“Recently” Al Ewing and Sarah Peploe came into possession of a box set containing “18 uplifting classics” (end quote) from the cinematic oeuvre of Russ Meyer. Heedless of the consequences, they have taken it upon themselves to watch and review each of these in turn on an irregular basis. This is part eight.
DISCLAIMER DEPT: This is definitely NOT SAFE FOR WORK. There is actual porn.
BEE BEEP BIP BEE BEE BEEP BIP BIP BEEP
“This is San Francisco calling.”
And we’re in! John Furlong is back on the narrative duties, but this time he’s got a fair amount more on his plate, since this film is all narration – either Furlong, or rambling interview excerpts from the bevy of buxotics called on by Meyer to shake their assorted stuff in quasi-documentary form. Half of this footage is scrounged from lost hem-hem ‘classic’ Europe In The Raw – the other half freshly filmed to showcase Meyer’s knack for picking the perfect shots, cuts and cast members, shot in a week or so and sent into the world as quickly as possible. Narrative is over for now – it’s an experiment that failed, and Meyer is back to the basics of warm flesh and the cold cash it brings in. This is the nudie-cutie model at its most stripped-down. (No groans. We haven’t time. There are lonely masturbators in sleazy thrill-houses up and down America to titillate and the light is fading fast.)
One thing we should mention from the outset is that this film is incredibly dull. Especially now that we’ve seen it about ten times and trawled through every frame looking for ones that aren’t blurred beyond recognition. This is a very kinetic film, but that’s hard to enjoy when there’s literally no plot and – in the age of the internet where porn of all kinds, including this very article, is a google search away (but for how long??? Thatcher???) – there’s not much point, either.
So let’s forgo our usual recap-the-film format in favour of running through our cast in the order they blast into the dark recesses of our eyeballs with the sudden fury of a naked thunderbolt. Starting with:
JOHN FURLONG! He doesn’t get naked, as far as we know. He may have done. But if so we don’t see it since he’s not on screen. It’d be wrong not to include him, though, since his deranged carnival-barker patter ties the flick together and gives it an all-important patina of semi-respectability – with the emphasis on semi (we still don’t have time) – the fig leaf that covers the essential irredeemability of the nudie-cutie form.
This time we get a brief travelogue about San Francisco that quickly gets lost in an endless series of not-even-single entendres about peaks, valleys, and thrusting into bosoms, before Furlong starts in on the ‘topless craze’ that is apparently taking the world by storm. Apparently this is a new thing that has never been conceived of before – up until 1966 we were all sealed into gallon drums above the waistline and all seven previous instalments of this feature – with the possible exception of Faster, Pussycat – were part of some dream you had.
Anyway, the topless craze is here and in this very article we’re going to tell you about Mondo Topless, the movie! Yes, we’ll be writing words, endless, dazzling words, on the subject of this amazing film, so amazing that the trailer for it seems to be five minutes into the film itself! Furlong bellows about the Meyeresque pulchritude we’re about to absorb – “You’ve only dreamed there are women like these until now! But they’re real! Unbelievably real in Mondo Topless!” – even as Meyer decides he’s tired of waiting and shows us a quick-cut montage of everything we’re about to see. I don’t know whether this was aimed at convincing punters to stay to the end or at trying to get them to jerk off quickly and begone. But we get the basic idea – naked or near-naked women larking about for the camera while snatches of interviews with them play in the background along with “soul-shaking rock and roll” – and a brief smattering of said interviews, enough to convince the viewers/voyeurs to stay to the end or get out while they can.
“But enough of this palaver!” Right at the start of all this malarkey, we get:
BABETTE BARDOT! Some relation! Apparently. We’ll be seeing more of her (no time dammit) but for now let’s get out the Top Trumps and take a look at the scores.
FURLONG SAYS: “Hang on, men, and zero in on bouncy Babette Bardot! French and Swedish! Fifty-fifty where it counts! Speak to us, Babette baby!”
WHAT SHE SAYS: “I try to project child-like to a woman quality because I do believe that men do not like so much hard sex, they like softness also, so I try to project both sexuality and also gentleness, so I do always start my act more or less in a very gentle way.”
