Tuesday 11 December 2012

RIP: José Bénazéraf and Celso Ad Castillo


We don’t want turn this blog into an obituary column, but as the last couple of weeks has seen the death of two greats from “the wild side of world cinema”, we feel obligated to note their passing.

It’s an indictment of the narrow focus of much film criticism that Celso Ad. Castillo is not better known, but in the Philippines he is generally regarded as one of that country’s most innovative and provocative film makers. Born in 1943, he initially planned to become a lawyer, like his father, but soon gravitated towards the entertainment business as a writer of comic books. In the mid 1960s he began to adapt these as screenplays for the then booming local film market. He directed his first feature in 1965 and his breakthrough came in the early 70s with films starring Fernando Poe Jr, one of the best loved stars of the local industry.

No stranger to scandal, Castillo went on to create provocative stories that mixed sex and religion, both (then as now) explosive subjects in the Philippines. Nympha, Isla and in particular Snake Sisters drew audiences but created controversy. He also made a number of horror films, including the classic Let’s Scare Barbara to Death, starring Fernando Poe Jr’s wife – Susan Roces.

He worked in a dizzying variety of genres: drama, comedy, action, horror, martial arts, sexploitation, etc. His best films are characterised by an almost wilful individuality, touches of visual poetry and an intense desire to move, excite and entertain. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But it’s always fascinating to watch. He will be missed.

I first met José Bénazéraf twenty years ago whilst doing interviews for the Immoral Tales book. He was very hospitable and extremely entertaining, sounding off at the drop of a hat about the mediocrity and moral vacuity of most of his fellow film makers. He was pretty much retired by then, having made and lost several fortunes over the years. He was doing OK, though, living with his wife Simone, an elegant former fashion model, in a luxurious apartment in Neuilly, one of the most desirable of Parisian suburbs. He was very amused when I told him that next on my list of interviewees was Alain Robbe-Grillet, who then lived only two streets away. JB roared with laughter and regaled me with scabrous tales about ARG’s sexual proclivities.

JB could be a crusty old sod and was filled with contradictions (an avowed communist, he lived pretty much the ultimate bourgeois lifestyle, with houses in Paris, Spain and the south of France). His communism, like much of his filmography, seemed to derive from the same source: basically he liked to be a controversialist, that was his life’s blood. He had strong opinions on just about everything and would occasionally phone me to roar down the line his fury at something happening in the UK that he’d read about in the papers. He had been a war hero, although he would never describe himself in that manner, and was still capable of sounding off in a passion about those struggles of far off days, raging at the way certain sections of French society had capitulated to the Nazis. The only ones to truly oppose the oppressors, he maintained, had been the marginals: the gays, the Jews, the Communists.

One of my strongest memories of him is visiting one day and being taken round the corner to a nearby underground garage where was parked his latest toy - a brand new Porsche Cabriolet convertible. With a twinkle in his eye, he insisted we go for a drive and set off down the Champs Elysées at full tilt, top down, yelling at me to check the speed as he couldn’t drive and look at the dash at the same time. Passing a restaurant he knew, he decided we would stop for lunch and skidded to a halt, double parked in the middle of the busy city centre road. As we tucked into almost raw steaks, I had to crane my neck to keep a tab on the Porsche, which was soon surrounded by curious passers by and, eventually, a passing copper, no doubt thinking that it had been abandoned by a teenage car thief. I believe José must have been in his 80s at this point.

He was a force of nature, that’s a description that truly fits him, and as with all forces of nature you never believe they can be finite. But it turns out he was mortal, just like the rest of us.

What can you say about his films? They were reflections of the man who made them. As a catalogue description for his 1963 production Le Concerto de la peur says: “It pricks the conscience, probes the libido and excites the senses!”

What more can you ask for from wild world cinema?

Celso Ad Castillo, 1943-2012
José Bénazéraf, 1922-2012

- Pete Tombs, December 2012

Monday 26 November 2012

Just what you need: Another Mondo Macabro Blog!

Blogspot is soooo 2000s. If you want to be hip in the 2010s, you need to be on the Tumblr. Or so the kids tell me. So, in order to continue to try and win over the kids to our side, we have created a new blog to further promote all the wonders of the MM videosphere! It will mostly be a clearing house for provacative archival images from MM releases past, present, and future.
Find it, and follow it, here!

You can continue to check in on this location for breaking news and various MM- and international cult movie-related items.

Monday 12 November 2012

The MM Back-Catalog Spotlight Volume 3

At last! A third volume in our on-going series of articles extolling the virtues of MM's many and varied weird-movie DVD releases has arrived! This time, weird-movie blogger extraordinaire Todd Stadtman gazes into the abyss that is SILIP: DAUGHTERS OF EVE and finds that it is definitely gazing back at him.

