Up Yours Netherlands! The Mondoesque “This is America” (aka Jabberwalk) From 1977

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Hey Vanderbes, we didn’t build the statue!

For many of us over forty year old Americans, the children of the VHS explosion, we remember the notorious “Mondo” films well. Those sort of documentaries from Italy depicting acts of perverse cruelty and sexuality from all over the world were quite popular from the 1960s onwards and made their way from house to house to bootlegs when I was growing up in Philadelphia. If you have never seen them, you weren’t missing much as these “docs” existed only to shock you with sometimes real/sometimes staged footage of bestial violence, war, and torture framed as commentary on the sick nature of humanity. In our neighborhood, the Mondo films would only be surpassed in underground popularity of the even more wretched and even less cinematographic straight to video refuse offerings entitled “Faces Of Death,” a poorly strung together collection of real and fake clips of human and animal suffering that to this day represent the lowest point of the VHS bootleg craze.

Keeping in line with the Mondo films is the first mockumentary from Dutch director Romano Vanderbes, “This Is America” (originally released under the title, “Jabberwalk”). For ninety minutes, Vanderbes takes you to USA to show you the sick excesses of the world’s richest country in all it’s shocking glory because I guess we aren’t as civilized as red light district walking, sex-obsessed Dutchmen. The film promisingly begins with the dulcet sounds of The Dictators performing “America The Beautiful,” and then director Vanderbes immediately takes you to one of the most hallowed traditions in 1970s American culture, that of the demolition derby. The over narration (the star of the film) goes on and on about America’s obsession with the automobile, and I guess the demolition derby is that obsession gone wild. As is the Indianapolis 500, which Vanderbes shows in all its crash up glory as well. Little Romano must’ve been thrilled to have found the footage from what appears to be the 1973 race, as he presents a montage of horrific accidents that took the lives of drivers and crew members. After that dose of bodies being thrown about the tracks of downtown Indianapolis, we immediately cut to the real focus of “This Is America,” …the sex.

We are now at the 1975 “Miss All Bare America Pageant” where, as you guess it, a parade of robust, nude American women goes full frontal for fun and prizes. I’ll save you the suspense; the woman with the largest breasts wins the contest, and she proudly wears her sash between her two massive mammary glands. In the slight chance that a few women may be lurking in the audience of “This Is America” we are whisked away to a ladies club where rejects from Magic Mike “erotically” dance in front of a sea of Melissa McCarthy clones who seem bewildered by the scraggly mess of gyrating men jamming their covered manhood in their faces. OK, that’s it for the ladies as we then are transported to scenic Nevada for a tour of seedy cathouses, some that even come complete with airstrips for that trick on the go who needs his corporate rod smooched. After a trip some naughty American massage parlors (the Netherlands have none of these I imagine) and the Eros Awards (the Oscars for XXX film industry), the director reminds Americans of their fast food fascination by explaining to us the shocking exploitative meat origins of the “hot dog.” Next is a triptych through many of the religious foibles of America, the drive-up church, a Lutheran Church where the priest makes himself up as a clown before handing out the body of Christ, various corny Las Vegas wedding chapels, and an up-close and clearly fake peek into the day to day life of a Mormon man with twelve wives.  But then, it’s back to….the sex.

For those kinky folks on a budget who cannot afford a wooden pillory, we have “Rent A Dungeon” where the bored middle class can whip and rack each other into a sexual fantasy. And if that doesn’t shock you, then be prepared for the greatest shock of the entire “documentary,” a tour of an actual dildo factory! Maybe shock isn’t the right word, as I was more stunned by the fact that such things were once manufactured in the good old US of A and not Taiwan.  Yes, once in America, teams of middle-aged sexually frustrated women toiled away molding, carving, and shining some of the finest sexual prosthetics that the world has ever known. In this factory, a sexual laboratory once existed to make strides into gratification technology by creating not only dildos the size of a Cub Scout’s arm, but also items like the “Accu-Jack” a personal masturbation machine bears an almost Orwellian quality in modern  shape and efficiency. Sorry ladies but if you’re thinking that you get to see the aforementioned item used on a Channing Tatum, you are out of luck as we only get to see “Accu-Jack” tested on a mannequin with a painfully bored countenance.

This Is America/Jabberwalk Full Movie

What sets  “This Is America” apart from the predominance of the Mondo films is that it is more on the sex and less on the violence and the entire film is done with a funny; tongue-in-cheek over narration that highlights the ridiculousness of the presented footage. In its few moments of attempted seriousness, the doc gains an almost surrealistic quality as seen through current eyes that exults it into cult film status. After 25 years of bad reality television, “This Is America” stands as a jolly “video nasty” that would pulled out of many of 1980s teenaged boy’s backpack for the purpose of wowing his friends into thinking that he found the Holy Grail of naughty tapes. A watch well worth your time in 2015 if you can gather a group together for giggles or if you can go back in time to my friend Sam’s basement where many a Mondo screened after his mom and dad went to sleep.

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