Reviewing John Waters’ Earliest Full Length Feature Mondo Trasho

Low resolution scan of my VHS cover to use in ...

 Mondo Trasho (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Summary: 95 Minutes and We Still Can’t Understand Whether the Film Wants to Entertain or Shock. Very Pointless Watch

John Waters’ first offering doesn’t intend to have any purpose, unlike his third effort Pink Flamingos, which sublimated the effect of shock and disgust to laughter. Multiple Maniacs, his dismal second film only offended with its objectionable religious references, but at least it incited some response from the viewers. Mondo Trasho seems like an empty void that generates absolutely no definite response. How should we, as the audiences react? Should we laugh at the characters’ situation or turn away our faces in disgust? How the hell should we feel?

The plot is obsessed with Mary Vivian Pierce’s feet, and begins rather interestingly with her character Bombshell getting her feet licked by a foot fetishist. Not to forget the opening sequence that highlights John Waters’ thrill for animal cruelty. As Bombshell begins moaning and panting, she visualizes herself as Cinderella being rescued by her Prince Charming (played by the foot fetishist). The explicit Cinderella sequence is a nice allusion and Waters’ could’ve progresses with an erotic romance angle which revolved around Bombshell’s search for the foot fetishist. Rather, John Waters brings in his trademark lady Divine, who surprisingly looks feminine unlike her androgynous appearance in the later films. The bad chick is ogling at a nude hitchhiker when her car hits a lost Bombshell who is gravely injured. Divine helps her by visiting a discount house, stealing a gown from there, and then by entering a laundry, where she changes Bombshell’s bloody clothes. Bombshell miraculously is still unconscious like those Shakespearean characters in Midsummer Night’s Dream who manage to fall asleep in a jiffy, and the blood on her face disappears. There are sporadic appearances by Mother Mary and her what-can-I-say ‘apprentice’ who purge Divine of her sins. Also, a rather bizarre visit to the asylum where we find that foot fetishist again, but this time he murders a fellow inmate, and to a sadistic hospital which operates on patients with knives and saws.

The only surprising aspect of the film is Divine’s good-hearted nature, since we have never seen Divine help someone at the risk of her own life. But everything else is inexplicable, even the Wizard of Oz inspired resolution. The camera is less shaky than in Multiple Maniacs and the sex is less raunchy. The choice of music, an assortment of rock and roll and classical, managed to hold my attention to the otherwise pointless sequences. Had the film worked on having a plot, it would’ve gained a better reputation today.

Grade: Just Sad

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