The thing about obsessively seeking out offbeat cinema – and drug addiction, I guess – is that inevitably things will start to have less and less of a kick. I may jump like a spring loaded cat at sudden noises on the street, but there is now little in the world of film that can rattle me. Yes, within this tiny little, internet succoured niche that I’ve carved out for myself – if indeed only there – I am a complete badass. Have you made an earnest, SOV serial killer movie that will expose me to the dark side of human nature in unflinching and nihilistically gritty detail? Well, guess what? I am already laughing at you.

It is for this reason that, when I see a movie that jars me as much as Elwood Perez’s Silip did, it tends to stick with me. And Silip has haunted me ever since I first watched it. So much so, in fact, that I wasn’t even sure if I actually liked it until re-watching it recently. This was in part because, as with any strong medicine, “liking” Silip isn’t simply a matter of checking in with your pleasure centers, but a matter of conscious deliberation (does anyone ever actually “like” their first cigarette or shot of whiskey without deciding it so?) – but also in part due to my fear that making the distinction would require me to answer questions that I wasn’t yet prepared to ask myself. For, while there are pleasures to be had within Silip, they are inextricably bound up with punishment. Like the punitive version of Catholicism that inspired it, its every foray into the sensual realm is infused with a guilt so leaden and toxic that it’s impossible to walk away from the film without having some of it stick to you.

It is such tensions and contrasts that make watching Silip so unnerving. Perez gives us moments of intense eroticism, but doles them out between episodes of violence, carnage and self flagellation that are as visceral and deeply disturbing as the former are arousing. Maria Isabel Lopez’s golden body, glistening in a thin layer of perspiration under a teasingly diaphanous shift, is like a fleshy monument to sensuality itself, a marvel to behold. But, in order to behold it, we’ve had to brave an opening sequence depicting the unsimulated bludgeoning and disembowelment of a water buffalo before an audience of wailing children, and thus can only do so with trepidation. Likewise, it’s not long after we’ve been given our first glance at Lopez’s body in all its naked glory that we’re subjected to the sight of her rubbing handfuls of rock salt against her pussy in a fit of deranged penance.

For me, another stark contrast that Silip provided was in how it broke so resoundingly with my previous experience of Filipino cinema. Given the cheeky but affable Tagalog parodies and goofy exploitation movies that I’d indulged myself in, I’d had no idea at the time that there was space within that cinema for something so ferocious. More importantly, the image I’d gotten from those films was one of an all-pervasive Christian piety. One could literally never predict when the narrative of any Filipino movie, regardless of genre, might be interrupted for a moment of religious instruction, be it a scene of the hero kneeling at the altar or a bluntly depicted instance of divine retribution. To my secular mind – and having yet to sample the films of Brocka – dissent from such a monolithic front seemed inconceivable. Yet here was Silip, an angry fable against zealotry, repression and intolerance that, while not necessarily anti-Catholic, didn’t really seem to care that much if it tore the whole house down in the process of remodelling.

And the contrasts don’t end there, carrying over into Silip’s visual aesthetic. Put simply, the film is beautifully shot. And this despite the fact that the remote and isolated seaside village in which it takes place – a scorching sand patch rife with provincial ignorance, hatred and fear – is depicted as something of a hell on earth. That Perez then chooses to capture that hell in an almost elegiac manner only manages to make things that much more unsettling. Presented in a much less sun dappled light, however, is the plight of the film’s children, who suffer the lack of guidance from the tortured adults on hand and travel down some distinctly troubling paths as a result. It’s fairly typical of Southeast Asian and Filipino films to treat childhood with less sentimentality and idealisation than their Western counterparts, and, in that tradition, Silip, while reflecting appropriate compassion, depicts these kids’ actions with jarring frankness. Suffice it to say that it wouldn’t go down that way in Hollywood, not in a million years.

So, in short, Silip is the rare film with a true capacity to shock, and if you’re a viewer who’s reached my level of jadedness (and given the blog you’re reading, the chances of that are high), that has to count for something. It’s also a film that will make you feel horniness, revulsion, anger, despair and exaltation in such rapid and cyclical succession that it will likely take some time to recalibrate your emotional compass after watching it. Of course, that might not be a menu of sensations that just everyone wants to sign up for, but if you’re feeling like your sensibilities are in need of a little kick start, it could be just the tonic.

As for me, yeah, it turns out that I really do like it after all.

Todd Stadtman writes about world pop cinema on his blog Die, Danger, Die, Die, Kill! and is a regular contributor to Teleport City.

Friday 2 November 2012

EUROTIKA! on YouTube!

Just about the only way to see the uncut episodes of the classic UK TV docu series produced and executed by our own Andy Starke and Pete Tombs is to click here. If you haven't seen this program before, it's an excellent introduction to the wild world of European exploitation cinema during it's heyday of the late 60s through the early 80s. Lots of great clips and thoughtful interviews. Enjoy!

Wednesday 22 August 2012

MM Back-Catalog Spotlight Vol 2!!

Here's the second in our ongoing series of looks back in time to past DVD treasures, which were unearthed and then celebrated and then forgotten again. Here's a reminder. Blogger/film-maker Jeremy Riddle attempts to get to the heart of our wild double feature of FOR YOUR HEIGHT ONLY and CHALLENGE OF THE TIGER.

