All the Colors of the Dark

Color, 1963, 99 mins. 19 secs.
Directed by Gianni Proia

Color, 1966, 65 mins. 7 secs.
Directed byBenjamin Andrews

Color, 1966, 80 mins. 28 secs.
Directed by Lee Frost

Color, 1966, 75 mins. 51 secs.
Directed by Lee Frost
Severin Films (Blu-ray) (US RA HD) / WS (2.35:1, 1.66:1) (16:9), Image Entertainment (DVD) (US R1 NTSC) / WS (2.35:1, 1.66:1)

EccoA Eccofar cry from anything you'd see populating multiplexes today, the mondo movie was a long-running cinematic craze initiated in Italy with Mondo Cane in 1962 and continuing all the way through its disreputable descendants like the infamous Faces of Death series. At least in its early phase, the mondo film is essentially a bemused travelogue checking off various odd practices around the world with a Western narrator usually giving it a wry, xenophobic angle that made it easier for audiences to digest. The freak show aspect made it a cash cow for any number of distributors with documentaries both real and faked coming up with increasingly outrageous spectacles of the human race in all its stripes, and four of them have been compiled on Blu-ray and DVD in a pair of double features from Severin Films for your viewing enjoyment.

One of the more famous of the batch is Ecco (whose title in this case roughly translates to "Hey, look at that weird stuff over there!"), also released as This Shocking World but originally made in Italy as Il mondo di notte numero 3 (thus, basically a sequel to two lesser seen Italian nightclub mondo films from the early '60s, World by Night and World by Night No. 2). This one has the benefit of English narration by a check-cashing George Sanders, w hose droll intonations help you cope with the sight of various freakish quirks of Eccohuman nature around the globe. EccoThe version in circulation now is the handiwork of exploitation legends Bob Cresse and Lee Frost, who obviously knew how to spot a trend as it was on the rise. Among the highlights are a visit to a beer hall in Germany (the nation that came up with "lampshades made of human skin") where student secret societies still engage in face-slicing duels, followed by a peek at Japan with its aggressive educational techniques used on newborns and highly skilled karate practitioners. Then you get a débutante ball on New Year's eve at the Paris Opera House (intercut with shots of jubilant thieves and beggars, which looks like a lot more fun), a circus in the Alps, English black magic organizations, Brazilian and African night entertainment rituals (Pele!), Reno "nature in the raw" muscle man contests for bored housewives, a burly San Fran drag queen, horny Swedish teens, an indescribable Saidachi routine you have to see to believe, a derrière beauty competition, an L.A. roller derby (shocking!), the last performance of the notorious and blood-drenched Grand Guignol, and the film's most infamous moment, a Laplander reindeer castration practice via a woman's teeth. Being a prime mondo film from Italy, it's also scored by Riz Ortolani, of course.

Sharing space All the Colors of the Darkon the same disc is The Forbidden, another EccoFrost / Cresse concoction released through the same imprint, Olympic International Films, which kept kicking through fare like Love Camp 7 three years later. In this case it's all 100% fabricated silliness starting off in the world's filthiest den of human depravity, Los Angeles, where freeway traffic and sex crimes have exploded in the '60s. It's so bad that women are being shown nudie self defense karate class promo films to help them prepare for any random attack. Then it's off to parasitic "sexual relaxation spas" or portable topless bars that can move from one location in the desert to another to satisfy, uh, aeronautics employees complete with "Lolita-like Watusi dancers." Or how about the nearby "whorish women" who ply their sexual trades and engage in depraved behavior like taking off each other's bras and giving back rubs. Then it's off to the topless clubs of Paris, where the dancers wear costumes that might cost up to $500, and other spots around the world like a Nazi enclave in Germany; the one uniting feature, of course, is women taking off their tops no matter where you go, even if it's a lesbian club where the "femme" members show off for male patrons. There's even some padding near the end with a dubbed short film about a lovelorn woman committing homicide to get her boyfriend back for a visit. It's all ridiculous and the kind of endearing gutter filmmaking that SWV fans still love to discover.

