While now regarded as cult classics, the movies Russ Meyer made during his “Gothic Period” were not the successes he, and even more so his then-wife Eve, hoped to be. Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! received negative reviews upon release and audiences stayed away from the now famous “roughie”. So Meyer was urged by his wife to make something that would make some money fast: Mondo Topless, a “movie” described by Meyer himself during and interview as a “crud”.
The reason I’ve put the term movie between quotes is because Mondo Topless is hardly a movie. It’s a pseudo documentary featuring nothing more than girls dancing topless while they narrate about their everyday lives as strippers. The movie has been shot in just five days and half of the footage was lifted from the earlier release “Europe in the Raw” and the audition tape of Lorna Maitland for the movie Lorna. That’s all there is to it: just a bunch of girls dancing, all of the new stuff filmed outdoors, all of the European stuff filmed in night clubs. While they’re dancing we’re informed on how they perceive their customers, how difficult it is to find clothing that fits right when you’ve got enormous breasts or how many kids one has. The “topless” is presented as a cultural movement by a male narrator as if going out topless in public was a thing in the 60s. In the end it’s all probably done to elude the censors as documentaries and such fell under less strict censorship rules.
Mondo Topless has a running time of one hour, 55 minutes of it is just the women dancing, elaborating about life and shaking their stuff. The other 5 minutes is dedicated to the city of San Francisco where apparently the topless movement was born and is visualized by a buxotic woman driving a car topless (Babette Bardot). The lack of story and the uninteresting narration by the strippers/dancers make even these mere 60 minutes feel long. It even has less plot than Meyer’s early nudie cuties like Wild Gals of the Naked West.
To the Meyer family Mondo Topless might have been a way to make a quick buck, to the audience it’s nothing more than a softcore movie with the sole function to titillate the audience. Nowadays it’s hard to imagine that movies like this were shown in regular theaters and people went to them in masses, probably even with friends or a date. To me this seems it ‘s the kind of movie that people masturbate to or use as foreplay. It might not be hardcore, but a movie that has bare bouncing boobies for 55 minutes non-stop could hardly be called artistic film-making. The fact that there is no plot and nothing to be learned (this is a “documentary” after all) only enforces the softcore feeling. The only artistic elements in the movie is the way it has been shot. Meyer included a lot of titled shots and the photography really provides some nicely saturated visuals. As goofy as some of the dances of the girls are, Meyer has come of with a wide variety of scenery making the girls easily distinguishable. Some of the scenery includes: a bedroom, next to a train track, a beach, the woods, a blubbery pond and even Meyer’s own swimming functions as a set for two girls who go topless swimming underwater in one of the more memorable scenes.
The strangest thing about the movie is the choice in women. Normally, women were cast by Meyer on basis of their bust-size, but in Mondo Topless quite a few have relatively small breasts. A puzzling choice seeing as how this movie has only one selling point: boobs. On the other hand there are a couple of women on display here who really have some big puppies. Of course there’s the footage of Lorna Maitland, but there also a British girl with a natural H-cup she probably was the “biggest” star of all of Russ Meyer’s movies: Darlene Grey. Another strange thing was that some of the women weren’t that attractive at all in my opinion. There were a couple of lookers, but Pat Barrington for instance looks like she’s way past 40.
The movie is beautifully shot and Meyer chose to include a lot of shots of old radios. They serve no function other than trying to convince the audience the women are dancing to the music supplied by these radios, but they’re a typical Meyer trademark as he love to cut away every now and then to radios and record players in most of his movies. A lot of times they are incorporated into the shots with the girls dancing; the radio right in front of the camera with the girl dancing in the background. Something only Meyer would do.
I also found myself humming some of the music afterwards, which is funny because when I was watching this movie I didn’t find the soundtrack all that interesting. The best thing about it is the male narrator. Everything he says is brought with such over-the-top confidence, that he could be narrating a chess game and make it sound like we’re watching a the heavyweight title fight in boxing.
Mondo Topless is probably one of Russ Meyer’s worst movies, mostly because it’s not really a movie. It does have some pretty girls, but after 15 minutes of Mondo Topless it becomes tedious. It’s clearly a product of its time and I can’t imagine something like this being made nowadays. If it was, it would be 10 minutes long and in the softcore section at PornHub.