Mr. Mike’s Mondo Video (1979)

Michael O’Donoghue is one of my heroes. A major contributor to National Lampoon and the first head writer of Saturday Night Live, he was also the first performer to utter a line on that series. When he returned to the show in 1981, as Dick Ebersol hoped that he could add back a sense of the old days to the program, O’Donoghue screamed, “This show lacks danger!” As he said this, he spraypainted the word on the wall, but ran out before finishing the word. It must have worked. Catherine O’Hara quit before she was even in a sketch.

O’Donoghue was fired after writing the never-aired sketch “The Last Days in Silverman’s Bunker”, which compared NBC president Fred Silverman to Hitler, with John Belushi coming back to play the man and a giant Nazi eagle clutching the NBC logo already constructed.

He was hired back by Lorne Michaels in 1985 and he wrote a monologue for Michaels’ friend Chevy Chase that started, “Right after I stopped doing cocaine, I turned into a giant garden slug, and, for the life of me, I don’t know why.” Needless to say, he was gone again.

After a lifetime of chronic headaches, he would die from a cerebral hemorrhage but left behind some wicked humor that still adds up. I always refer to his attack on SNL, referring to it as “an embarrassment. It’s like watching old men die.”

Therefore, it makes perfect sense that NBC would pay him to make a parody of Mondo Cane, including using the Riz Ortolani song “More.” It was also to feature a performance of the Sex Pistols playing “My Way,” but the owners of that song’s copyright would not allow that to happen.

The copy I have of this movie was the version released on home video in the early 1980s by Mike Nesmith’s Pacific Arts label. The Shout! Factory release is missing the theme from Hawaii Five-O.

Much like any mondo, this is a journey through a strange world, with everything from Dan Aykroyd showing his webbed toes and worshipping Jack Lord, Kalus Nomi in a dream sequence, swimming cats, a Tom Schiller-directed take on nudie cuties, Laserbra 2000 and a restaurant where patrons are yelled at.

Tons of famous people are in this, including Carrie Fisher, Teri Garr, Debbie Harry, Margot Kidder, Bill Murray, Laraine Newman, Golda Radner and Paul Shaffer.

Oh yeah — the haunting theme to Mondo Video? That’s “Telstar” with singer Julius La Rosa on vocals, both in English and Italian.

Much like a real mondo, this film at times is uneven and makes little sense. But when it’s good, it’s really good. You can watch this on YouTube.

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