WHERE SHE IS: Behind the wheel of a large automobile, providing the desperate perverts trying to struggle through Furlong’s insane San Francisco monologue with the vital boobs needed to prevent them rising up en masse and burning the seats in a frenzied orgy of destruction. Was there some rule that said that if you left during the first ten minutes you were shot? We can only assume yes. Anyway, she’s in a car. Then later, after everyone else has had a turn (barring the Europe In The Raw crew, who are subbed in whenever Meyer feels like a bit of culture and that) she’s cavorting beside the railway tracks like Sigmund Freud directed this film. And maybe he did, Russ.
Later still, she turns up on the set of Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! But we’ll discuss that anon.
HER DANCE STYLE: In the car, jerking her shoulders back and forth in a way that will not help her driving. Everywhere else, licking her face, sucking her thumbs, roaring like a lion, etc. At one point she mentions not being allowed to touch her bust onstage – presumably that would have crossed an invisible line and destroyed society.
HER RADIO: Each of the models has their own specific radio, sometimes more than one. This is the portal through which the voice of Furlong emerges on a tide of nondescript Surf Rock chosen by the ghost of Slick. This is such a bizarre visual motif that I feel we have no option but to score them. Babette B starts out with your standard Pussycat-style car radio…
…and then transitions to…
…this sporty number from Panasonic. Not bad, if a little boxy.
FURLONG SAYS: “Revving up on runway number one is bumptious Pat Barringer! A magnificently configured female skilled in the art of the topless! I beg you to try to listen to what she has to say!”
SHE SAYS: “All you’re doing is a dance – it has no meaning whatsoever.”
WHERE SHE IS: On an electric pylon in some kind of freakish adult PSA. Has she gone to get Jimmy’s Frisbee back? No, she’s gone to frug, heedless of the danger of death. Presumably in her off hours she dances on a rug on a polished floor. You might as well lay down a mantrap!
Later, she’s hiding under a diving board as part of some assassination plot, probably.
HER DANCE STYLE: Variations on the Twist, the Locomotion and we’re pretty sure we saw the Batutsi in there. Also some limbo dancing. Under the diving board, the dance is mostly holding the diving board and shaking left to right, as is evidently the style at the time.
HER RADIO: This.
Another from Panasonic. This one bears the exciting slogan RADAR MATIC over the top of one huge dial. It’s winning on points. Meanwhile:
DARLENE GREY! Bloody hell. We estimated that she got more screen time than anyone else in the film, for some reason. Excuse us while we turn into our dads. ANYWAY.
FURLONG SAYS: “Ready to entertain you is buxotic Darlene Grey! England’s answer to the biggest and the best! What do you say, Darlene?”
SHE SAYS: “I have trouble finding bras to fit me, but I take a 38 size DD. They don’t sell them in every store, you know, you can only buy them in certain places.”
“Hang on!” Ejaculated the breast-owning member of our review team at this critical juncture. “I’m a 34DD and one of her tits could beat both of mine into a coma. Go for a proper fitting, Darlene!” Although perhaps bra size, like dress size (viz. the “Marilyn Monroe was a size 16″ canard)* was measured differently in those days.
*(Though she fluctuated a bit throughout her life, she was closest to a UK 10 – but when she hit the big time she would’ve had her dresses custom-made anyway, rendering the whole concept of her “being a size X” bobbins. Also she didn’t say that “If you can’t handle the fact that I’m basically Jenna from 30 Rock YOU DON’T DESERVE MEEEEE” thing either, sorry Facebook.)
WHERE SHE IS: On some kind of concrete shelf with the camera pointing up at her boringly. Running along a mud flat-slash-quarry, where we later find her under an orange blanket. Half-submerged in some muddy water. Everything feels brown with her – desolate and vaguely industrial, almost definitely sourced from previous Meyer films. Even the mud flats look like the future site of an oil pipeline after the last bulldozer has left for the day. Throughout the film, Grey’s never framed as imaginatively as everyone else – everyone else is at least in pleasant or colourful settings, and Barringer and Bardot get all manner of visually arresting compositions (see above screenshots).
It might be a compliment of sorts – maybe Meyer thought Grey didn’t need it. Or maybe, since Grey is the closest in this feature to the ideal Meyer woman, he was pairing her with his ideal landscapes as well.
Eventually, Meyer blows the whole theory out of the water with a lush green field and a white picnic blanket, but let’s not let outlying data ruin a good hypothesis.
HER DANCE STYLE: Some sort of land-based swimming exhibition, windmilling while doing squats and/or running along a mud flat. Often no dancing is required.
