Mondo Topless (1966)

One from the rewatch pile…

Mondo Topless (1966)

Film: You have to love ‘mondo’ movies! Titilation and cheap thrills disguised as serious documentaries by directors looking for a quick buck for a budget price, because stock footage and not having to pay for actors and special effects is cheap cheap cheap!

The most famous of these mondo movies usually feature animal slaughter, executions and bloodshed designed to disgust/ thrill the viewer… but these are NOT the ones for me. I prefer the soft, less violent films that feature what used to be called ‘the fairer sex’ before that became a totally sexist and outdated term. Now this film is certainly a product of its time, and today this type of film wouldn’t be produced and shown at a mainstream cinema, but when this was produced, these types of films, like Teaserama and others, replaced the ‘men’s’ club burlesque shows.

Every fan of exploitation should have a basic knowledge of Russ Meyer: World War 2 combat photographer who couldn’t get a break making ‘legitimate’ movies, who then moved into cheesecake photography for Playboy, and settled on making films, the way he, a self-confessed ‘titman’, wanted to see them. Over his career he made 23 films, the best known being John Waters’ favorite film Faster, Pussycat! Kill! KILL!

Mondo Topless starts as a travelogue of San Francisco, where a nubile naked wonder drives us around town showing us not just the city sights, but a couple of hers as well!! The footage is narrated by John Furlong, a Meyer regular, who introduces the city and each of the well-endowed women as well. Over the next 60 minutes we are treated to the sights of 15 women, performing pulsating pastiches of gyrating go-go, irresistible writhing and thrilling thrusting. The film travels to Europe, visiting various strip joints around the world with accompanying footage of dancers from each country. Also as an added bonus, some stock footage of Lorna Maitland, star of Meyer’s film ‘Lorna’, is also seen in random scenes, showing off her ample assets. The display of dynamic dames with dominating domes is not all the film is about though, each of these marvelously blessed misses has a lot to say about the troubles in their lives: the curse of curvaceousness, their opinions towards men who find them sexy or exciting, what they think of the problems in South America, and the threat of the Cuban missile crisis… Ok, so maybe they DON’T discuss some of those subjects, but at times, their now-dated opinions are hilarious, and to a younger viewer, possibly quite scandalous!

Now rest assured this is no soft core or hard core pornography… no no no!! It is pure go-go, GO!!! This is low-priced kicks at their finest, and filmed by King Leer, the Fellini of the sex industry himself: Russ Meyer, you know these women are going to be filmed at obscure angles aimed to excite!! Not all of the footage in this flick was filmed for this flick; some of it comes from Meyer’s 1963 Europe in the Raw feature, which was essentially the same film, but with only European performers in it. The surf guitar soundtrack is supplied by The Aladdins and is a classic example of its type, to be sure!!

Even though this was banned when it first was released in many countries, it is quite tame by todays ‘pornographic standards’… which I guess is an oxymoron, but you, dear reader, know what I mean!!

I would like to end this review with a quote from Meyer himself which sums up the film perfectly: ‘nothing is obscene providing it is done in bad taste’.

Score: **1/2

Format: This film was reviewed using the Arrow DVD release which is presented in an average 4:3 image that does contain a bit of grain and an occasional artefact. The audio is present in 2.0 stereo and isn’t special but the era of the film, and type of film don’t really lend itself to needed high quality sound.

Score: **

Extras: There is a bunch of really cool extras on this disc, not a huge amount, but a decent set… um… of extras… anyway:

Trailer Reel features trailers for Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, Blacksnake, Mudhoney, Vixen, Wild Gals of the Naked West, Supervixens, Beneath the Valley Of The Ultravixens, Cherry, Harry & Rachel and Common-Law Cabin, which is a pretty fair overview of Meyer’s output, though a trailer for ‘Lorna’ was conspicuous by its absence.

Photo Gallery is 18 promotional pics from the film, and whilst I am normally not a fan of this sort of thing, it does show the advertising campaign for the film.

Johnathon Ross: Interview with Russ Meyer sees a very young Johnathon Ross (from 1988) interview the master himself, taken from his series of docos ‘The Incredibly Strange Film Show’. It runs for about 40 odd minutes and is a nice look at his history and a selection of his films. Also featured in this doco are Tura Satana, Roger Ebert and Malcom McClaren.

Score: ****

WISIA: Like all of Meyer’s films it’s not one to sit around and watch with the family, but I have to admit to having seen it several times but not due to the boobs: the dialogue is occasionally hilarious and the lounge music soundtrack is pretty awesome.

