As part of the recent Scala Forever film season, London film club Filmbar 70 screened a fantastic Russ Meyer double bill of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls and Mondo Topless. Filmbar 70 co-founder Justin Harries shares a few words on the night and Mondo Topless…
‘When approached by the Roxy to programme a season celebrating the enduring myth of the sadly defunct but fondly remembered Scala cinema, we knew that the works of certain directors would have to be highlighted. One such luminary was Russ Meyer, whose randy, rambunctious and riotous petitions to pulchritudinousness regularly graced the Sala’s sagging screen.
The choice of main feature was certainly a no-brainer, a personally loved film that I have longed to view in the company of a stoked audience, but previously denied due to Filmbar70’s remit of championing lesser-known artefacts. That film was the melodrama / sex / horror / nudie / musical crossover ‘Beyond the Valley of the Dolls’. But what to pair with this genre bending gargantuan? After all, the Scala was committed to the double-bill, a factor that had to be emulated. Meyer’s features were high on energy and long on long, so we had to be careful not to dilute ‘Beyond’s spiky mania. The answer came in the spectacular shape of the non-narrative faux doc ‘Mondo Topless’, a film that pares down Meyer’s obsessions to the bare essentials – namely mammaries. All manner of monumental mannaries.
‘Mondo Topless’ is a carnival of buxom delights, an exacting exploration of the more rounded points of the female figure, informed by a barking, yet poetic near stream of consciousness narration that straddles the salacious and the reverential. The film is pure Meyer, allowing this most visual of directors to play with composition, texture and space, unfettered by the limitations of a cohesive narrative. His approach to the subject is confident, unapologetic and unashamed, dismissing distain to revel in the voluptuous. Most importantly, he allows the gyrating gals on show a voice (admittedly with some hilarious juxtapositions), which renders the experience bizarrely wholesome.
Of course, Mr Schofield (my accomplice in Filmbar70) and I have to admit to some juvenile delight about unleashing such a brazen barrage of breasts upon a not suspecting enough audience, and were particularly interested in seeing how they would cope with this storm of skin. The results were not entirely unexpected. The ladies, responding to Meyer’s loving approach, were generally unperturbed. The blokes, (altogether more amusingly) caught like rabbits in the headlights (and what headlights!), were altogether more bewildered and uncomfortable. Those with female partners in tow were particularly concerned with how they were viewed while viewing such material, reducing them to teenagers caught by their mums during the extraction of nocturnal emissions.
All in all, we think ‘Mondo’ was the correct choice, not only as its free flowing form contrasted nicely against ‘Beyond’s densely plotted serpentine structure, but also it offered distilled Meyer – unabashed, uninhibited and unhinged….’
Filmbar 70‘s next event is The Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion at The Roxy Bar & Screen on October 25th.