“Malamondo”: An elegant look at early-Sixties’ teenage angst and “way out youth,” Euro-style

By on September 5, 2016

The semi-obscure 1964 exploitation documentary Malamondo — included in Night Flight’s “Something Weird” collection, now streaming on Night Flight Plus — took two years to film, and focused on young Europeans, showing them having fun and hanging out, typically exploring their “customs” and hobbies in a way that isn’t too different from other “Mondo”-esque films of this type, like Mondo Hollywood.

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The film captures early 60s-era teenage angst by showing young people from a number of countries doing healthy activities like skiing nude in Switzerland, hot-butchering in Italy, and having an orgy in a graveyard. We also see Scottish girls hunting for a husband, a British motorcycle race to win a girl, and Parisian existentialists and German university students having deep thoughts.

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The Something Weird catalog describes the film thusly:

“War babies. They want to be different. They don’t want to belong to any mass society. They have their own-type clubs, their own ‘in’ groups.” Thus Malamondo, an elegant look at early-Sixties’ teenage angst and “way out youth,” Euro-style, set to the delirious musical musings of a young ENNIO MORRICONE! “Teenage swingers” ski in the nude in the Swiss Alps! (Skinny-skiing?) At a summer resort in Italy, “the children of the post-war rich” interrupt their boredom to play Who Wants-to-Slaughter-a Pig, and quickly learn that “waste and destruction aren’t so hip after all!” And students in Northern Italy race to the beach at lunch time and “let off steam” with a sea-side striptease!”

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If we haven’t convinced you to check it out yet, have a look and a listen to the film’s original strange, colorific trailer, which features maestro Ennio Morricone’s jazzy beatnik-friendly musical motifs and narrator Marvin Miller boldly intoning about “way out youth… frantically curiously searching for a way out… reckless, restless youth… out for kicks, anywhere they can find them…ready for anything… from freeloading to free love…uninhibited youth in an over-inhabited world… the pinned-down girls, the twilight boys… the after-dark girls… the wild and the willing.”

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The Italian version of Malamondo— presumably this version was distributed around Europe circa 1963 — was directed by Paolo Cavara, but the film was later adapted into English and that version was directed by Jack Lewis and had its U.S. premiere in San Francisco on October 16, 1964.

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Here’s a lengthy excerpt from the original New York Times review of the 79-minute long Malamondo from the week it opened in NYC:

AFTER such off-beat documentaries as Mondo Cane and Women of the World, it was inevitable that another such film would study the various tribal rites and behavior patterns, from the eccentric to the bizarre, of contemporary youth.

This is Malamondo, the documentary from Italy released by Magna Pictures, which, with an English narration, opened yesterday at the Palace and other houses.

Technically, in its excellent color photography and shrewdly juxtaposed flow of vignettes, this picture is impeccable. In content, much of it is interesting, some of it fascinating. Yet this reportedly authoritative close-up of troubled and rebellious youth remains skimpy and hollow in tone, even old-fashioned.

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In the first place, unlike the two predecessors, this picture consists entirely of footage shot in Europe. What about Oriental youngsters, not to say our own all-Americans, supposedly pace-setters for the world?

In any case, the picture starts with some students clustered at the feet of that elderly rebel, Bertrand Russell, then it fans out to show how European yearlings balk and relax in the post-World War II “hell” bequeathed by their elders. Says who, pray? Anyhow, the narrator does.

The film ends on a limply optimistic note, after an episode about suicide-bent young people in Sweden.

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All told, however, as a visual potpourri of off-beat human behavior, shrewdly arranged and with a surprise around every corner, much of  Malamondo is extremely absorbing.

Take, for instance, a colorful visit to a Paris “happening, where some young Bohemians cavort abandonedly.

Add, immediately, a powerful, quiet visit to the Dachau Museum by some German youngsters, obviously benumbed by the horrible mementos.

Next comes the slashing of a Heidelberg student’s cheek with a razor in order to produce the traditional scar.

Some of the film is obviously strong stuff, and the picture is laced throughout with amorously entwined couples in steamy close-ups.

One sequence, about some daring parachutists of both sexes, ends in an alcoholic orgy in a graveyard.

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Two of the best and most amusing chapters show some rather unattractive English girls parading with placards announcing free love, and be-being soundly dunked by jeering boys.

Then there is a highly colorful look at a Roman piazza where a rock ‘n’ roll quartet is improvising.

The picture’s two eye-openers, spilling over into sensationalism, are a brisk inspection of some nude Swiss skiers and an inspection of some homosexuals in a Montparnasse night spot.

As a shifting kaleidoscope trained on young unconventionals, Malamondo is long on color. We still maintain that it speaks not for today’s youth but strictly for itself.

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Popular Italian pop group Adriano Celentano and his Clan are seen at a sidewalk café with a huge crowd surrounding them, rehearsing and then performing the song “Sabato Triste” (“Sad Saturday Night”)

Some of the highlights from Morricone’s soundtrack include “Penso A Te“, “Twist delle zitelle” (“Twist of the spinsters”), “La Prima Volta“, “Sospesi Nel Cielo (2)“, “Muscoli Di Velluto“, “Questi vent’anni miei“, and Ken Colman singing the main theme to Malamondo, “Funny World” (which was later recorded by Astrud Gilberto and many others).

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Back cover of the original Malamondo LP, with liner notes by Arnold Shaw

Check out Malamondo and the rest of our “Something Weird” collection over on our Night Flight Plus channel.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, assistant editor for the When You Awake blog, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.