MONDO EROTICO-IM 80 BETTEN UM DIE WELT (1976)
The enthusiastic hostess (Esther Moser, GRETA THE MAD BUTCHER) of a cable broadcast Reality Television program focused on all aspects of eroticism, takes the audience on an interactive journey to various cities around the world, visiting notorious sex venues, sometimes taking part in the action as she breathlessly promises more to come. This is a review of the hardcore 87m version of this Mondo style film, which had been unavailable for many years, and is now out on Blu-ray from Producer Erwin C. Dietrich’s Ascot company.
MONDO EROTICO-AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 BEDS, is not first, second or even third tier Jess Franco. It’s more of a curiosity which provokes the question: What is a Jess Franco film? In this case I would guardedly agree with the IMDB listing of this as an Erwin C. Dietrich-Jess Franco composite, with nary a trace of Franco’s name in the credits of the hardcore version. As with so many Jess Franco films it opens as a “show” and the viewer is the audience. The cable viewers are invisible and we are rather like the protagonist in David Cronenberg’s VIDEODROME (1983), locked into position in front of a broadcast where exotic, and sometimes violent, sexual displays are offered. All similarities end there, though, since it’s made clear that this is lighthearted entertainment and never as dangerous as it appears to be onstage.
The opening credits roll over stock footage of New York City, from the waterfront to 42nd street, before finally settling down into a sadomasochistic ritual set in Greenwich Village. Of course, Jess Franco didn’t shoot any of this or any of the further footage of world sex capitals. Cu to a cramped interior (all the interiors seem to have been shot in the same small studio stage, a rather narrow space which forces the eye to focus toward the back of the composition, creating a minimalist sense of depth.
This first episode immediately evokes the opening S&M performances of NECRONOMICON (1967) and EXORCISME (1974). A naked woman is tied to an X shaped crucifix, tortured and sexually mutilated with a sword as upscale libertines lounge and enjoy the Sadean spectacle. Peter Baumgartner’s camera performs some minor wonders here, given the severely limited mise en scene, with eye catching color, lighting and framing. Baumgartner lensed most of the Franco-Dietrich product and he was a skilled, reliable craftsman. He and the producer also supervised the transfers of these Golden Goya Blu-rays, which were well preserved and maintained under Dietrich’s stewardship in his Zurich based operation over the decades. This explains why they look superior to most other Franco Blu-ray releases, and they are all worth the investment in terms of collect-ability/video/audio quality. Jess Franco is credited as DP on the box, but knowing Baumgartner’s work I would give the nod to him, with a Jess Franco assist for certain scenes, such as the first episode.
Most of the other episodes, set in Copenhagen, San Francisco, Amsterdam and Hamburg, are strongly reminiscent of any number of Dietrich directed soft/hardcore products. An episode set in the Antilles, a staged virginity ritual, does have some of the amusingly “native” quality of the Franco-Brauner ROBINSON UND SEINE WILDEN SKLAVINNEN (1971), a minor delight but certainly superior to this and certainly a Jess Franco film all the way. The least Franco-esque episode, set in an Adult Ed sex class, where masturbation aids are displayed and techniques demonstrated, is as low brow, crude and dim-witted as possible. It could have been taken from any Dietrich/West German sex report film of that era, but has no sense of Franco’s personal humor, subversive touches or redeeming style. There’s no acting or interesting characters in this film, although Ms. Moser is an enthusiastic hostess, if lacking in anything approaching charm. The episode about a dominatrix is similarly witless and runs much too long.
Another episode, set in an Istanbul brothel, uses the same set decorations, actors (including Eric Falk and Pilar Coll) and camera set-ups as MADCHEN IM NACHTVERKEHR/HEIDER SEX IM NACHTVERKEHR, yet another 1976 hard/softcore item, which I would definitely classify as a Franco -directed due to its sense of visual irony, droll humor and sometimes ethereal atmosphere. That one has no exteriors whatsoever and is sometimes attributed to Dietrich in references. It deserves its own separate review which I’ll post here in the future.
For the record, DAS FRAUENHAUS aka BLUE RITA (1977) and DAS BILDNIS DER DORIANA GRAY (1976) remain personal favorites among the Franco-Dietrich canon. The appearance of this title on Blu-ray after the passing of Jess Franco takes away the possibility of him confirming of denying ownership of this title. Apparently he did not include it in a previously list he composed of films he directed. It’s certainly represents slick marketing by Ascot Elite. Anything bearing the brand name “Jess Franco” has an immediate sales base. Far from a crucial viewing or even a recommended one, it does confirm how the stylistic values and distinctive personal vision of Jess Franco cannot be faked or emulated.
The mind tends to drift while watching this and one wonders, among other things, if the title is an in-joke reference to Jess Franco’s supposed appearance, as an extra, in the big budget Hollywood Jule Verne epic AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS (1957).
More Franco-related than anything approaching an auteur piece, this is not a must-have or even required viewing. If the relevant question is this: Outside of something partially or wholly directed by Jess Franco, what exactly is a “Jess Franco” film? A quick answer would be, not MONDO EROTICO-IM 80 BETTTEN UM DIE WELT.
(C) Robert Monell, 2016