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John Waters feature length film debut is a schlocky montage of crazy
events following Mary Vivian Pearce and Divine as they travel
throughout the gutters and alleyways of "Charm City" Baltimore. I can't
do this film just by trying to describe the events that transpire. This
film has to be seen to be believed. There's no dialog in this film,
most of the soundtrack is a collage of 50's and 60's pop music, They're
used as dialog and as a Foley track. I wonder if Mr. Waters received
permission from the performers for use in this film?
Filmed on a shoe string budget and shot on 16mm uses a cast of friends, Waters hit the Midnight Movie/cult circuit big time. Only a sign of things to come.
Recommended, if you can find it.
It's amazing that one of John Waters best films would be his first feature length film. After making three short films, cult film director directed 'Mondo Trasho', a silent movie filled with a rock and roll soundtrack. It certainly shows some of the surreal brilliance that was to come in his movies and has a very dream like feeling. The plot, if you can call it that, is of a modern day Cinderella (Mary Vivian Pearce) who is run over by the sexy driver Divine (Divine). For the rest of the day, Divine and the corpse wander about all of Baltimore trying to find ways to get out of this nightmare and meet up with reporters, mental patients, a topless dancer (Mink Stole), saints, pigs and an insane doctor called Dr. Coathanger (David Lochary in arguably his best performance). It's a strange piece of fiction with the occasional unsynchronised dialogue. It hints at the brilliance that John Waters would achieve with the likes of 'Female Trouble', 'Hairspray' and 'Serial Mom'. It's actually quite good even though Waters always jokes about how bad it is and how over long it is. I found it be very fast paced and funny and satiric proving that John Waters is the best satirist in modern day America and always puts a new view on things. The acting in this film is also endearing. Although none of these people knew how to act, that's the beauty of many of John's earlier films. Divine's performance consists of looking sexy and doing exaggerated movements all the time. Lochary is good in this film, if only he hadn't died so young, I'm convinced he would have won an oscar. It's also an interesting note for Waters fans to watch this because everyone looks so young. Truthfully, the living members of Waters crew like Pearce and Stole don't really look old today but it's amazing to see them pre-cult fame. Although, it's a very hard film to get hold of and even if you do, it will probably be in bad quality, it's a must for Waters fans and people interested in him as well since it's one of his more accesible films.
All of John Water's films have their quirks and their staying power and each one is truly a beautiful piece of art but nothing comes close to "Mondo Trasho", John's earlier trash epic. Not only does it have a faster pace than some of his other films but the "story" keeps on coming with more and mnore drug induced imagery. Divine, John Water's regular performer, delivers an hilarious over the top performance as a gum chewing trashy splendor, driving about looking for men until she is distracted by a nude hitcher and runs over an un-named fashion fanatic played by Mary Vivian Pearce. In the course of the next 24 hours, they go through a variety of different adventues, each one unique. This film boasts some great performances by the likes of Mink Stole, David Lochary, Divine and Mary Vivian Pearce. The film also features a great soundtrack, comprised of hundreds of John Water's favorite tunes. No good tune is left untouched in this trash epic. The film is definitely a more mild one than, say, "Pink Flamingos", meaning that this film doesn't have a lot of gross acts although it does have chickens being killed for real and toe sucking. This John Waters film is definitely one of his most unkown and one of his best.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Possible minor spoilers ahead.
John Waters's first official feature, Mondo Trasho proves (as if there was any doubt) that "it isn't easy being Divine." Jean Harlow-lookalike Mary Vivian Pearce (who, incidentally, prided herself on the resemblance) walks around Baltimore, smokes a Kool, reads Hollywood Babylon on the bus, and has an erotic encounter in a public park. A very young Divine, made up like an elephantine Jayne Mansfield in gold lame capri pants and halter top, speeds around in a 1959 El Dorado and promptly locks her eagle eyes on a sexy blonde hitchhiker. The women's lives collide, and then...things get REALLY outrageous!
This picture is a must for underground film buffs. It's a witty, cleverly made epic that comes off surprisingly well, considering the lack of funds and experience behind it. The use of music is undoubtedly the best I've ever experienced; everyone from Little Richard to Janis Joplin to Mae West to Perry Como turns up on the soundtrack to perfectly compliment the wonderfully raw, black-and-white visuals. Complete with Cinderella stories, a topless tapdancer (the ever-wonderful Mink Stole), a sinister moo-cow glaring at the camera, and so much more than I could ever mention here, Mondo Trasho maintains a bizarre authenticity throughout. An avant-garde trash treat; those who found Titanic to be their particular cup of Drano best steer clear. Thank you, Dreamland!
