Friday, February 1, 2013

Mountain of the Cannibal God (IT, 1978)

I recently discussed this film with an online buddy and wanted to point him towards my little blog review here, just to notice that I had a review online on my older, now-defunct Hammer Glamour site but that I hadn't actually transferred it over yet. The review is a few years old and I haven't done anything in touching it up.

Amongst the general public horror movies have a pretty bad reputation. Splatter movies are considered even worse. Italian Splatter productions will raise more than just a few eyebrows, but admitting to watch Italian Cannibal movies with their ultra-gory effects scenes and real-life animal slaughter will have you hounded by PETA and is considered by most to be just one step ahead of a snuff enthusiast. God only knows so what caused real stars such as Ursula Andress and Stacy Keach to appear in one of these oeuvres but I guess we all have our bills to pay. Both actors could hardly have hoped to expand their fan audience by making a film clearly aimed at a very niche market.

Andress plays the wife of a researcher who went missing in the jungles of New Guinea. She goes in search of her husband with the help of adventurer Stacy Keach and under background tunes of Italo Pop musicians Guido & Maurizio De Angelis ("Oliver Onions"), stumbling across the occasional tribe or two of cannibals along the way. Not much in the line of surprises so but then again a decent story was usually the last thing on cannibal fans’ minds.What is on most cannibal fans’ minds, however, is the quality of the gore scenes. Though most of the natives seem to happily munch away any chance they get, it is usually animals they eat. The actual cannibalism occurs mainly towards the end of the movie. One especially nasty sequence that is often cut from available prints is a very realistic castration scene.

Director Sergio Martino leaves no stone unturned when it comes to showing animal snuff: Throughout the entire film we are constantly reminded that this is a dog-eat-dog kinda world and get to watch natives ripping apart a lizard or a snake slowly suffocating a monkey. In an Anchor Bay DVD Martino was asked about the latter scene and commented that this scene happened naturally while walking past the snake, and that he in actual fact did nothing but hold the camera in order to film nature at play. Following this claim the interviewers then presented Martino with clips of film that clearly showed that the monkey was thrown at the snake for dubious entertainment’s sake. Somehow Natural Geographic never had to resort to these means for their documentaries. Needless to say after that stunt Martino will hardly be available for future interviews of the kind.

Looking at the bright side: Andress does have two nude scenes. In the second one she is covered in white paint by some of the tribe women. Much to the male viewers’ delight, Bo Derek a few years later suffered a similar fate in her husband's, John Derek's, adaptation of Tarzan, the Ape Man (1981). Andress had also been one of Derek's wives at one stage, so I wonder whether he closely followed her films and was actually inspired by Andress' stunt in this production.

Another scene that is quite memorable – though, of course, on an altogether different level - is seeing the lost researcher’s corpse with a Geiger counter instead of his heart. Andress’ "surprise" character twist, however, towards the end of the movie comes as no surprise whatsoever to anyone familiar with staple Italian horror fare. And Stacy Keach’s character comes to an untimely death, probably caused by budgetary restraints.

Overall, this is a film that finds it hard to please anyone: Too tame for cannibal gorehounds, it is still too heavy to please the average cinema audience who may have expected to watch a run-of-the-mill adventure story when coming across a picture like this starring two otherwise bankable movie stars. 

The film has repeatedly been released but to the best of my knowledge the Anchor Bay release is the only one uncut.

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