HER RADIO: A cheap-looking miniature from Sony, occasionally waved around in a similar manner to Slick from Motorpsycho.
FURLONG SAYS: “And away we go with luscious Sin Lenee, svelte and lithesome! Give us a word, Sin!”
SHE SAYS: “Almost any kind of music makes me feel sex. Also colour makes me feel sex.”
WHERE SHE IS: Communing with nature, presumably to roll it up.
Later, she’s broken into a ramshackle house! Take that, signs. Although after the pylon and the railway tracks this might be another example of the PSA theme, especially as at one point she looks like she’s going to fall out of a window while high like that bloke off Quincey.
HER DANCE STYLE: Lenee does more work with facial expressions than most of the other performers (Babette Bardot being the notable exception). Her main facial expression is ‘stoned’, often to a comedic extent – the back end of the sixties is coming up fast and Lenee is firmly of it, which makes her seem oddly futuristic when set against the 1950s-era Europe In The Raw set. Whether it’s just a shtick for the rubes or whether she’s an active part of the drug culture – or both – is unclear. (There’s a strong resemblance in places to Jane Fonda in Barbarella, for whatever that’s worth.) Anyway, her main dance move is watching the trails her hands leave.
HER RADIO: The long strap makes it ideal for dangling from a tree branch, a nail banged into the side of the abandoned shack and/or her neck. Make: Standard.
FURLONG SAYS: “Try to follow delicious Darla Paris, vivaciously voluptuous! Mr and Mrs America and all the ships at sea!”
SHE SAYS: “And the last time I measured, it was 36D.”
WHERE SHE IS: Also communing with nature, mostly in parks – the Golden Gate park is referenced, but we’re a little wary of that. Knowing Meyer, it’s probably some unclaimed bit of wilderness far from the eyes of authority.
HER DANCE STYLE: “Juddering” is a word that comes to mind immediately. Later, Riverdance. There’s not that much to say about Darla Paris, unfortunately – she’s like the all-rounder in a video game, in that everything she does in Mondo Topless seems to be done better by someone else. Communing with nature has been done already by Sin Lenee (and to a lesser extent, everyone else) and the wide-eyed stare is better essayed by Diane Young. (As we’ll see.) It could be that film just wasn’t the best vehicle for her talents.
HER RADIO: Not a radio at all! The first of the tape recorders that’ll make their appearance, and the most portable-looking, as there’s actually something keeping the fragile magnetic ribbon from the merciless elements. Vista, we salute you for your forward thinking.
FURLONG SAYS: “Settle back and let yummy Diane Young entertain you! Blondely beautiful! And while you’re about it – lend her your ear!”
SHE SAYS: “I used to play a cello in a symphony orchestra when I was thirteen.”
WHERE SHE IS: On a beach – either on the sand or occasionally in the water. Russ gets a couple of good shots with her framed by the radio and/or rocks, but for the most part it’s a fairly sparse setting.
HER DANCE STYLE: Jerky, quasi-roboting flailing. A lot is done with the arms. It’s important to note here that Diane Young, along with a lot of the Mondo Topless dancers, is not your cough typical Meyer woman. This feature is probably as body-positive as Meyer ever got in some ways, with a wide-ish range of female body and bust types on display – we might as well make the most of it, because his mammary monomania will be returning very quickly.
As mentioned earlier, an important part of all the dancing on display here seems to be facial expression – Young wears a look of constant, frozen glee – sometimes pleasant, sometimes veering into the uncanny valley and sometimes failing altogether and morphing into an unnerving mix of exhaustion and trepidation that suggests Russ is in one of his Kubrick moods. Darla Paris did the same thing, but not as memorably, while Sin Lenee prefers to gaze into a pulsating ball of purple-orange sound on the edge of the trip. Most of the others fall somewhere between these extremes, except for Babette Bardot, who’s in a class of her own.
HER RADIO: Another tape player, this time straight out of A Clockwork Orange. Vistasi bet it all on giant reels of magnetic tape open to the sandy elements, which is presumably why you don’t see their tape players around anymore.
FURLONG SAYS: “Relax and enjoy exciting Donna X! Junoesque of proportion! Listen closely to what she has to say about topless!”
SHE SAYS: “Oh, I think everybody goes by moods. You might make it every night, a steady thing for a month, and then you might lay off for a whole complete week and never need it at all, it depends on your mental attitude.” A whole complete week!
