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  Jabberwalk Taste Of The Nation
Year: 1977
Director: Romano Vanderbes
Stars: Various, Ron Jeremy, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Holly Woodlawn
Genre: Documentary, TrashBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: This is America in the nineteen-seventies, where a new permissiveness and an anything goes attitude is prevalent, as we will witness over the next two hours of documentary footage. For starters, we see an object of worship for almost all of the nation is the automobile, and the fact that countless citizens die on the road in accidents is so widespread now that it barely gets mentioned in the media. Car shows have replaced the State Fairs, with various examples both of the serious variety and the more novel, including a vehicle which has a toilet roll holder next to the front seat. But it's perhaps the destruction of cars which captivates Americans most...

Before it gets too J.G. Ballard, it should be noted that Jabberwalk, also known as This is America or the more cumbersome Crazy Ridiculous American People, was a mondo movie, a genre which began in the sixties where the most outrageous footage the filmmakers could uncover was edited into a series of so-called shockumentaries. The Italians started it, but by 1977 when this came out plenty of countries had tried their hand at looking interesting through their outlandish practices, and as the format moved to television, efforts such as this were getting to be the last gasp of these compilations seen in the cinema.

Of course, a favourite trick of such works was to stage its footage so as to embroider the truth, and if that wasn't good enough they would simply make stuff up, all the better to bring in the punters who thought they had seen it all but wanted to prove to themselves just how surprised (or titillated) they could be. Thus director Romano Vanderbes, whose career was pretty much made up of these things of which this was his first, illustrating that there must have been some kind of market even on video into the nineties, assembled his sequences both found and "recreated", starting with the cars. There's footage here purporting to be from the Indianapolis 500 where a race was stopped and started four times due to fatalities, which simply isn't true.

The footage is real enough, but Vanderbes was exaggerating muchly when he told us this, referring to the 1973 race parts of which are used here, though seasoned mondo movie fans were wont to expect this from the medium. Mostly there's a snide prurience about what we see, especially when we get into the sexual side of the film, as if they were saying yes, hedonism is here to stay and you will soon to be able to buy sexual material, or even sex itself, as simply as picking up the groceries. You could argue the internet made that come true to an extent, but only in a voyeuristic fashion which aptly Jabberwalk provided to those grindhouse denizens with its Miss All-Bare America or porno movie awards featuring the inevitable Ron Jeremy.

He was not the sole famous face to be seen, as Arnold Schwarzenegger made a brief appearance body building, but largely these were anonymous people we were seeing, presented as obsessed with sex, cars and junk food. A grotesque parody of the United States or with a kernel of truth? That was up to you to decide, but with a section on religion displaying a drive-in church, a boy preacher who faith heals, and a patently manufactured bunch of Satanists holding a black mass, you could say the spiritual aspect was lacking. Then again, that depended on just how seriously you took this, with the seventies reputation as a tacky, coarse, free and easy decade which existed before the eighties made things paradoxically grimmer and more glitzy simultaneously not exactly denied here. From a drive-through funeral to a dildo factory (suggesting you buy a penis-shaped eraser for the end of your secretary's pencil) to male "go-go" dancers (one of whom a dead ringer for Saddam Hussein - surely not) and prostitutes galore, this was sleaze with a steely grin.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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