He's a sharp-dressed, kung-fu kicking man of action. With unshakeable courage, unbreachable cool, and an array of clever gadets, he battles dastardly supervillains in exotic locales with the fate of the free world itself at stake. He's clever, quick-witted, tough as nails, a smooth-talking smooth operator who always gets his man. Always gets the ladies, too. A hero for our age.

He's not that British guy, though.

He is, instead, the Philipines' finest.

He's 2 1/2 feet tall.

He's Weng Weng: Special Agent 00.

See this butt-biting, Moe-do'd moppet tackle the felonious forces of Mr. Giant in FOR YOUR HEIGHT ONLY, another of those fantastically fried flicks with which Mondo Macabro perpetually provides us.

"The forces of good are our sworn enemy, and... they must be exterminated, and I mean lethally."

Mr. Giant's right-hand thug, expressing, with typically inept hilarity, the heartless villainy our diminutive hero must face. Will the Weng-Wengster win out over this comic concoction of sinister slavers, deadly drug-runners, and the merciless miscreant masterminding their malevolent machinations? I guess you'll just have to watch and see.

And, hey, think it's hard to believe, from this description, that such a movie actually exists? Well, after you see it, you _still_ won't believe it.

Alongside Weng's way-off-the-beaten-track exploits comes a compelling chunk of chopsocky cheddar from the Brucesploitation bin. The under-epic CHALLENGE OF THE DRAGON features "Bruce Le"--only one "e"--and Richard Harrison in a silly stew of spies, teeth-grittin' kung fu fightin', and gloriously gratuitous bare breasts. The latter end up in the hands of Harrison, who, with his Burt Reynolds moustache, deals with the booty while "Le" takes on most of the booty-kicking.

CHALLENGE doesn't have as high a WTF Factor as HEIGHT, but it does have its moments--slo-mo topless tennis jumps immediately to mind--and, most importantly, it manages to be damn entertaining, which puts it a chop above most of the Brucesploitation bunko. Paired with HEIGHT, it makes for a fine double-feature for both those looking for something a little different and the seasoned connoisseur of the psychotronic alike.

Jeremy Riddle is a writer and would-be filmmaker who hails from a little place called Ringgold, Georgia, where he's busily building an embryonic indie film colony for no-doubt nefarious purposes. He hopes to have his first, as-yet-untitled feature in the can before the end of the year. Check out his writings on film at his blog The Dig.

If this has whetted your appetite for more, and I'm positive it has, then steal your parent's credit card and head on over to one of these reputable DVD pushers, TLA Cult or Diabolik DVD to pick up your very own copy!

Tuesday 31 July 2012


The beautiful Countess Martine de Bressac is released from the expensive asylum where she was incarcerated after castrating her former lover. She returns to her luxurious villa on the coast and goes at once down into her private underground dungeon. It’s here that she indulges herself in the perverse sexual practices that give her life meaning, surrounded by the bizarre human statues of her previous victims.

Her husband, Charles, feeds his wife’s sick fantasies, aware that she is his meal ticket to a life of luxury. He announces that he has a new game for her - they will befriend and seduce the young and virginal daughter of a rich neighbour. But things do not go exactly as planned...

Release Date and Specs TBA

Thursday 12 July 2012

The Art of the PERVERSE!

As promised, here are the all the wonderful entries in Rock!Shock!Pop!'s recent PERVERSE COUNTESS contest! We'll start off with the three winning entries, then onto the ... well losers isn't really the right term, since they are all awesome in their own way. Which is your favorite?

    By Barry M.

    By Willem Claeys

    By Robin Boughie

    By Dom D.

    By Paul H.

    By Todd Jordan

    By Ryan K.

Big thanks to all the artists, and congrats to the winners!

Monday 25 June 2012

Are you artistic? Do you like free stuff? Well then ...

Our friends at Rock!Shock!Pop! are generously giving away free copies of the lastest and greatest from Mondo Macabro, COUNTESS PERVERSE!

RSP's President-for-Life Ian Jane explains:

This movie is awesome and you can win your very own copy, free of charge.
Well, it's simple really. Submit your best drawing or Photoshop image inspired by the movie. If you haven't seen it, that's ok - you already know enough about it to come up with something.
If you can't draw, don't worry, what counts the most is effort and creativity.
Even if you just draw a cool picture of Jess Franco smoking it still counts.
Contest ends in at the end of the month, no entires submitted after midnight on 6/30 will be accepted and winners will be announced when I wake up and have my coffree on 7/1/12.
Get to it!

So that's not too far away, so ya better get crackin'! Submit your entry here to become immortal.

Our pal and Cinema Sewer producing genius Robin Boughie has set the bar quite high with this initial entry:

You've got your work cut out for ya, dudes!

If it's any incentive, I will post all entries as an exclusive feature on this site after the contest is over. Get your work seen by literally dozens of movie nerds!

