• Mondo Balordo (Severin Films) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: July 28th, 2020.
    Director: Roberto Bianchi Montero, Albert T. Viola
    Cast: Boris Karloff
    Year: 1964
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    Mondo Balordo – Movie Review:

    Mondo Balordo, also known as A Fool’s World, was released in North America by the mighty Crown International Pictures, whose logo precedes the presentation of this picture narrated by the one and only Boris Karloff.

    “Boris Karloff unlocks man’s oldest secrets and exposes the hidden intimate shocking scenes of love… around Our Crazy World!”

    Nothing says sexy like a seventy-six year old Boris Karloff, right? Like pretty much all the Mondo movies made around this time, the film posits a collection of vignettes and scenes that are presented as documentary. An emphasis was clearly put on the marketing of the film, with one sheets from its original theatrical run proclaiming: “We didn’t make the love scenes in Mondo Balordo… We just filmed what nature already started.”

    The emphasis of this one, directed by Roberto Bianchi Montero, is sex and sin. Granted, there’s quite a bit of randomness scattered in here too, it isn’t all naked ladies and horny guys, but it does offer a lot of that. As the movie starts, we get some fantastic footage of a dancing dwarf in a hat and suspenders fronting a rock n roll band. It’s pretty great. From there, the movie shows off some footage of some bodybuilders in action, which segues into footage of some women enjoying their time at the gym. After that, we travel to the deserts of the Middle East where Bedouins get up to some strange behavior. This leads into footage of Hong Kong’s nightlife scene, Japanese women posing for risqué magazines, some unfortunate footage of elephants being hunted (hunting footage was popular in Mondo movies), an Indian exorcism, drug use, a man who believes to be the reincarnation of legendary Italian lover Valentino, weird hairdos, American Indian marriage customs, transvestites, an unorthodox production of Shakespeare’s Romeo And Juliet, people getting rowdy at a German beer hall, some strange cults, night life in Berlin and in London and quite a bit more.

    This entry, brought to you (in its Italian version, at least) by the director of So Sweet, So Dead (as well as at least another half dozen Mondo movies in the sixties like Africa Sexy and Sexy Nudo), Mondo Balordo does very little to differentiate itself from the rest of the Mondo movies that the Italian film industry was cranking out in the wake of the success of the original Mondo Cane in 1962, but it does have one important factor that none of the others can claim, and that’s the presence of Boris Karloff. Made only a few years before the storied actor would pass away in 1969, the film really and truly benefits from his narration. While he is an odd choice to talk over a film that is trying to be as sensationalist as this one is, his presence adds an air of sophistication to the production, even when it’s wallowing in footage of sex, sleaze and unfortunate moments of violence and poverty. Expect plenty of questionable comments on race throughout the movie, again, a very common occurrence in narrated Mondo films of the era, and a bit of nudity here and there to spice things up. It’s pretty entertaining as a curio item

    Mondo Balordo – Blu-ray Review:

    Severin Films brings Mondo Balordo to Blu-ray in a standard edition (a limited edition release came out last year) in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.66.1 widescreen. Scanned in 4k from the original 35mm negative, it looks pretty decent despite the fact that some of the colors are a bit on the flat side. To be fair, the old Something Weird DVD release showed this as well, so it’s possible that this is just how the movie was shot? Not sure. At any rate, detail and texture are much stronger here than they were on that aforementioned standard definition release, as they should be. There’s minor print damage here and there, but nothing that should prove distracting to anyone. Compression leaves room for improvement, as the feature only gets 13GBs of space on the 25GB disc, you can see occasional macroblocking in some of the black clothing.

    The English language 16-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track is on par with the video quality in that it is less than perfect, but still serviceable enough. Karloff’s narration comes through pretty clearly and the score sounds alright. There’s a bit of hiss here and there but overall, this sounds good enough even if it never sounds amazing. Optional subtitles are provided in English only.

    The main extra on the disc is the inclusion of a second feature, that being an Italian Mondo film from 1960 entitled The Orientals. Directed by Romolo Marcellini, the film is split into six different segments as it explores the way that women are treated in different Asiatic cultures, costumes, the use of dance in different countries, the influence of European culture, a woman who has a helper monkey collect coconuts for her (a highlight of the film for sure), the polygamous habits of the Nepalese, what happens when a girl in Hong Kong falls in love with a German man, the opium trade in Thailand and how it can ruin lives and, last but not least, Japanese pearl racers and concubines.

    Again, this isn’t exactly a ‘woke’ film and you could very easily claim that it’s a culturally insensitive picture as it can, at times, talk down about its subjects but like all Mondo movies, it is very much a product of its time. The narration here isn’t as interesting as it is in the feature, Karloff is certainly missed, and it isn’t paced as well either but those with an affinity for Mondo movies will appreciate it for what it is. Oddly enough, Akiko Wakabayashi, from You Only Live Twice, Ghidorah The Three-Headed Monster and Ultra Q shows up in this one, making it hard to take seriously as 'real!'

    The ninety-three-minute feature gets just over 11GBs of space on the disc, is framed at 1.33.1 and presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition. Scanned from a 35mm print from the Something Weird Video vault, it’s in less than perfect shape and features print damage throughout, but given its obscurity most probably won’t mind so much. Again, the compression could be better and the picture can look a bit soft, likely due to the elements available, but those accustomed to watching older, obscure Mondo movies will probably be fine with this. It features English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono, and optional subtitles are provided in English. The audio quality is a bit on the flat side and there is some occasional hiss but the narration is always easy to understand and the levels are properly balanced.

    Rounding out the extras are a trailer for Mondo Balordo, menus and chapter selection.

    Mondo Balordo – The Final Word Review:

    Severin’s Blu-ray release of Mondo Balordo offers fans a decent upgrade over the older DVD release and throws in a second, and legitimately more obscure, feature in the form of The Orientals. This won’t wow those who don’t already have a fascination for the genre, but if Mondo movies are your bag, then this is an easy recommendation.

    Click on the images below for full sized Mondo Balordo Blu-ray screen caps!