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Exploitation Life: Mondo Squallido celebrates cult cinema in the U.K.

Peter Davies is a diehard exploitation obsessive from the U.K. whose blog and YouTube channel, Mondo Squallido, is a treasure trove of action, horror and cult film knowledge, all delivered with a fun sense of humor and a keen sense of visual style. Davies combines music, art and film in his discussion of cult film, all the while ensuring that the ride-whether it's being delivered via video or the written word-is clever and fun as hell. Peter's a busy chap, of course, but that didn't stop the man from sharing some insight into his world of cult film fandom, and the inner workings of the Mondo Squallido empire. Read on and enjoy!

Mondo Squallido
Mondo Squallido
Peter Davies

Hey Peter! Thanks for speaking with us! I'm a huge fan of what you're doing with the blog, YouTube channel...pretty much everything in which you have a creative hand! "Great minds think alike," they say, and I think we definitely share similar tastes when it comes to cult film and music. What came first for you: music or film, and did you grow up the way many cult film fans do, watching horror, slasher and monster movies as a kid?

Hey George, thank you very much for the kind words! Thank you for the opportunity to ramble on innately! I actually didn't grow up on a diet of horror movies actually but I always (like most kids I guess) loved to rent movies from the local rental shop which was also just a regular grocery shop so it would be rude not to rent films! I do however remember renting films like The Willies and Lady In White a lot with my mum. I mainly grew up with music. My dad would always have records playing so I was having what I consider a good musical “education” growing up. I think that's why now, a score in a film can be more of a focus than the film itself for me.

What sort of music did you gravitate towards as a youngster? I've noticed you wearing a Black Flag shirt in one of your videos...did the punk rock scene have a big impact on how you viewed underground music and culture, and did its inherent DIY aesthetic additionally influence you when it came time to do your own creative ventures?

My dad is a big lover of The Smiths and Lloyd Cole so I grew up mainly listening to a lot of 80's to early 90's indie music but I also fell in love The Beatles, especially the more profound stuff like Strawberry Fields. It wasn't until I was about 15 that I started to get lost in the world of punk. My dad had bought my mum The Essential Clash compilation, for some reason I stole it, listened to it and fell in love with The Clash. The whole ethos of you and your friends getting together and creating something even though you may not even be able to play an instrument had a profound effect on me. The I started to explore than just the music, the attitude, the creativity in general and the idea of not being happy with what's around you and speaking out. Overall, I have always made a point of looking everywhere for new and interesting music and creative outlets and I think it's something that has stayed with me and comes through in some of my own projects.

Is Mondo Squallido your first foray into blogging/commenting/criticism, what-have-you, or did you do a fanzine or other creative writing when you were younger? What did you study in school? Did you write much at that time?

The first blog I had was under the name I used for design work, AnotherClichedDesign and I would mainly write about illustrators, pieces of design and music. I did initially study Graphic Design but the course I was on wasn't great plus I didn't like how the industry for the most part depends on vector graphics, it was too clean for me. I went on the dole for 2 years and that's when my love for film really shone out so I took a gamble on applying for a Film Studies course and was genuinely surprised they accepted me. Once I started to explore cinema the way I did music I really got caught up in it, I regret not being like this during my childhood but better late than never! I started the Mondo Squallido after I started the series but I was already touching on films then in my writing so it wasn't much of a transition. I never really used to write but I would be constantly drawing and using any excuse to illustrations whenever possible. I wish I would have got involved in zines a lot more too but I'm making up for lost time I suppose!

Have you always lived in the UK, and if so, did the Video Nasty scare affect what I assume was a growing appreciation for trash film and culture? Did you do a lot of trading overseas, and do you think that these films being blacklisted in turn create this cult of personality around these films, thus making them even more "cult" and popular amongst British film fans?

Growing up in the UK in the 90's, I missed all of that and I actually missed the VHS collecting days too but I look back and think how crazy yet beneficial it is now, I mean all of these films that were banned are now getting the appreciation some would have probably not gotten otherwise. Of course the political and moral element aggravates me but it is fun hearing stories of friends and their experiences growing up during that time.