Wednesday 20 June 2012

Nadia ul-Gindy: Egyptian Cinema's Queen of Violence, Sexuality & Raw Emotion!

We here at the MM Blog are proud to present this exclusive "video essay" by Arabic film expert Robert J. Kiss, who you may remember as the mastermind behind the complete 60s Arabic language filmography of shlock film director Frank Agrama. Here he illuminates an obscure corner of the cult film world little seen by even the most die-hard collectors of international exploitation oddities. Take it away Dr. Kiss!

When Jared offered me this opportunity to come up with a guest blog entry about Egyptian popular cinema for Mondo Macabro DVD, I knew immediately that I wanted to seize the chance to introduce the incredible Nadia ul-Gindy to his (no doubt equally incredible) readers. And since I feel that moving images can tell the tale far more effectively than a gazillion words... below is my 15-minute 'video essay' charting Nadia ul-Gindy's career and presenting clips and images from around thirty of her movies. Please take some time out of your day to watch this if you have even a passing interest in Egyptian cinema, because that cinema is simply unthinkable without the many delicious excesses of Nadia ul-Gindy.

During the 1980s and 1990s, few sights on an Egyptian cinema screen could get me more excited than the bombastic logo of producer Muhammad Mukhtar, signaling that another movie starring his wife, Nadia ul-Gindy, was about to hit the screen in an orgy of sex, violence, heavy melodrama and bright red stage blood! At that time, Nadia ul-Gindy was akin to a 'guilty pleasure on a national scale': her movies received little advance promotion, articles on her in the celebrity press were scant, to say the least, and yet her popularity with urban audiences was almost unrivaled, with her flicks not uncommonly occupying theaters for thirty or forty consecutive weeks. From 1981, she has been billed in all her movies as 'nagmat ul-gamahir Nadia ul-Gindy' ('the audiences' star, Nadia ul-Gindy'), an epithet intended to foreground the fact that her career was founded primarily on audience popularity rather than on marketing and publicity.

Nadia ul-Gindy's name has echoed through half a century of Egyptian popular cinema, with her back-catalog of 55 features and 5 television series including action movies, pouting melodramas, psycho horror thrillers, drug dramas and wild exploitation pictures, in all of which she might just as easily be playing a diabolical villainess or a blood-soaked victim. Her movies consistently pushed at the boundaries of what local censorship would allow, and on more than one occasion were banned outright or made the subject of vocal campaigns urging their withdrawal from circulation. Prominent critics – such as Duriyya Sharaf id-Din in her 1992 study Cinema and Politics in Egypt, 1961-1981 – would denounce ul-Gindy's works as 'low-grade' and 'indistinguishable from one other', while at the same time tucking away in a footnote the information that these unspeakable movies 'are the most highly attended, being held over in theaters for tens of weeks'.

Thursday 7 June 2012

Coming Soon!

The Next DVD: The Late 80s South African pyscho-thriller THE SHADOWED MIND!

From Tamlin-4's review at the IMDB:

"Stephanie, a young girl with an overwhelming desire to bare her breasts arrives as a patient at a private clinic for those suffering from sexual dysfunction ... Other patients include the inhibited Paul, the sinister Kurt,the neurotic Julia, the teddy-bear fixated Matthew and the radically deluded General. Stephanie and Paul begin a tentative affair while a killer stalks the institution, knifing (a) blonde sex-addict ... before the shocking conclusion where sexual appetite and necrophilia merge.

Banned for several years in South Africa, this intriguing confection of sex and horror takes place in a private clinic for the sexually disturbed where the staff are more disturbed than anybody else. Composed with the stateliest of camera movements by director Sundstrom (Suffer Little Children, Saxman) who turns on the screws as the killings and sexual couplings proliferate. With a climax reminiscent of Oshima's In the Realm of the Senses and a scenario that is clearly inspired by the Citizen Kane of South African films, Jans Rautenbach's Jannie Totsiens, this is a very strange film indeed."

Specs and release date TBC.

Monday 4 June 2012

The Reviews are in! COUNTESS PERVERSE is a hit!

Our latest DVD, Jess Franco's wondefully odd and sleazy COUNTESS PERVERSE will be officially released soon and is available now from a few online sources, inlcuding TLA Cult and Diabolik DVD.
If you're still on the fence about this one, let the following reviews help sway you in one direction or the other.

Mondo Digital
DVD Beaver
Dr. Terror's Blog of Horrors
DVD Drive-In
Video Dungeon
I'm in a Jess Franco State of Mind
Schlockmania! (Part One)
Schlockmania! (Part Two)
Brutal As Hell
Lair of Filth

I'll add more as they come in. If you have a review you'd like me to link to email me at jaredaunerATyahooDOTcom.

Monday 14 May 2012

Mondo Macabro Back-Catalog Spotlight Vol. 1: VIRGINS FROM HELL!!

Welcome to the first in a new monthly series spotlighting Mondo Macabro's back catalog treasures. For our inaugural entry, Cinema Sewer's Robin Bougie reminisces about his initial impressions of the Indonesian exploitation classic VIRGINS FROM HELL!

