December 18, 2012

Queer Review: Mondo Rocco (1970)

Mondo Rocco
Director: Pat Rocco
Writer: Pat Rocco
Cast: Rick Cassidy, Pat Rocco, Rev. Troy Perry, Ron Dilly, Jim Baily,

A rare and early queer documentary, with a few fictionalized soft core beefcake pieces inserted into, Mondo Rocc depicts a variety of random elements in early days of the gay liberation.

Mondo Rocco has several segments, most of them are documentary in nature, plus one fictionalized plot arc. There is footage of two different marches that were sponsored by the Rev. Troy Perry. "Meat Market Arrest" features a raid on a gay bar where a nude dancer was going to perform. "A Night at Joanie's" features a drag show staring Jim Baily who impersonates Mae West, Barbara Streisand, and Judy Garland. Another segment shows a live performance of the cast of Hair performing pieces from that play in a L.A. park. Interwoven into all of these are several beefcake shorts featuring copious male nudity.

The Queering
According to the cover of the VHS copy of Mondo Rocco that I was able to obtain, "Pat Rocco was the first openly gay American filmmaker to create gay-themed films for gay audiences". I do not know if that is true or not, but given what I do no of queer themed cinema from that time period, I have no reason to challenge that claim.

On one level, Mondo Rocco is an important film. On another level, it can be extremely boring to sit through. Some of the segments are entertaining (Night at Joanie's). Some present intriguing documentary material of the early gay liberation movement (Meat Market Arrest and the segments depicting two marches and a rally with the Rev. Troy Perry). However the soft core/beefcake segments, even if they had featured better looking actors, would still probably bore most people into stuporville. They certainly did for me. The segment with the cast of Hair feels particularly out of place, given the lack of gay or queer content.

The mondo genre of films was a type of documentary film that featured taboo or exploitative elements, such as showing animals being slaughtered for food or tribal initiation rites. Such films typically strayed into the pseudo-documentary realm by showing staged reenactments that hyped up the lurid elements. The only reason Mondo Rocco might be considered to a part of the mondo genre, is thanks to the beefcake segments, plus the nude dance that is shown as part of the "Meat Market Arrest" segment. Most of the material is tame, nor do most segments show any signs of having been hyped up. The only reason that certain elements, such as those that feature the marches of Rev. Troy Perry, might be considered titillating or lurid is because of the time period they were made in.

For those willing to take the time and effort (plus spend a bit of cash) the educational and historical value is unmatched.

Additional Info:
Mondo Rocco page at IMDB
Mondo Rocco at Queer Music Heritage

Want to find a review of a particular work? Check out the Title Index, the archive of all reviews posted listed alphabetically.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.