Who would’ve though in 1975 when “Saturday Night Live” debuted that it would still be on the air 37 years later? It’s come pretty close to getting cancelled from time to time, but yet the show has endured. One of the show’s original writer’s was Michael O’Donoghue…he even appeared in the show’s debut skit as the English teacher who teaches John Belushi how to say, “I would like to feed your fingertips to the wolverines.” In 1979, after the show had become quite popular, O’Donoghue was called upon to create a comedy special that could air in SNL’s place on one of the show’s off weeks. However, NBC dubbed the final result inappropriate for network TV. Enter the, at the time, small independent studio New Line Pictures, which gave the film a theatrical release. It’s a strange spoof of the mondo movie craze, “Mr. Mike’s Mondo Video.”
The movie, shot on video, has no plot. It is a series of short vignettes strung together with the premise of being a documentary about bizarre and disturbing things around the world. O’Donoghue himself serves as host. Many of these skits are, not surprisingly, very much like the skits you would see on SNL at the time and even feature several of the show’s cast members.
Among the skits is a look at a church that worships “the Lord,” as in Jack Lord, star of “Hawaii Five-0.” Dan Aykroyd plays the Hawaiian shirt wearing preacher. Another brief segment examines a Paris restaurant that exists to treat American customers poorly. Toward the end of the film is a segment that features the inhabitants of a remote island being air-lifted supplies of America’s discarded pop culture fads. The people end up worshiping lava lamps. Some of the funniest bits are actually one or two line little teasers of some of the bizarre things Mr. Mike and his team of “top Italian journalists” have been investigating. “Christmas on Other Planets,” “Nazi Oven Mitts,” “Radioactive Lingerie,” and “Gig Young’s Groceries” are just a few of the shocking things hinted at.
A pretty funny bit is all about how “American Girls Love Creepy Men.” It features a variety of stars telling the unusual things they like in a man. Among the ladies are stars like Margot Kidder, Carrie Fisher, Teri Garr, Wendie Malick, and SNL cast members Jane Curtain, Gilda Radner and Laraine Newman.
In between several of the skits is a narrative about Mr. Mike trying to obtain footage of a top-secret new weapon being developed by the military. After several failed attempts, he eventually obtains the film labeled “Laser Bra 2000.” The aged black and white footage shows female soldiers doing just what you expect…wearing bras that shoot lasers.
There are also several less inspired bits that seem like desperate attempts to fill time. At one point, Dan Aykroyd confesses to being a mutant and displays his actual webbed toes. There are also several “dream sequences” that are just plain incoherent. Thrown in are a few musical numbers, including Root Boy Slim performing “Boogie till you Puke,” and Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols performing “My Way.” This segment is especially bizarre since existing copies of this film have the actual audio muted during Sid’s performance since the owners of “My Way” refused to give permission to use the song.
The film has several laugh-out-loud funny moments, and just as many unforgivably stupid moments. There were times when I honestly felt like I was watching public access television, with extremely poor production value and scripting that may very well have been scribbled on a gum wrapper 3 minutes before it was shot.
“Mr. Mike’s Mondo Video” is definitely hit-or-miss. Even at a little over an hour in length, it tests the viewer’s patience…luckily leaving a few laughs for those willing to cut it some slack. In the end, while there are segments of the film that succeed, I couldn’t help but think that they would’ve been just as well, if not better, had O’Donoghue developed them as skits for “Saturday Night Live.”