Virgins From Hell busted my Indonesian action cherry.

“Tortured, abused, sold into slavery, they sought revenge at any cost” was the tagline used on the back of the Mondo Macabro dvd release of “Virgins From Hell” in order to whip up viewer anticipation, and it was enough to get me to plunk down twenty-something dollars in a random blind-buy frenzy. Most film-fans know that often those of knee-jerk purchases can end in frustration, but Ackyl Anwari’s 1987 movie somehow, impossibly, lives up to the hype as it boldly tosses everything in the sink and stirs it up with a machine gun. This unapologetic trash is part women-in-prison movie, part moody girl-biker Pinky-violence, and part stunted-packed exploitation revenge film. Cover all that in bright, tacky, tight-fitting 1980s outfits and headbands, and we’re talking about optimal beer n’ pizza party entertainment, here.

Thanks to the unearthing of this brainless ode to violent fun, I was introduced to a genre of Indonesian cinema that has since become one of my favourites. I happily leapfrogged from Virgins From Hell into the movies of Arizal (The Stabiliser, Final Score, Lethal Hunter, Special Silencers), Jopi Burnama (Rambu: The Intruder), Ratno Timoer (The Devil's Sword, The Blind Warrior) and of course, the unforgettable Lady Terminator.

My friends, it is a movie like this that can change your whole set of viewing habits, and for that I owe the folks at Mondo Macabro a debt of gratitude.

Robin Bougie is a cartoonist, journalist and longtime trash movie fanatic. His legendary self-published 'zine CINEMA SEWER recently published its 25th issue and has been collected into (so far) three essential books by FAB Press. He has also written extensively on the porn industry for the likes of Screw Magazine and culturalgutter.com. He currently lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.

For the next month only, VIRGINS FROM HELL is on sale for only half its SRP from TLA Video! That's a steal! If you don't already have this'n, then what in the heck are you waitin' for?!?

Thursday 10 May 2012

70 Classic Korean Films on Youtube!

Good news for fans of pre-millennial South Korean cinema! The Korean Film Archive has posted 70 classic movies to their YouTube channel, complete with English subtitles! This is the first time ever that some of these films have been seen with an English language option. Although we would've like to have seen more of the great oddball horror films that emerged from the ROK from the 60s through the 80s, there are a handful of pyschotronic delights to be had. Chief among these has to be 7 films by Korea's maestro of eccentricity Kim Ki-Young, including the mind-warping WOMAN AFTER A KILLER BUTTERFLY, a movie I've longed to see with English subtitles for years now. Check out the full list of films here.

Friday 4 May 2012

Help Restore the Lost Films of HG Lewis!

A company calling itself Process Blue: Side Projects have come across a rare and fascinating treasure, original film negatives for three previously lost sexploitation films by schlock cinema pioneer Hershell Gordon Lewis!

They have the goal of completely restoring these (literal) trash movies to pristine HD glory and preserve them forever on Blu-Ray and DVD.

Towards this ambition PB:SP have initiated a Kickstarter campaign to attract generous backers.

Give, give, give until it hurts to assure that LINDA & ABILENE (1969), ECSTASIES OF WOMEN (1969) and BLACK LOVE (1971) are restored to vivid life!

For more info and to contribute just pass your cursor over this and click away!

Tuesday 1 May 2012



Friday 27 April 2012

Another PERVERSE Update!

As you enjoy your weekend, rest assured that Jess Franco's near-lost masterpiece COUNTESS PERVERSE is on its way! The release date is June 12th and the specs have been mostly worked out.


A pair of decadent and debauched aristocrats turn their private island into a human hunting ground where they stalk their naked prey. The captured meat is then cooked and fed to their unsuspecting guests, who themselves will become the next victims of this cruel game. Starring the suave Howard Vernon (Seven Women for Satan) and the stunningly sexy Alice Arno (Justine de Sade), this is one of controversial director Jess Franco's most outrageous and delirious films.

Mondo Macabro presents, for the first time ever the original restored director's cut, taken from the rare camera negative. Packed with sex, sleaze and outrageous behavior, this is wicked entertainment of the most shocking kind.

New Transfer from Negative
Original 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio
French Language with newly translated English Subtitles
Interview with actor Robert Woods
Interview with film scholar Stephen Thrower
Extensive background information

You can go ahead and satisfy your urge to spend money on the COUNTESS by preordering this disc from the following stores:

TLA Cult
Diabolik DVD

Tuesday 24 April 2012

An Exclusive Excerpt from Andrew Leavold's Forthcoming Filipino Memoir!

Andrew Leavold is a filmmaker and raconteur whose adventures exploring the wilds of the Filipino film industry are legendary. In this exclusive excerpt from his forthcoming memoir Andrew tries to make sense of the Pinoy obsession with little people.
For more of Andrew's thoughts of Philippine B-cinema check out his terrific blog Bamboo Gods and Bionic Boys. If you have something to share or a burning query you need answered you can reach him by email at andrewleavoldATgmailDOTcom.


