Mondo Mania! Lee Frost & Bob Cresse’s strange and sick “Mondo Bizarro” & “Mondo Freudo”

By on May 28, 2019

We’ve recently expanded our “mondo” cult classic collection on Night Flight Plus by adding two decidedly NSFW titles from Severin Films: Mondo Bizarro and Mondo Freudo.

Both films — from notorious exploitation auteurs Lee Frost and Bob Cresse — have been scanned in 4k from the original Something Weird 35mm vault negatives.

Usually distributed together, beginning in August of 1966, both titles claim to show strange rituals and sickening practices across the world,  mixing documentary and mockumentary footage filmed clandestinely with “hidden” cameras.

Some of what we see, however, was actually staged at their Olympic International Pictures studios, located on the Sunset Strip in L.A.

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An omniscient narrator in both films describes somewhat salacious behavior we’re told is typically filtered from our view (“To the worm in the cheese, the cheese is the universe”).

Frequently, genitals on full-frontal display are obscured by film-scratched “censor bars” (sometimes it’s just the model’s eyes).

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Mondo Bizarro — set within a “world of beauty, sensuality and repulsion”exposes “Bahamian voodoo rites, Japanese massage parlors, Nazi theater, and an Arab sex slave auction (that looks suspiciously like LA.’s Bronson Canyon).”

The film offers up a voyeuristic view of voodoo rituals (involving a chicken with its throat slit), and a Puerto Rican black mass performed “just seventeen blocks off Times Square!”

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We also see a massage parlor patron being massaged with a dozen raw eggs, Japanese strippers being abused in a nightclub “dedicated to sadism,” and go behind-the-scenes at Frederick’s of Hollywood’s mail-order lingerie business.

In other sequences, a young eventually-topless girl is brutally whipped in a faked Nazi performance art piece, and we see human pincushion Jack Schwartz sticking long nails in his skin and laying on a bed of nails.

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We also see Artists Against the Vietnam War protestors clashing with pro-war sickos on L.A.’s Sunset Strip, and vacationing college students enjoying harmless fun during Spring Break on Balboa Island (near Southern California’s Newport Beach) but still being hassled by the cops.

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Mondo Freudo (“The World of Freud”), meanwhile, features “Hollywood strippers, Tijuana hookers, London lesbians, Times Square Satanists and topless Watusi clubs.”

As a cameraman sets up a long, telephoto lens high up in the cliffs above Southern California’s Pacific Palisades, our narrator tells us he’s “…our eyes to peer into ‘Mondo Freudo, a Freudian world of sex and sex symbols and the strange and unusual laws that govern them.”

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Read more about Lee Frost and Bob Cresse below.

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In Big Bosoms and Square Jaws: The Biography of Russ Meyer, King of the Sex Film (2005), author Jimmy McDonough describes Lee Frost (b. August 15, 1935, in Globe, Arizona) and Bob Cresse (b. June 19, 1936, in Sarasota, Florida) as a study in contrasts.

Frost is described simply as “soft-spoken,” but McDonough describes Cresse as “a bug-eyed, sawed-off runt who looked like a cross between Erich von Stroheim and one of those carnival-prize chalk dogs from days gone by.”

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Bob Cresse on the set of Love Camp 7 (1969)

Cresse also liked to wear a Nazi uniform, showing up in one on the set of his sadistic torture-filled saga Love Camp 7 (1969), which anticipated the Nazisploitation ouevre of Ilsa movies and equally-tasteless Italian cash-ins.

Despite employing two full-time bodyguards, he also carried a pistol, and according to a possibly apocryphal story Russ Meyer liked to tell, he once stuck it in a deadbeat film exhibitor’s mouth to get him to pay up.

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Both men ended up in Southern California in the late ’50s, Frost to direct commercials before lensing his first “nudie cutie” Surftide ’77 in 1962.

As an actor, Cresse starred in Frost’s sexploitation horror comedy House on Bare Mountain (“The Nudies Meet the Nasties!”).

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Inspired by the success of Meyer’s The Immoral Mr. Teas, Frost and Cresse formed their Olympic International Pictures film production and distribution company in Los Angeles in the early ’60s.

They focused mostly on lurid low-budget exploitation flicks, everything from black & white “roughies” to European Art House films (into which they added inserted graphic sex scenes).

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Their first mondo film was the Italian-made World By Night No. 2 (1963), which they re-cut and dubbed into English, releasing it released theatrically in the U.S. as Ecco in October 1965.

It’s also available in our Severin Films collection.

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Frost and Cresse eventually split up in 1969.

Frost went on to work with AIP and Crown, writing the screenplay (with Wes Bishop) for the Peter Fonda-Warren Oates occult thriller Race with the Devil (1975), which he was originally slated to direct.

He did direct include The Pick-Up (1968), Chrome and Hot Leather (1971), The Thing with Two Head (1972), The Black Gestapo (1975), and Dixie Dynamite (1976), among other features.

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Cresse ran Republic Amusements and Counselor Films, briefly.

McDonough also tells how Cresse — just as he was about to begin production of Ilsa She-Wolf of the S.S. — was inside an adult bookstore when he saw two men roughing up a woman outside.

Pistol in hand, he charged out to confront them, shouting that he was calling the cops, but they yelled back “We are the cops!”

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One of the two men — undercover vice cops arresting a prostitute — then shot Cresse in the stomach, and also shot and killed Cresse’s dog.

Cresse never worked again and, because he didn’t have health insurance, his long hospital stay depleted most of his savings.

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Cresse was 61 when he died of a heart attack in 1998 in Miami, Florida; Frost was 71 years old when he passed in New Orleans in 2007.

Watch Mondo Bizarro, Mondo Freudo and other selections from our Severin Films collection on Night Flight Plus.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, 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.