I love that idea of trading with overseas friends, that idea of owning something that even to this day is banned in your own country, of course it's not as “dangerous” now but still great looking up and seeing the fully uncut version of Cannibal Holocaust on your shelf.

I always remember seeing the Vipco DVDs with black covers and big gold writing and seeing words like “flesh”, “dead” and “blood” and thinking how genuinely scary they could be, of course nowadays you know 9 times out of 10 it's a cheese fest!

Do you remember any specific moments when appreciation of this lowbrow, exploitation culture hit you? Was there a point when "traditional" horror and gore simply weren't enough and your taste turned to foreign obscurities, violent gangster films and sexploitation?

Like I said, I didn't really grow up watching the classics and I think it was in my mid teens when I started to just get bored of what was in cinemas and being released on DVD. I always remember my friends and I would go to DVD shops and look for the dirt cheap looking films that we knew where going to be awful but in a good way. Thanks to this I discovered titles like Driller Killer, Shivers and Nightmares in a Damaged Brain. I remember when Last House on the Left was being re released and asking my mum to pick it up whilst we where food shopping and taking it home and watching the events fold out. It was these titles and the internet when my journey looking for trash truly began. Admittedly it's only been the past 5 years or so that I have truly explored the more obscure and exploitative gems.

When, then, did you first germinate the idea to start up Mondo Squallido? What were your goals at first: just a simple blog to shout out your thoughts and musings?

I was bored with the content I was putting out on my YouTube channel and was sick of all of these nasty, violent and pornographic films getting reviewed on YouTube but most of the reviewers would be too coy in their descriptions. I was getting to know so many people like Robin Bougie, the infamous (if you are a YouTuber) GenkiSlave and people like that who where talking in great detail about these sorts of films (little did I know how many people I would get to know!). That's when I thought “someone needs to show these titles more appreciation.” and that's when I did my very low brow first episode using an app on my phone called 8mm which gave it a genuinely grainy look. The blog only came later and then I thought “Mondo Squallido? That sounds good! I will use that for everything now!”

At what point did you start shooting videos for YouTube, and what's the general process? Are there any subjects you generally prefer to approach via blog and others on video?

When it comes to videos, I'm all over the place, sometimes I will put out 3 in a day and sometimes 1 in a couple of weeks. It's not as disorganized as it used to be but I still sometimes think “Nah, I'll save that for the blog!”. The blog itself is for when I'm really in the mood to write. It's still something I need to work on more but I think it's a great place to post the projects like Ultimate Cinemageddon. Overall, I don't really think there is a structure on either in terms of content. Sometimes it's easier to make a video and sometimes it's easier just to write about it. When I do my Mondo Squallido videos, I think that's the only time I am really intensive with editing, other videos are much more free form but with Mondo reviews, there's a script, ripping DVD footage and then much more detailed editing. Luckily, the nature of those reviews means the quality can be low and I have much more freedom in terms of making mistakes.... Which is always nice!

How would you generally classify Mondo Squallido? Fan blog? Fanzine? Webseries? All of the above? I, for one, appreciate the critique and writing/reviews present in both the blog and video mediums...have you done any writing for other magazines or blogs?

I think generally Mondo Squallido is my creative identity. I want to have Mondo Squallido as a sort of brand or its own entity.

I am in the middle of prepping an upcoming zine and would love to use the Mondo Squallido name for when I start to actually produce and distribute my own films in the future. Whatever I do creatively, I will use the Mondo Squallido name. As of right now my only real contributions I have made to other publications where a few reviews for Weng's Chop which my published in the upcoming issue and I am currently working on something with Brian from Weng's. I think once I have finished my studies, I can concentrate more on getting Mondo Squallido out there.

What are the film genres towards which you most gravitate? Italy seems to be a particular favorite of yours, as it is mine...what countries do you think really deliver the goods when it comes to exploitation and cult film?

