affair with Russ in-between films! She mangles the English language like nobody's business, but is never less than captivating in both films. You simply cannot take your eyes off this giantess with the eye-popping figure, and unfortunately she made only one other film (I, MARQUIS DE SADE) before disappearing off the face of the earth. The other most memorable gal in the flick is Darlene Grey (also known as Candy Morrison, Vivian Moyer and Angela Carter). Born in the UK as Vivian Cournoyer, the accent-less Grey had breasts almost the size of Candy Samples (yeah, that's like a bra size FF!) and one feels exhausted for her as she has to carry those sandbags with her everywhere. The shots of her lying on her back writhing while her breasts undulate in the desert sun might cause heart failure among hardcore breast fetishists! You've gotta see her to believe it! Additionally, Darlene Grey's stories of her troubles finding clothes and bikinis that fit, her failing audition for Playboy, and of passers-by accusing her of stuffing her bra (!), are priceless! Grey would appear in countless men’s' magazines and big bust loops of the 60s and early 70s, but would never achieve the popularity of an Uschi Digart or Michelle Angelo. Wherever she disappeared to, she is another one of Meyer's gals who definitely deserved a cult following.
Like FASTER PUSSYCAT, MONDO TOPLESS' transfer looks about the same as the previous region 1 disc from RM films and suffers from a jittering during movement in the film, making the almost non-stop topless dancing even more tough to watch. This is apparently a problem playing on an NTSC-PAL conversion player, so perhaps viewers in the UK where the discs were released don't have these video issues. The English mono audio is appropriately assaulting on the viewers, with all the narration and clanging rock music bursting forth loud and clear.
The primary extra of the disc is the full episode of "The Incredibly Strange Film Show" dedicated to the films of Russ Meyer. Hosted by Jonathan Ross, the show focused on the best exploitation film directors of the 1960s and an entire DVD set of the complete show's run would be a wonderful (but implausible) idea! In addition to talking to Russ about his career (over glasses of champagne), interviews are also included with Roger Ebert, Tura Satana, Kitten Natividad, and Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren. Clips are shown from all the major Russ films (including the gravity-defying knockers of Lorna Maitland!), we get to visit his house which had been transformed into a literal Russ Meyer museum, and for historical value, it's great to see the only footage shot of the abandoned Sex Pistols film WHO KILLED BAMBI? and some of the only public footage of his aborted epic THE JAWS OF VIXEN! Learn the true story behind the opening scene of BENEATH THE VALLEY OF THE ULTRA-VIXENS! This is a nice 35-minute documentary which allows yet another rare glimpse into the mind of Russ Meyer. The Russ Meyer trailer reel (with previews for FASTER PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL!, BLACKSNAKE!, MUDHONEY, VIXEN, WILD GALS OF THE NAKED WEST, SUPERVIXENS, BENEATH THE VALLEY OF THE ULTRA-VIXENS, CHERRY HARRY & RAQUEL! and COMMON LAW CABIN) is accompanied by a photo gallery containing candid snapshots and lobby cards of the girls from MONDO TOPLESS! (Casey Scott)
Special thanks to Kit Gavin for the screen grabs
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