"Mura's up for an interview," I tell Big Jim Gaines.

Long story, but he's my muscle in Manila: six foot-something, half African-American, martial artist and kung fu actor from the Seventies onwards, and if you watch Apocalypse Now, he's the tall black guy next to Robert Duvall.

The Philippines' obsession with midgets hadn't ended with Weng Weng, I'm pleased to report. Only months before my trip, a tongue-in-cheek rehash of the Pinoy Bond series from the Sixties and Seventies had hit Manila screens starring boy-faced heartthrob Vhong Navarro. The original Agent X-44, forgotten action hero Tony Ferrer who's now into his Seventies and bloated from diabetes, returned as Tony Falcon role; Vhong is his reserve. And in a nod to For Y'ur Height Only, the 1981 midget spy spoof in which Ferrer plays Weng Weng's white-suited boss, reserve agent Vhong's own reserve agent is played a three foot-something midget superstar named.

"Where's the interview?" asks Jim. "His place. Tondo." Agent X-44's director Joyce Bernal had texted me Mura's cellphone number several days before. "Tondo?" His eyebrows nearly touch the tip of his bald dome. "Dude, I'm going with you."
Tondo, it turns out, is Manila's Compton. A sprawling mini-city of one and two-story buildings near Manila's oldest port, housing some of the poorest inhabitants of Manila, and shanties made from packing crates and shop signs filling up the spaces between buildings for the even poorer, it's a grim slumscape made less depressing by the teeming life everywhere. Kids splashing in flooded laneways or on sidewalks doing dodgy deals, corner stores doing roaring trade in cigarettes and Smart Chat mobile loads - the place is humming, positively vibrating. Some of these shanties, so-called temporary dwellings for the itinerant or the landless, I suspect, have been here longer than the bricks.

To the rest of the Manila, Tondo's a myth, the birthplace of gutter Cinderellas and hoods like Asiong Salonga. Fellow Tondo-born icon and future President Joseph Estrada sealed his reputation by blasting up cinema screens as Salonga in 1961, a full ten years after the real gunslinger was shot in the head outside a Tondo corner store, and his story of a sewer rat turning to a life of crime been retold at least three times since to audiences weaned on tabloid cinema, if only to counter its cheap and tawdry thrills with the old "crime doesn't pay" routine. Other Tondo barakos (tough guys) have also been given the star treatment. Poor, and dangerous: that's how the rest of Manila knows Tondo.

The next day, Jim and I are in a cab driving along Tondo's main drag, looking in vain for Mura's turnoff. Steel gates on the west side block out the port facilities, while the eastern view from President Ferdinand E. Marcos Highway reveals just a hint of Tondo's endless warrens. It's hard to believe the most famous midget in the Philippines AT THIS MOMENT lives in the midst of such chaos.

Mura - real name Allan Padua - had become famous several years before as one half of a midget duo for ABS-CBN show Masayang Tanghali Bayan ["Good Afternoon Nation"] called Mura and Mahal (that's Tagalog for "cheap" and "expensive"). Noemi "Mahal" Tesorero was already established on TV from playing little girls and miniature Mae Wests; in real life she was a scandal magnet, confounding the press with tales of her disastrous relationships, and sexy home videos that had somehow slipped into the public domain.

During his stint with Mahal, Mura would dress up in little girls’ clothes to appear as Mahal’s twin. Which also makes Mura the most famous cross-dressing midget in the Philippines. Despite subsequent roles sans dresses as Mars Ravelo’s Tiny Tony, as Nine Volt in Volta, and opposite Vhong Navarro as a friendly kiddie spook in Joyce Bernal's horror-comedy D'Anothers, he's remembered by many as a she. "Is she still around?" asked another curious cab driver. "She's a he," I relayed. "No…………" The driver looked genuinely disturbed. I hope I didn't shatter any hetero-specific fantasies he may have secretly harboured.

The cab stops, and two cops walk up to the passenger window. It's ten in the morning and they're clearly on amphetamines with bugging, almost varnished yellow eyeballs and the drug-sweats pouring out of them profusely. Jim warily winds down his window.

JIM: Jacinto Street po?

COP: (Peers through the window and starts babbling excitedly) You need police escort? You pay me? (Laughs hysterically) How much you give me?

JIM: (Winds window up) Drive!

Fifteen minutes later, we miraculously arrive at our destination. As the cab pulls up outside a two story karaoke venue, we're surrounded by eager urchins all yelling the familiar "Hello Joe!", the companion phrase to "Victory Joe!" reserved for GIs and random Caucasians since the Japanese defeat in '45. Moments like these you need to throw them a fistful of Twinkies and Seven-Ups and beat your own hasty retreat.

At the top of the narrow flight of stairs we're ushered into a large area flanked with karaoke speakers and plastic chairs stacked prior to showtime. Celina Racho, an immaculately dressed lady who is Mura's manager and, we deduce, karaoke queen, introduces herself. "And this," she says, "is Mura."