When people ask me what my favorite John Waters movie is, I have to place a tie between "Mondo Trasho" and "Female Trouble". Even though "Mondo Trasho" contains hardly any dialogue, it has that certain Waters touch that makes it a classic in my book. Divine, Mary Vivian Pearce, and David Lochary are the real stars of the show, but Mink Stole does a nice job as a topless tapdancer in an insane asylum. Divine looks gorgeous, as usual, and that little jiggle while walking down the Baltimore sidestreets in her gold lame pantsuit is undeniably sexy. Mary Vivian Pearce has her biggest role in her entire Waters career and resembles a trashy photocopy of Jean Harlow. David Lochary uses his lack of dialogue to an advantage by using outlandish facial expressions and matter-of-fact physical mannerisms. His expression of mixed surprise and disgust when Divine discovers him operating on Mary Vivian is hilarious! While there isn't a lot of great acting involved (save for the three aforementioned and Bernica Cipcus as the hillbilly nurse), the soundtrack is the real reason to watch the movie. If you don't love the movie as much as other Waters movies, just pop it into the VCR and listen for the music while cleaning up house, working with photo albums, God knows what else. Culled from Waters' personal album collection (and a few from his friends and parents, I'm sure), the music spans from rock and roll to opera, from jazz to acid rock. Of course, all of the music is illegally used with no regard for copyrights, which shows Waters' got some balls! But that sadly means that the possibility of this movie getting re-released is nil. It would cost a bloody fortune to buy the rights to music from Elvis Presley, Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, Janis Joplin, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, and the hundreds of other artists featured here! But this should please all Waters fanatics and despite its lack of trademark Waters dialogue, it is wonderfully sleazy and appealing throughout.
Seeing any film by John Waters is an "at-your-own-risk" movie experience -- the story of CINDERELLA is one of several fantasy sequences within the film with "foot" or "shoe" themes. The WILD SOUND takes some adjustment for persons used to lip-synched dialogues. The movie could have been edited down to 77 enjoyable minutes, but I think Mr. Waters was preoccupied with including as much shock/schlock into his footage that he possiby could. IT'S WORTH SEEING AT LEAST ONCE. It is curious that Mr. Waters never made a twisted 'JEAN HARLOW' bio story, considering that Mary Vivian Pearce was a startling look-a-like during her teen years. The film is in black & white, and the opening scenes are astonishing!
Mondo Trasho is a great movie. The movie is funny, yet serious, and really makes a statement. The plot is thin, yet confusing even though there is no dialogue. At times, the movie gets a little sickening, like the very first scene. Or the Dr. Coat Hanger scene. But what makes this movie great is the music. I recommend this movie to anyone, that is, if you can find it anywhere.
Here's the deal. There is one reason and one reason only for one to
want to view/own John Waters' Mondo Trasho. Simply because you're such
a huge Waters enthusiast that you absolutely must own anything and
everything the man ever did. Yes. Even this super-obscure, silent
sleaze-fest, which, for the record, has yet to get a DVD release. But
that's another story. Mondo Trasho isn't Waters' first film, yet it's
the first one that people have actually seen, so, technically, it is
kinda his first film. Like I said. This isn't a talkie, so all we ever
hear is 50's music in the background, as we observe what I'm assuming
is one of the lousiest days Mary Vivian Pierce ever experienced. First,
this hot chick is accosted by a foot-fetishist. So, Mary's plans of not
getting her toes sucked on are pretty much ruined. Same goes for her
plans of not getting hit by a car. Which is what happens next. Of
course, Divine (portly bombshell) is the driver. She really should pay
more attention to the road. Although, it's not every day you see a
naked hitchhiker. Anyway, Divine does the right thing, and puts Mary in
her car. And if you think you have the faintest idea of what happens
next... Well, you don't. Divine has some shop-lifting to do. Plus,
these two chicks are kidnapped by a mad doctor, who amputates Mary's
feet, and replaces them with those of a chicken. And that, folks, is
only the beginning.