WHERE SHE IS: In a room, different from the one you are in now. Somewhere with a very deep pile carpet in sexciting brown and some vaguely seventies-era window blinds. There’s quite a seventies look about the whole enterprise – it might just be the fact that it’s all happening in a dingy motel room, giving it a vaguely seedy ambiance that fits with our Boogie-Nights-informed notions of seventies porno. Anyway, between those associations and the hi-tech of the giant spools of magnetic tape which dominate every other shot, there’s a definite cutting-edge flavor. (We’ll see Meyer come back to the cutting-edge much later in his life as he explores Pong.)
HER DANCE STYLE: Quite languid at first. The main move is lying on her back and idly moving a cluster of thin blue ribbons left and right, as if admitting that the ‘dance’ part of the program is what nobody in the theatre came to see. Later on in the film the dancing mostly involves elbows, but after that she’s shifted back to languidity, this time on her front. She gets slightly more time than Darla Paris – on the other hand Russ does seem very keen on the audio equipment.
HER RADIO: The giant computer from Woody Allen’s Sleeper. It’s an Akai, if you’re counting – another manufacturer whose obsession with giant reels of tape evidently captured Meyer’s attention. Who would have thought that two giant circular objects would occupy his imagination like that.
In addition to the main cast as detailed above, we get all the people Russ already shot in previous shorts that have since been lost to the mists of time. First of these:
MICKEY FRANTZ (UNCREDITED)! AND SOMEONE ELSE (EVEN MORE UNCREDITED)!
This is Europe In The Raw footage (we assume) showing a topless model and her photographer, also a model. The camera – or rather, the meta-camera – ogles both equally, although for purposes of verisimilitude the photographer is wearing slightly more clothes, at least until the scene where they both strip off to use an underwater camera. This all sounds infinitely more exciting than it is.
FURLONG SAYS: “What must a girl possess to measure up as a topless dancer? She must have a body well above the average in physical beauty – unblemished by an uneven suntan!”
THEY SAY: We can’t hear it. There’s definitely some kind of scene playing out here, though – if Europe In The Raw (or whichever short this originally came from) hadn’t been lost to cinema history, or if we were better at lip-reading, maybe we’d know what it was. We called these bits ‘the proto-lesbian scenes’ in our notes, but who knows what Meyer was thinking.
WHERE THEY ARE: A swimming pool, by the look of things, in the backyard of some Hollywood mansion. Was the location important to the plot? Was there going to be a murder? Was there going to be a plot? We yearn to know. Answers in the comments please.
THEIR DANCE STYLE: No dancing goes on. The model lies topless on a sun lounger for the benefit of the photographer, who sticks her bum out for the benefit of the audience. Presumably the audience were themselves wanking for the benefit of some higher entity.
Where only one is in shot, the stiffly held poses might be taken as very slow vogueing. Later, there’s some horseplay with an underwater camera. After a few minutes of this, it cuts back to Sin Lenee riding a magenta thoughtwave into the cosmic nova of consciousness, as if to say “it was a different time”.
THEIR RADIO: They borrow Pat Barringer’s, since it happens to be on a diving board sometimes. Was it put on a diving board just so Meyer would have a segue to this old footage? Not that he doesn’t get some great shots out of Pat Barringer underneath a diving board but it’s a little too much of a coincidence for our liking. Yes, I think we’ve cracked this baffling case.
Anyway. Moving into the definite Europe In The Raw stuff, we find:
FURLONG SAYS: “Let’s jet to Belgium and look in on the famed Moulin Rouge, where the buxom bombshell Veronique Gabriel performs her heady, hedonistic dance of the leather belt!”
SHE SAYS: Nothing! Once again, we’re into the bits of the film which were pilfered from Europe In The Raw, presumably long before Meyer had hit on the idea of recording interview segments. She is saying (or singing) something, but we don’t know what. Maybe it relates to the murder by the swimming pool. Answers in the etc.
WHERE SHE IS: The famed Moulin Rouge! In… Belgium. A quick glance at Wikipedia leads us to suspect this is a less famed Moulin Rouge. According to our sources (McDonough), Meyer shot plenty of footage on location, including this bit, but some of it was faked back home when it became clear that flashing a camera around the fleshpots of Europe was a risky strategy. From the sound of it, Europe In The Raw was a much more interesting, and morally dubious, film than the bits remaining here attest to, with Meyer using a primitive spy-camera to film the red light district without the knowledge or consent of the inhabitants and splicing the results with his combat footage. God only knows what John Furlong would have made of that. Anyway, none of this looks like spy-camera footage so we can only assume it was paid for with some form of currency, especially as, by all accounts, Meyer’s attempts to create bittorrent several decades early led only to threats on his life and fingers.
