"Mondo Video" was conceived as a summer replacement series for "Saturday Night Live," produced by Lorne Michaels and written and hosted by SNL and "National Lampoon" veteran Michael "Mr. Mike" O'Donoghue. A pilot was shot and rejected by NBC as being too disturbing even for late night. Michaels and O'Donoghue took the pilot to Showtime who showed it...once, then canceled any plans to pursue the series. The show had a very low-key history after that. Showtime showed it again years later just to reassert rights to it. It had a limited VHS release that was marred by Paul Anka (but more on that later), and had a couple of 35mm prints thrown for the festival circuit.
My mother managed to tape the original showing back in 1979, and it's been one of my greatest guilty pleasures. Now, to celebrate its 30th anniversary, it's finally been released on DVD, and to some degree I wish it hadn't been.
The loss of Sid Vicious' performance of "My Way" is understandable, as Paul Anka had blocked its being included in the VHS release, and it looks like they didn't even attempt to try to get the rights this time around as they just reused the scroll from the VHS version, to the point of referring to "this videotape." The loss of one of my favorite segments was a letdown, even if an understandable one.
However, the real problem with this release is the nearly 25 minutes of previously unused material has been restored to the show with the DVD release. With few exceptions (such as a bizarre little piece called "Pat Nixon And The Mondo Video Dancers") the restored material is terrible. Like Saturday Night Live then (and now), the original NBC pilot of "Mondo Video" suffered from the need to fill 90 minutes of material when the writers only had about 45 good minutes. The 50-minute edit aired by Showtime, and beloved by me for 30 years now, shows how much better Lorne and Mike worked when they needed to edit the final product. I don't think there's a single wasted second in the Showtime version of the show, but there are whole sketches (like "Crowd Scene" and two "Dream Sequences") on this DVD that drag on for no good reason. The DVD should have offered the Showtime edit, with the extra sketches as "deleted scenes" instead of re-editing them in.
On the bright side, the DVD also has three of O'Donoghue's "Mr. Mike's Least Loved Bedtime Stories" and Bill Murray's eulogy for O'Donoghue, which by themselves are really worth the cheap purchase price of the DVD. But, really, this "restored version" is probably the biggest hatchet job since Ted Turner considered colorizing the first 10 minutes of "The Wizard of Oz."
Five stars for 90% of the material, negative one star for the final product, averaging out to two stars. A pleasure and a disappointment at the same time. A very mondo effect from a very mondo video.