It's almost like Mondo Trasho was merely practice for what was to come. Waters next film, Multiple Maniacs was also black & white, yet, had that element that had been so popular since the early 30's (sound). A little better. Next, Waters would finally get it right. That's right. Pink Flamingos. the sleaziest, trashiest of them all. The eternally shameless Pink Flamingos. And Waters' next two masterpieces (Female Trouble & Desperate Living) would be more of the same. Ultimately, my advice to the Waters freaks is this. Buy Mondo Trasho for novelty purposes. Buy the rest if you want to laugh until it hurts. Long Live Dreamland. 6/10
"Mondo Trasho" stars a lot of the original Dreamlander crew; Divine,
Mary Vivian Pearce, David Lochary, Mink Stole -- you name it. This is
about the only thing that kept me watching Mondo Trasho was seeing our
beloved cult actors prance across the screen and of course Divine shop
lifting (who would have thought?). It's interesting to see the
Dreamlander crew get up to their old guerrilla tricks, but tedious to
sit through its long, silent and uneventful duration.
You can see John Waters used this a reference when he made Cecil B. Demented as the cast and crew were arrested during the making of this film for public obscenities (I won't spoil it). The biggest problem with this film John Waters said himself; this was made a ninety minute film when it should have been twenty minutes. With scenes dragging on and on making you skip about you wish it was a short film. Due to bad pacing a lot of scenes drag on after the humour has gone, the music becomes repetitive and there is no dialogue which is a huge letdown because it's a hoot to listen to Dreamlander's have conversations whether it be arguing or bonding John Waters always writes hilarious dialogue but as I said, there is none so it's a letdown. There are of course some redeeming aspects (David Lochay's character) and other scenes with public nudity which provide some insight to the early Dreamlander years.
Mondo Trasho isn't the most perfect movie Waters made, it's littered in amateurish film making but this is a perfect look into what Waters and the Dreamlanders were up to before feature film making. If you aren't a die-hard fan of Waters' films or the Dreamlander's then this will be a waste of time because this is definitely something to be seen by the fans of Waters. This will never see the light of day for a DVD release as copyright laws will forever forbid it (the soundtrack) but you can download it thanks to the internet; it's rare but nowhere near as rare as the early 60's short films. So if you're enough of a fan-boy and you've seen all of John Waters' movies and wanted more like I did then see Mondo Trasho because you're never going to see Divine or David Lochary act ever again.
John Waters' first offering doesn't intend to have any purpose, unlike
his third effort Pink Flamingos, which sublimated the effect of shock
and disgust to laughter. Multiple Maniacs, his dismal second film only
offended with its objectionable religious references, but at least it
incited some response from the viewers. Mondo Trasho seems like an
empty void that generates absolutely no definite response. How should
we, as the audiences react? Should we laugh at the characters'
situation or turn away our faces in disgust? How the hell should we
The plot is obsessed with Mary Vivian Pierce's feet, and begins rather interestingly with her character Bombshell getting her feet licked by a foot fetishist. Not to forget the opening sequence that highlights John Waters' thrill for animal cruelty. As Bombshell begins moaning and panting, she visualizes herself as Cinderella being rescued by her Prince Charming (played by the foot fetishist). The explicit Cinderella sequence is a nice allusion and Waters' could've progresses with an erotic romance angle which revolved around Bombshell's search for the foot fetishist. Rather, John Waters brings in his trademark lady Divine, who surprisingly looks feminine unlike her androgynous appearance in the later films. The bad chick is ogling at a nude hitchhiker when her car hits a lost Bombshell who is gravely injured. Divine helps her by visiting a discount house, stealing a gown from there, and then by entering a laundry, where she changes Bombshell's bloody clothes. Bombshell miraculously is still unconscious like those Shakespearean characters in Midsummer Night's Dream who manage to fall asleep in a jiffy, and the blood on her face disappears. There are sporadic appearances by Mother Mary and her what-can-I-say 'apprentice' who purge Divine of her sins. Also, a rather bizarre visit to the asylum where we find that foot fetishist again, but this time he murders a fellow inmate, and to a sadistic hospital which operates on patients with knives and saws.
The only surprising aspect of the film is Divine's good-hearted nature, since we have never seen Divine help someone at the risk of her own life. But everything else is inexplicable, even the Wizard of Oz inspired resolution. The camera is less shaky than in Multiple Maniacs and the sex is less raunchy. The choice of music, an assortment of rock and roll and classical, managed to hold my attention to the otherwise pointless sequences. Had the film worked on having a plot, it would've gained a better reputation today.
My Rating: I won't be rating this work since it doesn't even know what kind of a response it aims at from its audiences.
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