For Italians, ‘mondo’ means the world.
For cineastes, ‘mondo’ refers to the exploitative Euro-sleaze pseudo-documentaries depicting scores of topless women, tribal rituals and true carnage. ‘Mondo Cane’ established the formula (although I hold a fondness for ‘Ecco’ with its toothsome footage of reindeer castration.)
For collectors, ‘mondo’ refers to Austin-based company, Mondo Tees, who design limited-edition movie poster screen prints (plus, T-Shirts, vinyl & VHS releases) featuring classic and contemporary films for a covetous global fan base.
When I first attended Fantastic Fest, Mondo Tees ran a small shop out of its home base, the Alamo Drafthouse Lamar. (Alamo is its parent company.) Under the creative guidance of Justin Ishmael, Mitch Putnam and Rob Jones, Mondo has grown into its own gallery space and become an entity worthy of its own convention —
Which must have been part of the game plan from the outset: ‘Mondo Cane’/’MondoCon’. C’mon!
I had the privilege of attending the first MondoCon, held at the Austin Film Society. It was like stepping into an alternate universe. I’ve never encountered so many people who prized Baron Munchausen, The Iron Giant and Howard the Duck — much less knew about them.
Almost equally astonishing to me: a 13% oak-aged English Pale Ale brewed for the fest by Dogfish Head — that quickly sold out. Sigh. It was too brief an encounter, “Mondo Beer.”
Weekend passes gave people the opportunity to buy limited edition prints and vinyl, as well as attend a variety of panels that mostly dealt with lost masterpieces — the never-weres, the contenders that could have been:
‘2001: The Lost Score’ (which Mondo released on vinyl.) The daughter-in-law of late composer, Alex North, told of the backbreaking work he put into creating an original score for ‘2001’, and of Stanley Kubrick’s devastating deception. It wasn’t until watching the premiere screening that Mr. North discovered that his work had been scrapped for the now-iconic classical temp tracks.
‘Godzilla 1983’. Storyboards showed what was meant to be Godzilla’s first cinematic step onto American soil, with F/X by Rick Baker.
And my favorite — the insanely amusing anime-that-wasn’t: Geoff Darrow’s ‘Shaolin Cowboy.’ Darrow is the gifted artist for comic classics ‘Hard Boiled’ and ‘The Big Guy and Rusty the Robot’.
‘Shaolin Cowboy’ was being produced by the Wachowski siblings as a follow-up to their hugely successful ‘AniMatrix’. It’s the tale of a schlubby Master who tries to repay the woman who kindly covered his dinner tab — and ends up in the middle of a gang war between a 5-headed mafioso and a vengeful crab. Throw in a talking poodle, a donkey and a zombie horde, and it’s one hell of a missed masterpiece.
But MondoCon is about more than what never was. Other panels shared the work that goes into realizing a limited edition movie poster print, or a toy model.
And the grand cappers to each day were separate admission screenings of ‘Ghost in the Shell,’ ‘Total Recall’, ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’, and the world premiere of ‘FUTURE SHOCK! The Story of 2000 AD’ where attendees received a limited-edition poster print or vinyl pressing.
I thought spending $80 to doze through ‘Ghost in the Shell’ sounded insane, but look at the beautiful foil print given to attendees:
The above image doesn’t capture the foil’s full effect: light makes rainbow-hued arcs shoot across the graphic design. In my opinion, the poster contains more color and action than the film. Within minutes, it was selling on eBay for $350-$475.
OK. Maybe all the attendees weren’t really fans of Munchausen and Howard. Maybe some were speculators. But anything that adds value to these genre properties can’t be bad. Especially when the outcome looks so glorious.