Severin's 2019 Blu-ray and DVD editions of these films in collaboration with Something Weird duplicate the pairing first issued on DVD by Image Entertainment back in 2006. EccoThe All the Colors of the Darkoriginal DVD of Ecco and The Forbidden was letterboxed (in the case of the first film) but non-anamorphic. Both films in the 2019 revisit feature new transfers with Ecco from the internegative and The Forbidden from the sole existing print; both are loaded with splices and fading but still represent considerably improvements over the old DVD with a lot more detail on display. English SDH subtitles are provided as well for the DTS-HD MA English mono audio tracks. Ported over from the DVD in standard def is "I Want More" (32m33s), a B&W short about exhibitionist counterculture practices in L.A. (like a guy drawing on a woman's bare butt in a coffin) reported by a guy overlooking Sunset Blvd. In "The Bandit" (15m21s), producer David Goldstein shares his very colorful memories of the gun-toting Cresse, reveals the one film that was too much for Swedish cinemas to handle, tells a crazy story about a confrontation with a cop, and explains the purpose of an unusual room in his office. The full frame theatrical trailer for Ecco is also included, complete with an awkward paraphrased quote from Hamlet.

Mondo BIzarro"What is your world? How do you know what is beyond the beyond? Most of us don't even know what is behind the beyond." If that intro makes your head hurt, just wait till you watch all of Mondo Bizarro, another '66 semi-fabricated mondo film from Frost and Cresse. Mondo BizarroThe mayhem starts with a montage of women (whose faces are scratched on the emulsion to protect their identities) changing in various dressing rooms as we get an earful of narration by "Claude Emmand, Director of Information, Parkinson Natural Museum of World History, London England." Boasting a fantastic rock soundtrack, the film takes a whirlwind tour through chicken-chopping voodoo practices in Nassau, the "rare delight" of special massage parlors in Kyoto, the blockbuster sexy undergarment industry of Frederick's of Hollywood, a meditative healing demonstration on a bed of rusty nails in Sydney, a fine dining glass eater, topless sunbathing models and anti-war youth in L.A., housewives taking a nude life painting class, a hyper beatnik shutterbug/sculptor getting down with a topless model in leopardskin undies, surfer kids talk about how they get by and party every night, and a bizarre Nazi reenactment play (that's "been running for 14 years!") allows the audience to "relive the sick days of Hitler." Complete with a linking device involving a cheap spinning paper-mache globe, this may not be convincing but it's very, very, very Mondo BIzarroentertaining.

So similar it might as well just be outtakes from the same film, Mondo Freudo is yet another Cresse/Frost concoction and even begins with more L.A. beach footage as we enter "a Mondo FreudoFreudian world, a world of sex and sex symbols and the strange, unusual laws that govern them." More surf rock accompanies another helping of strangeness including a couple making out at night under a pier (shocking!), teens cruising down Hollywood Blvd., Baby Bubbles doing a burlesque routine that shows off the limits of local laws, British showgirls performing a swanky number in furs and pasties, a private cellar club offering "total nudity" for the truly determined, lesbians taking out classified ads to do shows for English locals, go-go dancers going crazy in a cage next to wild guitarists, an artist painting directly on the bare skin of his models, sex slavery flourishing in Tijuana and feeds on the residents of a nearby Incan village, a rough hooded sex show in Japan, and a Puerto Rican neighborhood near Times Square serving as ground Mondo Freudozero for a black mass.

Again this release duplicates the original DVD pairing from back in the day, also porting over the films' respective trailers and audio commentaries for both films by Johnny Legend and the now deceased Eric Caidin. They're both solid, enjoyable tracks since both men really know Mondo Freudotheir stuff when it comes to SoCal locations, which stand in for various spots around the world, as well as vintage cars and rock 'n' roll. The new "The Cadaver Is Infinity" (28m5s) is a great overview of the Cresse/Frost partnership covering the genesis of nudie cuties, the birth of Olympic International, the impact of Mondo Cane, and their subsequent careers after these quartet of mind-boggling achievements.

Reviewed on February 8, 2019.