I turn around expecting someone at eye level, then look downwards to around knee height. A miniature man, no taller or larger than a seven year old boy, stretches out his perfectly-proportioned hand. "Hello," he squeaks, "I am Mura."

Celina shows us to Mura's dayroom: empty expect for a couch and TV, painted in vivid slashes of red and yellow. Mura's originally from Bicol province, and is taken care of by his manager and her husband, a businessman and politician. Similar to Weng Weng's story, I mentally note. How right I was.

Mura sits on the red couch opposite me and my camera. Big Jim translates, as Mura has only recently learnt Tagalog and, in his words, "No speak Engliss!"

"How old were you when you were discovered?" I ask Mura.

"Twenty three." With his cheeky grin, cherub cheeks and boy's clothes, Mura looks no older than seven. "And how old are you now, may I ask?"

"Thirty one."

My mouth must have hit the concrete floor, and Mura giggles. He then tells the story of how he was paired with Mahal, and on the second fitting produced the fateful dress. How did you feel, I ask, becoming famous for dressing up as a girl?

"It's work. I couldn't do anything. At first it was a surprise, I did not expect it. But people said that it fit me, that I look like a girl." He giggles again. "People said that I looked a lot prettier than Mahal."

I ask Mura if the role as Vhong's diminutive sidekick in Agent X-44 was written for him. "They wanted a Weng Weng to be cast opposite Tony Ferrer," he replies.

This makes sense! "Have you seen Weng Weng as Agent OO?"

"Yes, when I was very young. When he jumped out of the helicopter" - he starts miming the actions - "and jumps with the umbrella, and with the balloons. I appreciate Weng Weng, he's very good."

More than any time before, Weng Weng's legacy in the Philippines has become so much clearer. I ask Mura if he would ever star in a remake of an Agent OO film?

"It is my wish," he beams, "to have solo film."

The mind starts clicking into hyperdrive. "I'll make it for you!" I declare. Mura seems pleased, and I'm in a near-state of ecstasy.

Back on the street, I point the camera at the Agent X-44 poster tacked lazily to the wall. Before I can mouth the words "establishing shot", Jim walks up and says in a low, authoritative voice: "Uh...put your camera away, dude."

"I just want to get a clean shot of..."

"Dude, put the fucking camera away. Now walk towards the main road…(We head towards the main road) Walk a little faster. (We're now practically in a sprint) Now let’s get across the road. Don’t worry about the traffic. (We weave recklessly through four lanes of cars and trucks) Jump in the first jeepney you see. Don’t hail a cab, just get in."
Facing each other across the back of the jeepney - those decorated covered former army jeeps converted into cheap public transport - Jim finally relaxes.

ME: "Are you going to tell me what all that was about?"

JIM: "Dude, I know you were all excited about meeting the midget and shit, but JESUS CHRIST, man, this is the worst fucking neighbourhood in Manila! This is where kids practice working for the Syndicate by shooting live targets! Did you see those two guys with handguns down the front of their pants walking towards us?"

ME: "Um....no...."

JIM: "And you’re waving around a four grand camera! Look at us - the Nigger and the White Trash? We stick out like fucking dog’s balls!"

Jim lights up a cigarette, and laughs at my mortified expression.

In early 2011, I hear from actor Jo Mari Avella that Mura was thrown from a tricycle in his home town of Albay in Bicol, and had broken both legs. Penniless and in desperate need of handouts from fellow TV personalities to pay for his rehabilitation, he resorted to begging on ABS-CBN. Thankfully one of his co-stars made decent press mileage out of handing over a cheque for Mura's rehab. To date, the little guy hasn't made it back into show business, and is in danger of sinking into the obfuscating muck of "who the fuck are you?"

The parallels between Mura's story and Weng Weng's are disturbing: celebrity midget, ubiquitous star of films and TV shows, living out of his manager's pocket and in their home, only to find himself ill, on the poorhouse's doorstep and relying on charity. At some point Mura's manager should be grabbed by her power-dressing lapels, and have the answer shaken out of her to the question, "Where did all the money from Star Cinema and ABS-CBN go?" And if there wasn't enough money to go around, why not? Sadly, the Philippines is full of stories of their celebrities outliving their usefulness and dying hungry and destitute, a symptom of a disposable pop culture which throws its forgotten waste on the smoking piles of refuse. Not surprisingly, Manila's most famous dump called Smoky Mountain, no less than a Breugel vision of Hell and home to thousands of squatters living off the dump's bountiful harvests before its redevelopment in 2007, is barely a kilometre up the road from Mura's playhouse.

Against odds such as this, and with Weng Weng's life story ringing alarm bells loudly, these fingers at least are crossed for Mura's speedy recovery and return to the limelight.

For more Filipino Midget Madness, check out our DVD of the Weng Weng classic FOR YOUR HEIGHT ONLY, available from TLA Cult and Diabolik DVD.

Tuesday 17 April 2012

The Cinema Snob sneers at two Mondo Macabro classics.

