Decent DVD package of little-seen Jack Hill-shot sexploitati
Surfink | Racine, WI | 03/30/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Mondo Keyhole was photographed, "written," and directed by exploitation auteur Jack Hill (Blood Bath, Coffy, Switchblade Sisters), under the supervision of soft-porn producer/underwater photographer John Lamb (Mermaids of Tiburon, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea TV show), in between Hill's then-unreleased Spider Baby and his Corman-backed "mainstream" breakthrough, Pit Stop. Hill actually began working for Lamb as part of the settlement of Lamb's (groundless) lawsuit claiming partial ownership of Spider Baby. Hill was mainly shooting 16mm nudist camp films for Lamb's mail-order sex film business when together they conceived Mondo Keyhole (working title, The Worst Crime of Them All), their entry into the then-current "roughie" Adults Only subgenre. The story follows the exploits of pornographer and serial rapist Howard Thorne, who owns a company named Art Products Inc. (their logo is the Venus de Milo in dominatrix gear). He is unable to perform for any woman who actually wants him (watch in amazement as he repeatedly spurns his gorgeous, pneumatic junkie wife Vicky, played by "Victoria Wren," "Vickie Dee" from The Girl with the Hungry Eyes) so he get his kicks by stalking and raping random female victims, somehow without removing his pants. The part of ice-cold, creepy Howard is played by an anonymous real-life pornographer ("Nick Moriarty"), and several scenes take place in his actual office, where piles of real pornography, such as peep loops, skin mags, and LP records ("Punishment in Hi-Fi"), are on display (sharp eyes will spot David Friedman's name on the page of one of his beat books). Hill himself briefly plays the "submissive" in a B&D short being filmed at the office (and directed by science fiction artist and sexploitation writer/director William Rotsler [Mantis in Lace]). After tailing and sexually assaulting several women (he even abruptly abandons his wife at a sidewalk café to stalk one of his prey), Thorne makes the grievous mistake of raping the girlfriend of a black-belt lesbian judo master played by Cathy Crowfoot (John Lamb's then-girlfriend, who also starred in The Girl with the Hungry Eyes). Later, while attending a wild, LSD-fueled masked party/orgy (shot at Lamb's Hollywood Hills home) featuring a strange, chaotic, almost Fellini-esque semi-nude "human buffet" and food fight, he's spotted by Crowfoot, who entices him back to her apartment, where she (in marvelous "spider dominatrix" garb) and her lover exact a horrible revenge. Hill, as usual, elevates the material above it's sexploitation origins with some arty photography, camera angles, and imagery (bleeding brain, flaming skull, clocks with no hands), dream sequence, and a quote from Freud, though the miniscule budget and lack of a written script are evident at times. Dialogue is mostly post-dubbed (Vicky's voice by the lovely, sadly short-lived Luana Anders) and the acting is often a bit wooden, but the movie is never dull and overall very entertaining (it actually gets better as it progresses). Many of the actors are nonprofessionals (mostly members of LA's underground "orgy" crowd according to Hill), and the "sets" are all actual LA locations, giving the film something of a cinéma vérité feel. And yes, there are plenty of bared (pre-silicone) breasts and bums on display to earn Mondo Keyhole's Adults Only tag (unlike the previously available heavily-censored Something Weird VHS version). The interesting musical background was improvised in its entirety by some friends of Hill's, credited as The Psychedelic Psymphonette, and Hill himself plays the Hungarian cimbalom cues. Lamb apparently reedited Hill's final cut, deleting a couple more dream sequences and "arty" bits. It is Lamb's cut that is presented on the DVD.
The second feature, The Raw Ones, is actually an assemblage of three of Lamb's Hill-shot 16mm color nudist camp shorts, featuring plenty of full frontal nudity (male and female) along with the usual volleyball playing, table tennis, trampolining, boating, etc., backed by a Russian (i.e., royalty-free) recording of Swan Lake, while an offscreen narrator extols the benefits of the nudist lifestyle. Pretty dull and tedious unless you're really into nudist camp flicks or just need a FFN fix.
The standout extra on the disc is a lively, thoroughly enjoyable audio commentary for Mondo Keyhole by Jack Hill, with Elijah Drenner (producer of the Hatching of Spider Baby featurette on Dark Sky's Spider Baby DVD), that provides plenty of background detail on the making of the film, the actors, photography, music, and the intriguingly mysterious Mr. Lamb (who cameos as a bartender in the film). There is also a short introduction to The Raw Ones by Hill and Drenner, and an oddly-selected "trailer-o-thon" consisting of only three trailers (Like It Is, Summer School, Santo contra la Invasion de los Marcianos) advertising other VCI releases that have pretty much nothing to do with either feature. (To get the trailer for Mondo Keyhole you'll have to buy Psychotronica Vol. 3, Mermaids of Tiburon/Cry of the Bewitched.) Mondo Keyhole is presented in 1.85:1 letterboxed widescreen (why no anamorphic transfer?) while The Raw Ones is in standard 1.37:1 full frame format. Print quality of both features is excellent overall as they were apparently taken from original negatives acquired by Kit Parker Films from the late Lamb's estate. The only problem I noticed is that Mondo Keyhole freezes for a split second (similarly to a layer change) at several chapter breaks in the last 20 minutes or so. There is also some weirdness with the chapter numbering (the menu says there are 12 chapters but my DVD player says 14). This is because "chapters" 11 and 13 are only about a microsecond long, causing the momentary freezing and discrepancy in numbering. However, there doesn't appear to be anything missing during playback (the running time is 77:42, seven minutes and change longer than the 70 minutes listed on IMDb). Unfortunate but minor flaws, and not terribly distracting, and it would seem unlikely that VCI will recall or remaster such an obscure, niche-market title over such a minor detail, though it would be nice if they did. In sum, while The Raw Ones is basically a throwaway and the trailer-o-thon leaves a bit to be desired, Mondo Keyhole more than justifies purchase for anyone interested in either 1960s Adults Only sinema or the output of Jack Hill, or both. Recommended."