Spider Baby (1967)

One from the re watch pile…
Spider Baby (1964)

Spider Baby DVD cover


Film: Jack Hill has made some pretty damn amazing films in his career, film that people talk about with a fondness reserved normally for cats and chocolate. He wrote and directed films that are synonymous with sub-genres of film. Film like Coffey and Foxy Brown which whilst are not the first are certainly prime examples of blaxploitation, and The Big Bird House and The Big Bird Cage which again, weren’t the first Women In Prison films, but certainly nailed the definition… totally tongue-in-cheek too, I might add.

Here, though, with Spider Baby, Hill ascends any genre definition and creates a film that looks like a 1940s comedy, but acts like a… I don’t even know what to describe it as. It’s madness incarnate. It’s a quaint look at unconditional love. It’s a horrible look at genetic faults. It’s ridiculous. 

Spider Baby tells of the tragedy of the Merrye family, who suffer with a genetic affliction that is particular to their family, which it why it has the name ‘ Merrye Syndrome’. It is a disorder which effects the mind, making the victims slowly regress, after reaching a particular age, to an almost primal state.

The last three children of Titus Merrye, Elizabeth (Beverley Washburn), Virginia (Jill Banner) and Ralph (Sid Haig) are cared for by beloved chauffeur, Bruno (Lon Chaney Jr.) but cousins of Titus, Peter (Quinn Redeker) and his sister Emily (Carol Ohmart) turn up at short notice with their lawyer, Mr. Schlocker (Karl Schanzer) to try and lay claim to all Titus’ property… but what they don’t know is the three children have irresistible murderous intentions, and not just bodies are hidden in the basement of their house…

Spider Baby: Beverly Washburn and Jill Banner


The performances are the best thing about this film, which also has a surprising cast: legend from Universal films like The Wolfman, Chaney Jr as the kindly old doomed chauffeur chews his dialogue like it’s the most important film he’s ever made, and his career at Universal is mentioned as a wink to the audience too. House on Haunted Hill’s Carol Ohmart is the epitome of sexy mean girl here and provides just enough eye candy to remind you she was once one of Marilyn Monroe’s contemporaries. The real surprise though is the appearance of comedy actor Mantan Moreland from King of the Zombies, as the telegram deliverer who’s fear-filled appearance could have influences Shaggy from Scooby-Doo.

Spider Baby: Lon Chaney Jr as Bruno


Speaking of Universal films, Hill’s cinematography is influenced by them but has a few quirks that give it a look that takes that familiarity and alienates it, like the entire idea of the film with its odd-family set up.

The problem with this film though is in two areas. One is how queer it is paced, and the language of film seems to be abandoned so there doesn’t seem to be any great escalated peak, but instead it just simmers. The other thing is it seems to take a serious subject of inbreeding and disease and tries to make it amusing not with a clever script but instead with crazy, comedy styled parodies of horror film tropes.

As far as the history of cinema is concerned this film deserves a look at just for the place it sits in the evolution of backwards horror, it just doesn’t sit properly as entertainment. See it once for the performances of former greats.

Score: **

Spider Baby DVD menu screen


Format: The reviewed copy of this film was the Dark Sky Films U.S. release on DVD. This film was presented in a pretty nice 1.66:1 black and white image with a clean 2.0 audio track. 

Score: ***

Extras: There’s a cool bunch of extras on this disc.

The Hatching of Spider Baby is a cool look at the making of the film with comments by Joe Dante, Jack Hill, Karl Schanzer, Sid Haig, Alfred Taylor, Mary Mitchel, Quinn Redeker and Beverly Washburn, and has some great recollections from the cast and crew.

Spider Stravinsky: The Cinema Sounds of Ronald Stein really speaks to me as I love my horror movie scores. This looks at the career of Stein and is a touching tribute to his work.

The Merrye House revisited sees Jack Hill return to the house used in Spider Baby to reflect on the filming there.

There’s a still gallery which is something that always annoys me, and it does so here, though some of the pics of the leading ladies are nice.

There’s an alternate title sequence and an extended scene which are nice for completion’s sake.

There is also a commentary by Hill and Haig which is informative and kind of endearing.

Score: ****

WISIA: It’s quaint and amusing, but won’t be on high circulation on your Rewatch list.

Spider Baby: spider adult.