HER DANCE STYLE: The heady, hedonistic dance of the leather belt involves sitting on a chair and snapping her fingers. That said, she has a way about her – the girl in the club dancing on her own, not even on the dancefloor. All the men want to grind up on her but they’re a bit scared to. You know the one.
Later, she stands up.
Meyer favours extreme close-ups here, so usually only one part of her body is visible at any one time, mostly the part you imagine.
HER RADIO: We’re in Belgium! They don’t have radios there, they lost them in the war. They have to fashion them out of chocolate coin foil and Tintin books.
FURLONG SAYS: “Let us hurry inside the famed Atlantic Palace for an unforgettable experience! Greta Thorwald! The Nordic nymph! Whose pulchritude is unrivalled by any showgirl in Denmark! Her youthful bosom, flat stomach, firm hips and smooth lithe legs all seem to unite in her wildly exotic dance which she delivers in a burst of uninhibited frenzy!” It’d be kind of horrific if her bosom, stomach, hips and legs didn’t unite, John Furlong – if she screamed “SPLIT” and they flew around the room in isolation until she shouted “XAM” and they re-united. Especially the stomach.
SHE SAYS: Again, not much. It might be time to retire this category.
WHERE SHE IS: Copenhagen, apparently, although we have our doubts.
HER DANCE STYLE: More finger snapping. More head back, eyes closed, swaying. In profile this time. Towards the start there’s some nice business with a mirror, but we’re already starting to associate the Europe In The Raw bits with feelings of boredom. It could be that everything’s much more static in these earlier days – shots are nicely framed, but it’s lacking a little of the raw kineticism that the later segments have. There’s less furious cutting from Meyer, less frenzied gyrating from the dancers, and none of the interview segments to sustain interest – just a bit of shouting from Furlong and then silence.
So the dullness is creeping in. Doubtless you’re getting a sense of this too. But wait, there’s less!
You can see the waves of ennui radiating from her eyes. Her smile is the tired rictus of someone bored out of their skull, and we’ll soon see why.
FURLONG SAYS: “Let us tarry for a moment in the provincial French city of Nancy, noted for its gates of gold, and drop in on dark-eyed Denice Duval, the voluptuous exhibitionist at Le Cabaret Sexy! Her tempting, teasing dance of the muff, spotlighting her breathtaking body, never failing to bring male blood pressure to a fever pitch!”
WHERE SHE IS: Le Cabaret Sexy, if you can believe it. Once again, we get a shot of the sign outside and then we’re somewhere that could very easily be a studio set. The dance of the muff does not lend itself to credibility, unfortunately.
HER DANCE STYLE: Ah, the dance of the muff. A dance based on the hilarious notion that one word can have two meanings. The bored-looking Duval, smile frozen in a way that suggests that she’s imagining several thousand better dance routines that she wishes she’d convinced Meyer to film instead, has a large muff – please hold your sides in, we mean the hand-warming furry device – which she holds in the air for a couple of seconds, then lowers it, then raises it, then lowers it, all to the sound of a constant drum roll. Over and over. It never ends. It literally never ends. We are watching it still, at least in the nightmares of tedium from which we yawn ourselves awake. Ha ha ha! Muff! It means pubic mound!
Duval’s actual pubic mound is not shown. It was 1966.
HER RADIO: Not shown either.
No, no more screenshots. Not of that. Let’s move swiftly on to…
FURLONG SAYS: “Without artistic surrender, without compromise, without question or apology, an important motion picture was produced! Lorna! A woman too much for one man! Its star was an incredibly voluptuous young actress, the embodiment of physical allure! Her name – Lorna Maitland!”
SHE SAYS: No sooner have we removed this feature than we have to bring it back! Apparently these are candid post-production recordings made just after the film wrapped. “I felt very MM-ish, Marilyn Monroe-ish, that night” gives you a rough notion of the flavour of it – the kind of banal “oh, this scene” chit-chat we’ve grown used to on the DVD commentaries of the modern era. It’s actually a bit more interesting than we’re making it sound, especially to those who sat through Lorna and were wondering how it came to be or what colour the salt mines actually were (brown), but on the other hand it’s not interesting enough for us to trawl through it again looking for a better quote.
