Thursday, October 18, 2007

Mädchen Für Die Mambo Bar (1959, Germany)

Viennese-born Wolfgang Glück delivers a trashy film that commits an unforgivable sin: it bores. Released in the UK as Girls from the Mambo Bar and in the USA as $100 A Night, the film is dull under any title. A fucked-up hodgepodge of drugs, easy girls in atomic bras and tight sweaters, jealousy, international spying, attempted murder and music, the narrative itself is so skimpy that without the numerous second and third rate nightclub acts it would be a short film. But then, Mädchen Für Die Mambo Bar is a typical product of its time, when many a low budget (and bigger budgeted) German language film was little more than an excuse to string together a variety of Schlager. ("Schlager" = German for “Pop hit,” but the music it describes is less Pop music as we know it than a particularly atrocious music comparable, perhaps, to the crappy cocktails singers popular in the US during the 50s and early 60s.) Nowadays we have MTV and music videos; back then they had bad movies like this one. And in flicks like Mädchen Für Die Mambo Bar, the plot issecondary to the rest.
After the opening scene of the film’s lead druggie Olga (Kai Fischer, also found in perennial bad-film faves like Hard Times for Dracula (1959), Room 13 (1964) and Island of Death (1964)) getting attacked, the credit sequence of the horribly made-up woman cruising through the night underscored by Perez Prado’s infectious tune Mambo Jambo makes one think that the film might be fun in a bad way, this mistaken belief is quickly dispelled: as said before, the film may be in a bad way, but it ain’t fun.
But for one or two exterior scenes, the entire film is interior bound, the uninspired camera work seldom doing anything to liven up the dull proceedings. But for a few seriously presented trumpet playing scenes featuring the sleazy trumpet player Jimmy—who turns out to be the good guy (played by Jimmy Makuls, a Greek Schlager-singer who even had a successful spell in Las Vegas during the early 60s)—the musical numbers veer from being unbelievably horrible to inanely surreal. An all time low (high?) is reached with an odd ballet-inspired dance sequence to Mambo Jambo and a ridiculously laughable German-language presentation of Tom Dooley complete with twinkle-toed cowboys. (Actually, if cut from the film and strung together alone without sound, the dance numbers could be excellent back-wall projection decoration at some bar or disco.)
As might be expected from a film whose sole purpose is to present musical numbers, the inane plot is a confused mess which, when described, sounds far more exciting than it actually is. Olga is addicted to morphine, which she gets from the bar’s Italian owner named—of course—Martini (Rolf Kutschera). Martini gets his drugs by trading floor plans of buildings (embassies?) to some spy with diplomatic immunity. His daughter Eva (Gerlinde Locker), who doesn’t know that Martini is her father, comes to town to work for him, and falls for the trumpet player Jimmy, an undercover cop who had been bonking Olga. Eva has dreams of singing, and practices secretly with Jimmy, making Olga mad with jealousy. At Eva’s premiere, just as the police raid the bar in search of drugs and spies, a drugged-out Olga tries to kill Eva but is stopped by Martini, only to fall to her death. Then, while trying to escape, Martini is shot dead, leaving Eva and the trumpet player to walk off together into the night.
Mädchen Für Die Mambo Bar features legs, cleavage, make up over-kill and bad dancing, but nothing gels well enough to be any fun. Unlike the stills of the movie, which are oddly interesting to look at, the film itself is a painfully dull optical assault.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i would like to see that film!!