Scream of Fear (1961) Review

One from the re-watch pile…
Scream of Fear aka Taste of Fear (1961)

Madman’s release of Scream of Fear on Bluray


Film: I have mentioned regularly, not just here (such as in my review of The Nanny) but also in other websites I have reviewed horror films for, that I am a big fan of Hammer films, and that I love some of these earlier, less gory and more psychologically driven thrillers.

This film initially caught my attention for the same reason the aforementioned The Nanny did, it is written by Jimmy Sangster, who did a great job of adapting the book that The Nanny was based upon, but also gave us the Hammer versions of Dracula (in The Horror of Dracula) and The Mummy. It’s directed wonderfully by Seth Holt, who directed The Nanny, but also is responsible for my favourite Hammer film, Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb, which stars the stunning Valerie Leon.

Scream of Fear: Susan Strasberg as Penny


Speaking of stunning, this film stars Susan Strasberg as Penny Appleby, a woman who has an unreasonable fear of everything, and is bound to a wheelchair after an accident where a horse fell on her a broke two of her vertebrae. She is returning home to her estranged father’s (Fred Johnson) house in the French Riviera after not being in too much contact with him for 9 or 10 years, based on an invitation he sent to her.

Upon returning she is picked up from the airport by kindly chauffeur, Robert (Ronald Lewis) who takes her to her father’s house only to find that he has gone away, and she is left in the arms of her step-mother, whom she has never met, Jane (Ann Todd).

The two bond quickly, but Penny starts to suspect something is amiss when she finds what appears to be her father’s corpse sitting in one of the rooms. When she tells Jane and Robert though, the corpse mysteriously has disappeared.

Penny quickly suspects that something is going on, and enlists Robert in her quest for the truth, even though her step-mother, and her father’s friend, Dr Gerrad (Christopher Lee) suggest that maybe she is having flights of fancy… or do they have a more sinister plan in mind…

Scream of Fear: Christopher Lee as Dr Gerrad


Filmed in glorious black and white, Scream of Fear is a wonderful example of a thriller. It unfortunately didn’t find much success in the USA but was a hit in Europe and had several imitators, according to Marcus Hearn in his book The Hammer Vault (if you are a Hammer fan, this MUST be in your collection). 

The performances are melodramatic as one would expect from a film of this vintage, and Christopher Lee’s French accent is of dubious pedigree, but it really adds to the atmosphere of the film.

More twists than a strand of DNA, this film is a wonderful watch, and will keep everyone guessing almost to the very end. 

Score: ****

Madman’s Scream of Fear menu screen: no extras here!


Format: The version of this film reviewed was the Australian, region B bluray which runs for approximately 82 minutes. The film is presented in a grainy, and occasionally blurry 1.85:1 image with a Dolby Digital mono soundtrack which sounds pretty good. One can’t expect a film of this age to look perfect, but there are many films from this time and earlier which look much better due to various restoration processes.

Score: **1/2

Extras: None, which is a shame, though considering pretty much well everyone who worked on the film is no longer with us, not surprising. A film of this quality at least deserves some kind of commentary or featurette from Hammer enthusiasts, film critics or other directors who champion it.

Score: 0

WISIA: A beautifully shot film with a stunning lead, not to mention Christopher Lee, but as with a lot of these sorts of films, once the secret is out, the impact of the film is lessened. That, however, doesn’t make it an occasional rewatch pile contender as it is entertaining.

Scream of Fear: father’s locked piano!

Two Thousand Maniacs! (1964) Review

One from the re-watch pile, and dedicated to our dearly and recently departed godfather of gore, Mr. H. G. Lewis…
Two Thousand Maniacs! (1964)

The Australian DVD cover for Two Thousand Maniacs!

Film: Those of us who love lots of gore owe a lot to a man who started the fashion of making horror films ‘gory’: Herschell Gordon Lewis.

Nicknamed the godfather of gore, H.G. Lewis got his start in nudie cuties before throwing guts into our lap with his debut splatterfest Blood Feast. The popularity of that film brought us this, his, and producer David F. Friedman’s second horror film, Two Thousand Maniacs!

Two Thousand Maniacs! tells of the beautiful Southern town of Pleasant Valley which is celebrating a ‘centennial’, and need a few ‘Northerner’ guests. So using a duplicitous Detour sign, the townspeople lure two cars, containing a total of six people into town to help with their celebrations.

Two Thousand Maniacs! Thomas Wood and Connie Mason


Unfortunately for the ‘guests’, including Playboy Playmate Connie Mason as Terry Adams, the entire town’s celebration includes death and mutilation of the highest order! 