WHERE SHE IS: The interview snippets are played against a couple of scenes from Lorna – the bathing-in-the-river scene and the city-living montage – and what we’re told is a reel of footage her agent sent in to try and convince Meyer to give her the part. The bit that stands out is where she’s lying down, topless, on cracked, baked mud – you can’t help wondering if it was Maitland or the grim wilderness that was supposed to appeal to Russ’s sensibilities. Probably both.
HER DANCE STYLE: At one point she pulls a donkey up a hill.
Continuing on, to the bitter end.
GIGI LA TOUCHE!
FURLONG SAYS: “Thrill to the wantonness of Gigi La Touche – the girl with the throbbing guitar!”
SHE SAYS: Nowt. It’s another Europe In The Raw flashback.
WHERE SHE IS: La Place Pigalle in Paris, apparently. Referred to as ‘Pig Alley’ in a weird ‘men’s slick’ we have somewhere in the house, as part of an article detailing the kind of disturbing hedonism roaming GIs, and presumably the readership, could get up to if they abandoned their morals. Not that anyone would, of course! But for a thin dime or two, the readers of MAN’S SWAMP could find out exactly what they were missing.
HER DANCE: She’s holding a guitar covered in gold glitter, and pretending to play it while roughly shaking her shoulders back and forth. Bafflement seems to be the dominant emotion on display here, but like Denice Duval before her, she’s keeping her smile in place. At this point in the film a fixed grin seems the most anyone can muster, especially us.
How long has this film been going? A million hours? Moving on.
FURLONG SAYS: “Berlin today is a city divided, with the eastern sector under the cruel domination of communism, and West Berlin part of the free world! Located only a stone’s throw from the fashionable Kurfürstendamm, the Broadway of Berlin, we encounter the Fair Lady Film Bar, where Abundavita, the bosom bountiful, is about to begin her act of primitive passion! Capacity crowds flock to see Abundavita, fantastically developed, exercise her magnificent pectoral pulchritude as she wantonly entertains the sporting crowds of Berlin with fierce intensity!” Reprinted in full.
SHE SAYS: Nothing with words, but her weird antennae say it all.
WHERE SHE IS: Weren’t you listening? A stone’s throw from the cruel domination of communism! This is probably the first time we hear it mentioned – we’re a long way from the atheist pro-union shenanigans of Mudhoney already, and we’re only going to get further as Meyer’s deep hatred of communism starts to boil up to the surface. We won’t see the full flowering for some time, though.
HER DANCE STYLE: There’s a lot going on here. For starters, we have the antennae aspect – a mask with two feathers sticking up, completely hiding Abundavita’s eyes, which has the effect of making her look like a bizarre insect. Then there’s a bit of business with a frosted glass screen, which she presses up against in a manner pre-dating Mick Hucknall’s celebrated creation of the pink pancake. (Allegedly.) It all makes for a good framing device for Meyer to work with, but pretty soon we’re back to the standard move-shoulders-back-and-forth pattern. The use of props in these routines seems to be in inverse proportion to quality – the harder someone’s leaning on a muff or a golden guitar or a giant red ball on a spring (we’ll get there eventually), the more the viewer wonders if there was a routine beyond that which Meyer perhaps unjustly consigned to obscurity in favour of Carrot-Top-esque shenanigans. It’s almost as if Meyer wanted to show what was REALLY going on in the naked flesh-pots of Yoorp, but it turned out what was going on wasn’t that visually interesting. Alternatively, in a world before poles, props like these were in use every night. We’ll never know, as we’re now too far into this film to look it up.
FURLONG SAYS: “Let’s journey uptown to the Casino De Paris, the perfect place to cast anchorage for pleasure, and peek in on Heide Richter, a tall, blonde Aryan beauty of perfect proportion, and watch her as she squirms and writhes topless on a luxurious bed, contorting her supple body in a manner that defies description!”
At this point Furlong seems very tired, as if he’s been locked in a cupboard for some time bellowing at the top of his voice with a blanket over his head. Which as it turns out, he was.
WHERE SHE IS: Hamburg! Noted for its harbour, apparently. We’re growing increasingly doubtful about both Furlong’s narration and the evidence of our own senses.