Watch this faux-snotty internet reviewer poke fun at ALUCARDA and LADY TERMINATOR. Pretty funny.

As always, you can buy these DVDs from TLA Cult or Diabolik DVD.

Thursday 12 April 2012


I've noticed some minor consternation out there regarding some folks not being able to find certain Mondo Macabro titles. This has lead to wild speculation as to which DVDs may or may not be Out of Print. We changed distributors last year and the bugs are still being worked out as regards our complete catalog being available everywhere. To clear things up a bit, here's a the complete and official Mondo Macabro OOP List:

ASWANG - R Rated Cut
NTSC Region 1
Release Date: 08/26/2003
Original Distributor: Ventura
(Note that this is the the 'R-Rated Cut', not the 'Unrated Cut' which is still in print.)

NTSC Region 0
Release Date: 11/13/2004
Original Distributor: Ryko

NTSC Region 0
Release Date: 02/28/2006
Original Distributor: Ryko

NTSC Region 0
Release Date:10/25/2005
Original Distributor: Ryko

For the sake of thoroughness, and to please all the completest nerds out there, here's a list of MM's UK PAL DVDs, all of which are also now OOP.

PAL Region 0
Release Date: 07/30/2002

PAL Region 2
Release Date: 09/02/2002

PAL Region 0
Release Date: 11/03/2002

PAL Region 0
Release Date: 03/31/2003

PAL Region 0
Release Date: 07/30/2002

PAL Region 0
Release Date: 03/17/2003

PAL Region 0
Release Date: 03/17/2003

PAL Region 0
Release Date: 09/28/2002

To purchase Mondo Macabro products, you can go to TLA Cult and Diabolik DVD. If there's one you can't find at either site that's not on the above OOP list, just check around, you'll find a copy somewhere. Just don't pay outrageous prices for it. At some point, it'll get worked out and will be widely available again.

Monday 9 April 2012


The tentative release date for COUNTESS PERVERSE is June 12th. As always in this topsy-turvy world of constant tumult and change, MM reserves the right to postpone if necessary to get this DVD just right. But so far, so good ...

One important aspect of this release to note is that it will be the ONLY version to be have a licensed English language option (subtitles). There may be other DVDs of this film out there in the world, but this will be the only one us monolingual Americans will be able to understand.

All the attendant extra features have not yet been confirmed but one we can announce is a all-new filmed interview with actor Robert Woods, who stars in COUNTESS and a handful of other Franco films from the early-mid '70s as well as many , many spaghetti westerns. MM co-honcho Pete Tombs says that "Mr Woods was in good form and there are some fun stories about working with Franco, with whom he spent almost a year." Should be good stuff.

To warm yourself up, take a look at this online interview with Woods published a few years ago.

Saturday 7 April 2012

The Final Days of Onar Films

Last year our good friend Bill Barounis tragically died after a long battle with cancer. He left behind both a family and a large overstock of DVDs from his labor-of-love boutique label Onar Films. Thankfully, his friend Ali Murat Guven has endeavored to come to the aid of his grieving family by selling that overstock. I know there are many people who came late to the Onar party or simply weren't able to to pick up every discs at the time. Here's a chance to complete your collection and help out somone in need at the same time.

Here's Guven's statement on What and How:

This sale is for the Family of our friend Vasilis "Bill"... The money will be send to his family.

For the orders outside Turkey: buyers add/pay their shipment . All will send to you with PTT (turkish post) Tracking number system. Sending time for Turkey is 1 week and Outside Turkey is 2 weeks. You can contact onarfilms.lastfilms@yahoo.com.
For the signed posters you have to mention your names!.
Ali Murat Guven

PS: I will add details for all your questions...

Prices and the list of the movies
25 lira - 11 euro - 14 dolar
30 lira: 13 euro - 17 dolar

3 DEV ADAM (LAST 85 copy) / Price: 25 lira
With a small poster signed by Aytekin Akkaya

ÖLÜLER KONUŞMAZ Kİ / AŞKA SUSAYANLAR (İki filmli DVD / LAST 80 copy) / Price: 30 TL
With a small poster signed by Aytekin Akkaya


TARZAN İSTANBUL’DA (Last 90 COPY) / Price: 25 TL
With a small poster signed bu Kunt Tulgar

With a small poster signed bu Kunt Tulgar (director of the Supermen Donuyor)

KİLİNK İSTANBUL’DA (Last 30 COPY) / Price: 25 TL

KIZIL TUĞ: CENGİZ HAN (Last 75 COPY) / Price: 25 TL

ALTIN ÇOCUK (Last 90 COPY) / Price: 25 TL

CASUS KIRAN (Last 15 COPY) / Price: 25 TL

CELLAT (Last 5 COPY) / Fiyatı: 30 TL


This statement came sometime yesterday and I'd wager this no longer accurately reflect the numbers still in stock. Email for inquiries.

Bill was a man with a dream. He lived it, and he died with it. Keep that dream alive and order as many Onar DVDs as your wallet will allow.