Who will survive? Will they survive intact?

This film is the second instalment in Lewis’ so-called ‘Blood Trilogy’, along with the aforementioned Blood Feast and the follow years Color Me Blood Red. That’s not to say that’s all he made as his first filmmaking career lasted until 1972’s The Gore Gore Girls, and after a 30 year hiatus, in 2002, he returned with a sequel to Blood Feast, and a new film The Uh-oh Show in 2009!

There’s not much not to like about this film. Sure it’s hokey, and the acting is of a level that aspires to be amateur, and even the effects are not what one would define as ‘special’ but it is just so much stupid fun.

Two Thousand Maniacs! A call to arms!

 The awesome thing here though is that Lewis wrote, directed, filmed and wrote the music for this film, including singing the song that’s heard several times through ‘The South’s Gonna Rise Again’.

Basically it comes down to the fact it’s a simple story that’s a ball to watch, and should be included in any movie watching weekend, especially if you have a newly converted horror fan, and know you’re watching an unheralded classic.

Score: ****

The Australian DVD menu for Two Thousand Maniacs!

Format: This film was reviewed on the Australian release of the U.S.’s Something Weird Video’s approximately 84 minute DVD of the film. It is presented in a surprisingly good 1.33:1 aspect with a decent Dolby Digital Stereo audio track. What should be expected that a film of this vintage, and made by an independent studio isn’t necessarily going to have the sharpest image. There’s a few sound issues as well, insomuch as there is ‘hissing’ when a few characters speak, but it’s intermittent.

Score: **1/2

Extras: Only three extras on this disc. There are trailers for both Two Thousand Maniacs! and Blood Feast, and some outtakes from the making of the film, which aren’t exceptional except for the fact that they are so old and the fact they even still existed was a miracle.

Score: **1/2

WISIA: It’s a gore-lovers classic, you bet it gets rewatched!

Two Thousand Maniacs! The Barrel Roll!

Burn Witch Burn (1962) Review

One from the re watch pile..
Burn Witch Burn aka Night of the Eagle (1962)

Film: Sometimes I love the slow burn horror tales, the ones about atmosphere, acting, style: films like The Wicker Man, The Nanny, The VVitch. Ones that tell a story about fear and mistrust: sometimes I feel like watching those films instead of the blood soaked, titty jiggling, heavy metal soundtracked gorefests.

That’s not to say I don’t love soaking blood and jiggling titties, but I do also like to sit down and watch a solid film that tells a great story.

Burn Witch Burn is one of those films that has a solid story and acting, and for its time (the early sixties) is quite revolutionary in its treatment of the supernatural and it’s implication of rape.


When cynical college professor, Norman Taylor (Peter Wyngarde) discovers his wife Tansy (Janet Blair) has been practising witchcraft as she feared for his safety when they first moved to their new town, he demands she destroy all of her talismans and phylactery

After all the objects are destroyed, Taylor’s life takes a turn for the worse: he’s almost hit by a car, accused of the rape of a student and other mishaps, but can a man as sceptical as Taylor believe that such superstitions be true or is it all coincidence and his wife is simply, mad?

You’d better grab the film and find out!

This film was directed by Sidney Hayers, from a script by Richard Matheson and Charles Beaumont, based on the novel ‘Conjure Wife’ by Fritz Leiber and is a well acted and entertaining movie both about the practice of black magic and the scepticism of it.

This film looks great and is an interesting alternate look at ‘modern’ day Black Magic. It has some great of-it’s-day acting (by today’s standards it may be seen as occasionally stage-you or overwrought) and the special effects are what you would expect from an AIP film of this period, though it doesn’t rely on them to transmit its tale.

Is it as good as other films of its ilk like The Wicker Man or Blood on Satan’s Claw? No, but it is as entertaining as one of its contemporaries from a few years earlier, Night of the Demon.


Score: ***

Format: The review copy is the Australian Cinema Cult release on a region 4, NTSC disc. This approximately 90 minute film is presented in a satisfactory 1.85:1 widescreen with a stereo audio track. There is a very occasional pixelation of the image, but it is very rare.

The beginning of the film warns that it was completed from various sources and that the quality may be uneven, but I didn’t really find that too much. 

Score: ***


Extras: Only a trailer…  Not even scene selections!!

Score: **


WISIA: I have seen this film several times, and it will probably be on a high rewatch rotation as it’s easy to watch. I usually seem to throw it on when I don’t know what else to watch.