Mondo Trasho

  • 1969
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Comedy, Fantasy

John Waters's debut feature is pretty much what you might expect from a disaffected middle-class film buff working in the 1960s on a budget of next to nothing. Waters fans and those with a taste for '60s indulgence will want to have a look, but keep that fast-forward button handy! Perhaps as a tribute to the Italian "Mondo" movies for which it is named,...read more

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John Waters's debut feature is pretty much what you might expect from a disaffected middle-class film buff working in the 1960s on a budget of next to nothing. Waters fans and those with a taste for '60s indulgence will want to have a look, but keep that fast-forward button handy!

Perhaps as a tribute to the Italian "Mondo" movies for which it is named, MONDO TRASHO opens with a hooded axeman beheading several chickens. A young woman, Mary (Mary Vivian Pearce), takes a bus to the park, where she is stalked and accosted by a foot fetishist. As he sucks on her toes, she

imagines herself as Cinderella. Leaving the park, she is run down by Divine (Divine), who lost control of the 1959 Cadillac convertible she was driving while ogling a hitchhiker. Divine puts the unconscious girl in her car, drives to a thrift store where she shoplifts some clothes, then drives to

a laudromat where she changes her into the stolen clothing. During this, Divine has a vision of the Madonna (Margie Skidmore). Her car is stolen, and she and Mary are captured and taken to a lunatic asylum. A topless tapdancer (Mink Stole) entertains the patients. Divine is visited again by the

Madonna, who helps her and Mary escape. She takes the still unconscious girl to Dr. Coathanger (David Lochary), not realizing that he is a drug-addicted mad scientist. Coathanger performs experiments on Mary that leave her with monstrous feet. Divine is tracked to Coathanger's clinic by both a

tabloid reporter and the police. A fight breaks out, and Divine is stabbed. Mary gets her out of the clinic and as far as a farm, where Divine dies in a pig sty during another visit from the Madonna. Mary clicks her heels three times and returns to the city, where she is abused first by a carload

of hoodlums and then by a pair of matrons who can't decide what she is. Clicking her heels three more times, she disappears.

MONDO TRASHO contains only a few instances of (post-dubbed) dialogue; the soundtrack consists mostly of popular songs of the 1950s and '60s. The lyrics often reflect what is going on in the film; sometimes they provide dialogue. There is also a smattering of sound effects, movie dialogue, and

classical music.

The film is Waters's tribute to the work of Kenneth Anger (whose book Hollywood Babylon is seen being read by Pearce on the bus). Like SCORPIO RISING (1963) and Anger's other films, Waters mixes popular tunes and a homosexual sensibility, though with a camp attitude lacking in Anger. (Waters also

has better taste in music--the song score features some excellent early rock instrumentals, unfortunately uncredited.) On the other hand, Anger was a much better editor and photographer. While not lacking in wit, MONDO TRASHO simply goes on far too long. This is occasionally part of the joke, as

in the opening scene where Pearce waits for the bus, scratching, counting her change, and doing absolutely nothing of interest, while the soundtrack blares the wholly inappopriate "Pomp and Circumstance." One's reaction to this bit of business will determine one's tolerance for the whole film: the

initiated will be (mildly) amused, but those unfamiliar with (or disinterested in) Waters's work, will be bored to tears. (Graphic violence, nudity, adult situations, substance abuse.)

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  • Rating: NR
  • Review: John Waters's debut feature is pretty much what you might expect from a disaffected middle-class film buff working in the 1960s on a budget of next to nothing. Waters fans and those with a taste for '60s indulgence will want to have a look, but keep that f… (more)

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