Mondo Topless

Certificate: 18
Running time: 60 mins
Director: Russ Meyer
Starring: Babette Bardot, Pat Barrington, Sin Lenee, Darlene Grey
Genre: Documentary
Country: USA

Yesterday was to be the first of a month of Meyer Mondays but with the untimely death of director Tony Scott I decided to put it off the first publication for a day.  Now, 24 hours late but better than never, we take a look at an early example of the birth of American Exploitation as the once impenetrable Hayes code crumbles by the side of the road.

After a whistle stop tour of San Francisco full time sweater meat enthusiast Russ Meyer takes us on an all jiggling multi-cup tour of breasts including British starlet Darlene Grey (Buxotic) and French/Swedish babe Babette Bardot… “50/50 the best way”.  Exploitation documentary American Grindhouse would touch on the titillation documentary in it’s quest to explore the ins and outs of 42nd Street and opened up a lot of the performers to the level of loss of earnings that would often leave the genre with a bad taste after discussion. Many exhibitors and owners of strip clubs discovered that films their girls’ best moves allowed for wider coverage and they only had to pay the performers once.  In keeping with this style Meyer offers up a cool and jazz riddled pastiche of the exhibitionist titles like The Pleasures of a Woman but with an interesting discussion on body image and female representation playing just below the surface.

Mondo Topless is probably best described in percentage as it’s 80% cheap titillation, 10% visibly and audibly sumptuous through well constructed cinematography, landscape and a period score to boot but that extra 10% is something that you don’t expect and it’s surprising when you consider Meyer’s sensibilities.  What it actually manages to offer up is an interesting and still incredibly relevant discussion on the female form, body image, condition and the constant tug of war between exploitation and empowerment.  It’s most certainly not a message or discussion that the film makers would have intentionally tapped into, as it’s one that goes beyond the mere superficial but it is interesting to see how almost half a century later most of Hollywood is still having trouble with the same issue.


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