HER DANCE STYLE: Fairly basic – lots of undulating, fluttering fingers. More working of the camera than with previous Europe In The Raw stars – she ends the segment by vamping into it in a way oddly reminiscent of Monroe, with the help of a fast cut from Meyer. Again, if this was shot on location with a spy camera, it doesn’t look it.
The end is near! Ish.
FURLONG SAYS: “Witnessing the passionate performance of vivacious Yvette LeGrand is a never-to-be-forgotten delight! So let’s look in on this buxom brunette, the most curvaceous cowgirl in the western world as she tempestuously tosses her torso in the most sizzling topless spectacle ever brought to the Crazy Horse Saloon!”
Furlong’s getting his second wind here, perhaps realising that this is the last push. He’ll be allowed to breathe the air soon.
WHERE SHE IS: Paris again, we’re told. Somewhere they have a prop department, anyway.
HER DANCE STYLE: There’s a saddle onstage, which she sits on for part of the routine, and the occasional lassoing motion as a concession to the ‘cowgirl’ motif, but mostly it’s the Twist. Possibly the weirdest element is a giant red ball on a spring which she bangs with her bum, making it sway around like a punchbag – this has nothing to do with the cowboy theme or anything else, but we get the impression it was saved to last for a reason. Perhaps this moment represents the pinnacle of what could be achieved by topless dancing in the fifties. Again, we don’t have an afternoon to spare researching the particulars and we’re increasingly desperate to get to something with a plot, so answers in the comments, please.
Phew! Out the other side. Let’s wrap up.
The film ends on a couple of interesting notes – the final micro-segment involves Sin Lenee, dancing underneath what is almost certainly the same water butt that was in Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! This time, full use is made of it, with the water cascading off a fully topless Lenee as the camera leers in to ogle in full colour – as if Meyer was trying to ward off some evil spirit by giving his audience what they wanted the first time. It seemed to work – Mondo Topless made the bomb that Pussycat didn’t, propelling Meyer back into technicolour and into a new era…
…perhaps prefigured by the final shot of Donna ‘X’, in one of the bum-less dresses from Wild Gals Of The Naked West, wiggling at the camera in the dingy light of the motel room as the giant reels unspool. (Because it’s ‘the end’. Ha ha.)
As we’ve mentioned, the Donna ‘X’ segments have the flavor of the coming thing – unlike the other open-air locations, they feel like a voyeuristic glimpse into a hidden setting, heralding a clutch of films devoted to exploring the inner sex lives of various stunted suburbanites and washed up American Dreamers, all shot through with Meyer’s signature obsession. The Soap Era was about to begin. Gird up thy loins.
FURLONG SAYS: “Well, Mondo Topless measures up! The unmistakable Russ Meyer touch makes this more than a gang of great gals – it makes it MOVE! We sincerely hope that you enjoyed the flick!”
And with that rave review of his own film, we reach LE FIN. On to the final scores.
DESIGNATED SAP: There’s a sucker at every poker table, and if you don’t see him, he’s you. The same principle applies here.
BECAUSE YOU CAN DIE THERE: That bloody pylon. JIMMY NO
Also cavorting on the railroad tracks.
OF ITS TIME: All those radios and tape players.
All those burlesque houses.
All of it, generally.
ONE-HIT WONDERS: Sin Lenee is the only dancer exclusive to Mondo Topless who wasn’t in anything else. Meanwhile, out of the Europe In The Raw players, only Heide Richter and Denice Duval appeared in other features, and those seem to be porn.
POPPED UP WHERE YOU LEAST EXPECT IT: Pat Barringer was in The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
FAMILIAR FACES: In this case, it’s a familiar voice, as John Furlong comes back to lend his capacious lungs to Meyer’s soundtrack. Allegedly, it wasn’t a fun experience, as Furlong was forced to holler whatever monstrous gibberish was thrust into his trembling hands on a battered yellow legal pad. If Gilbert Gottfried and John Furlong had a baby, it would be classed as a WMD.
Meanwhile, we have the return of Lorna Maitland, although whether this really counts is debatable.
And introducing Babette Bardot, who we will meet again.
WHERE’S RUSS?: He’s shoving John Furlong into a cupboard.
BREAST COUNT: Count the dancers and multiply by two.
NEXT TIME: We kick off the Soap Era with Russ asking the question How Much Loving Does A Normal Couple Need? (AKA Common Law Cabin.)