Italian cinema is for me an area I can always fall back on when I need something to watch and know I will have a good experience. Right now I am really investing my time (and money) in to giallo and poliziotteschi cinema. Of course another passion is exploitation cinema in general so I try and get the stuff that's a little harder to find because there are titles that I can pick up from my local supermarket any time. I'm guilty of shopping online and taking a gamble on titles because they are at a great price. I think because there were literally hundreds of genre films being produced yearly in Italy back in the day, it's hard for me not to buy that stuff on a weekly basis but that being said, I have a passion for modern European contemporary cinema but I'm sure you will agree, next month I could obsess over something completely different.

You've done some music mixes on the blog, as well, all containing material near and dear to my heart. Classic drive in movie trailers and radio spots, blaxploitation funk, acid jazz, adult cinema tunes and 80s electro dance madness all make the Ultimate Cinemageddon comps essential listening. Do you think it's fair to say that Ultimate Cinemageddon attempts a sonic replication of 42nd St. of sorts? Everything sleazy, groovy and far out?

The thing about that stuff is, there are countless people with much more talent in production who are doing that but I very rarely hear them mixing all those components together, it's usually purely music, purely radio spots and trailers and so on. In a way I am making them for myself first and they are really fun to make. The journey of sourcing new material is fun too, I can invest hours at a time scouring a soundtrack blog I have found. I also think that my lack of audio production skills also adds to the affect of my compilations and mixes, the sound levels and quality differ a lot between sources and whenever I can I will include stuff ripped from the film in question instead of using a remastered piece. Sometimes it works but sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes they are rushed but again, it's a reflection of the films I'm using the music, excerpts or trailers from.

Where to next, Peter? You remain active with the blog and continue to post YouTube reviews. I've heard that a print fanzine might be on the horizon, Mondo Violento? What can you tell us of your print aspirations?

Right now my creative exploits are being cut back a tiny bit with the final pieces of work I have to complete for my studies but I always thinking of new content and making notes. I will always make videos, when I have spare time I work on mass on my own projects so there will always be content I suppose. In terms of plans, the Mondo Squallido reviews will remain because they are fun to make, the blog needs more posts up there so I'm thinking of exclusive blog only content I can create. I am hoping to also start shooting some of my scripts within the next few months and yes, I am working on a zine I want to publish called Mondo Violento which will focus mainly on crime cinema, TV and literature. The great thing about that is, I can talk about Italian crime in one article, my favourite Miami Vice episodes in other and then talk about modern crime TV after that. I was initially going to do it purely on my own but I think it would be beneficial for the process if I had guys like yourself contributing but at this point it's still being planned out and I'm researching the best ways to actually produce it so it will at least cover the potential costs, dependent on how it pans out, would be great to have it as a monthly thing!

What are your thoughts on how print media has changed over the years, versus the influx of online fans and critics? Do you think that the print-on-demand method of places like Amazon are a way to save those who wish to keep the print dream alive?

Well I have always been interested in print media. One of the benefits about my Graphic Design studies was having access to creative people who still produce and distribute their content on paper.

I'm really glad to see that there are folks from the zine days getting back in to producing physical zines and contributing with others. I think one of the best examples of print on demand working is Weng's Chop.

I would shudder to think how much that would cost to produce that monster physically! Of course, I'm not aware of the costs of Createspace but it has to be so much more affordable. Hopefully, this will show the doubters that there is a place for printed media. When it comes to blogs and websites where anyone can review content, that's a great thing but at the same time it can get over-saturated plus it's easier than ever to make a point of putting someone down online. I do think it's vital though because I trust film fans on their blogs of self made publications before what an established critic has to say.

Final plans, thoughts and words are yours, Peter! Thanks again for taking the time to speak with us, and keep up the fantastic work!

Thank you for the opportunity and hope I haven't waffled on too much. Plans for now? Get my studies finished so I can finally start to have creative drive with personal projects. My final words I would like to say are if a guy like me can get content produced and have my voice heard, then you should too and if you have a project you should share it with the world because it's a much more interesting world that way! That was lame I know but I'm terrible at saying goodbye!

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