Fulvue Drive-In.com
Current Reviews
In Stores Soon
In Stores Now
DVD Reviews, SACD Reviews Essays Interviews Contact Us Meet the Staff
An Explanation of Our Rating System Search  
Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Variety > Skits > Surrealism > TV > Mr. Mike’s Mondo Video (1979/Shout! Factory DVD)

Mr. Mike’s Mondo Video (1979/Shout! Factory DVD)


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: C+     Main Program: B-



A spoof of the ever-cult favorite Mondo Cane film series, Michael O’Donoghue was trying to create a show that would rotate with Saturday Night Live (one for every three SNLs) and be a new kind of comedy show that would stretch the surrealism, free form, eccentricity and counterculture feel SNL and other such shows had pioneered with Mr. Mike’s Mondo Video (1979), a pilot he worked very hard to make.  An ambitious project, the amazing guest cast includes original SNL cast members Gilda Radner, Dan Aykroyd, Jane Curtin, Bill Murray, Laraine Newman, plus Judy Jackin, Teri Garr, Carrie Fisher, Deborah Harry, Joan Hackett, Margot Kidder, Wendie Malick, Paul Shaffer (who supplied the amusing score) and the singer/performance artist Klaus Nomi.  So what happened?  NBC rejected it and refused to show it!


Instead, the show (despite being shot on low definition NTSC vide of the time) was actually transferred to 35mm film and released nationwide in movie theaters!  This has been rarely done with taped material, but the makers hoped they might have a hit.  However, running 75 minutes and looking only poor, the release flopped and without a major cable, satellite or home video infrastructure to go through, faded away for a while.  After some brief video releases, it would fade away again, but it has finally found its way to DVD and in its native format looking better than ever is a more important work that its reputation would have you believe.


For example, in one of the most interesting moments I remember well, a solo Sid Vicious in a film clip singing his remake of the Paul Anka-penned, Frank Sinatra hit “My Way” done in a new arrangement so radical that for whatever reasons, they would not give the rights to O’Donoghue and company to use the audio.  We hear the music when he finishes singing and after words across the screen explain why the audio is missing, but film fans will note that the song appears in its entirety as the end-credits closing song in Martin Scorsese’s GoodFellas.



Writers O’Donoghue, Mitch Glazer, Emily Prager and Dick Wittenborn, all of whom also show up in the various skits, were pushing TV’s limits even more than before with the sexual, racial and political content, plus the highly absurd humor only make it more of a gem.  They were working freely just before that time, opportunity and door would close so tight on TV that it would regress in a way it still has never recovered from.  I could see why NBC might censor some of the shots, but why they did not just authorize a few more shows to see where they group was going with this is one of the biggest mistakes in the network’s history.  Maybe they could have shown it after an SNL broadcast.  No skit show or other such show since has been as daring and only the likes of Family Guy or even The Simpsons could be considered a successor of sorts, give or take DEVO Music Videos.


As noted, the 1.33 X 1 image was shot on analog videotape, though some of the older footage is film.  That this was actually put into theaters is amusing and shows the limits of exhibition back then with no cable or home video firmly established.  All in all, it is very off-beat down to its editing, but at least it did not try to look like Saturday Night Live.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono shows its age, but is pretty good considering and the combination has been transferred as well as can be expected for its age.  Extras include excerpts from Saturday Night Live with Mr. Mike’s Least-Loved Bedtime Tales (1976 – 77), Bill Murray’s on-air eulogy for Michael O’Donoghue (1994) and a really good audio commentary track by Co-Writer Mitch Glazer.  Mr. Mike’s Mondo Video is worth a good look.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


 Copyright © MMIII through MMX fulvuedrive-in.com