Mondo Cane Collection DVD review - Home Theater Forum and Systems -

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post #1 of 5 Old 07-24-07, 05:20 AM Thread Starter
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Richard W. Haines
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Mondo Cane Collection DVD review

Some movies are top grossers and others gross you out. The Mondo Cane
Collection falls into the latter category. However, if you're in the mood
for this type of entertainment, this box set certainly delivers the goods.

I recall "Mondo Cane I" (English translation: A Dog's Life) and "Mondo Cane II" being released to drive-ins
as a double bill but didn't see them until I went to NYU
in the seventies. They played at some of the Repertory houses like
Cinema Village. Although the prints were in Technicolor, the photography
varied from good to grainy and the copies were quite worn since these
were basically exploitation films that had made the rounds for over a
decade. I thought they were gross out fun. What made the first movie
more disturbing is that it had a haunting theme, "More", which also became
a hit on charts. Critics coined the term 'Shockumentary' to describe these

This set includes these two titles along with others made by the team
of Cavara and Jacopetti including "Women of the World", "Affrica Addio",
a documentary about the filmmakers called "The Godfathers of Mondo"
and two versions of "Goodbye, Uncle Tom" a feature story in the format
of a Mondo film.

All of the features are pretty much in the same style. The team
called themselves 'documentary' filmmakers but in reality they were
exploitation producers going out of their way to find the most offensive
and disgusting images of cultures around the world and filming them.
Much of it might have been accurate in terms of what was depicted but
some of it was staged specifically for the camera.

I should warn you that these movies are not
politically correct. They do not subscribe to 'multi-culturalism' nor
cultural relativism. Both the narration and events shown are to
illustrate how primitive and barbaric non-Western cultures are. However,
they do it in the context of comparing them to the quirkier or hypocritical
aspects of our culture. It's a strange mixture and comparison. For example,
in "Women of the World" they'll show vain Western women putting on all kinds of
face cream to make them look younger then cut to Arab woman putting
camel dung on their face for cosmetic purposes in contrast. Really
disgusting but I guess they made their point. On the other hand, if you
object to PC and have a warped sense of humor, you might find it all
outrageous fun as I did. Aside from the cultural differences which is the
theme of these Mondo movies, they also show real animal deaths.
You'll see cow get it's head chopped off in a slaughter house. My favorite
sequence was at Bikini Beach in the first movie. The filmmakers traveled
to that Atoll which was used for atomic bomb tests and showed how the
plant and animal life had mutated due to the fall out. Fish grew feet and
crawled up in trees. I wish I had one of those creatures as a pet. I wonder
if the two filmmakers were contaminated themselves when they shot there.

"Africa Addio" is the most controversial of the Mondo set. They traveled
to Africa to show the results of the European departure from the colonies
they had set up on the continent. Rather than become independent
nations within the Western
democratic mold as India did, they regressed back into tribal dictatorships
and started slaughtering each other, exactly how it was prior
to the French and British invasions. Whereas colonization turned out to
be a net benefit for India in the long run, it wasn't for the African
nations. Nothing much has
changed for these 'developing' nations which still haven't
adopted democracy or market economies despite billions in UN foreign aid.
Most remain volatile dictatorships. The Italian language
version is more overtly political than the American dubbed version in this
case. The US version narrates the footage in the exploitation mold.

The documentary about the team is okay but not that revealing. They do
show how certain events were staged for shock value like the Monk
setting himself on fire. They used a mannequin, not a real person.

The final disc in the box even shocked me and I don't shock easily. It's
the team's notorious feature film, "Goodbye, Uncle Tom" which was rated
X when it was first released. The structure is actually rather interesting.
A helicopter (in an unexplained time warp) takes the filmmakers back to the pre-civil war South to
interview slave owners and depict the misery of that institution on
African slaves. It's rather surreal since the people being interviewed on
camera are actors playing Southerners who don't seem to notice the
unusual machine nor film camera that is in their face. Of course since
this is a Salvo and Jacopetti feature 'Shockumentary', they relish in
the degredation and humiliation of the slaves. We're shown a stud farm
where a chained up male is given an endless supply of women to rape which
in turn will become pregnant with future slaves to sell. There's a bordello
when teenage black girls are the prostitutes. They show slaves arriving
in squalid conditions on a boat and given
painful enemas to clear out their bowel system. And just so you know
what kind of picture this is, all of the slaves scream in agony from this
ordeal except for one that squeals in delight and smiles. It's gross beyond belief
but I must say I couldn't take my eyes off the screen in
disbelief. Quite a shocker in every respect. The end of movie cuts to
a black militant in the sixties reading about the events that were depicted
previously and becoming so enraged he murders a white family including
smashing an infant against the wall. This is one of the sickest movies I've
ever seen but if you want to see something really outrageous and can handle
it...check it out. The film was so controversial and critically condemned, it
ended the career of the team. Curiously, the Italian language version of the
movie is not as graphic as the English dubbed copy.

Most of the movies are in the 1.33 ratio except for "Affrica Addio" and "Goodbye,
Uncle Tom" which are in the scope ratio and 16:9 anamorphically enhanced format.
The images are okay considering how the movies were shot and vary in terms of
quality depending on the shooting conditions. The sound is a bill shrill but that's
the way the Mondo movies (and Italian films in general) were recorded.

So if you like freakshow films and are in the mood to be grossed out and offended,
I highly recommend this box set. Otherwise, avoid it like the plague.

Last edited by Richard W. Haines; 07-24-07 at 05:48 AM.
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post #2 of 5 Old 07-24-07, 07:21 AM
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Re: Mondo Cane Collection DVD review


Interesting pick for a movie. Is this the same Mondo Cane released in the early 60s (I think)?


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post #3 of 5 Old 07-24-07, 01:24 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Mondo Cane Collection DVD review

Yes same movie. They took out-takes and made the sequel and of course continued along these
lines with the other ones. Since this film was released independently and shown in grind houses
and drive ins, it wasn't subject to the Production Code of the time. Most people don't realize
that the Code only applied to large screen cinemas. It was voluntary and not enforced by any
law. Basically, the large screen cinemas and movie palaces wouldn't book a film without a Production
Code Seal of approval which guaranteed that it could be shown to general audiences which were required
fill the 1000 plus seats of the these theaters. However, drive ins, art cinemas and grind
houses didn't care about the Seal so they were able to play foreign movies, sexploitation and
exploitation that circumvented code restrictions. In 1968 the Code was abandoned and replaced
by the ratings system. A Production Code Seal was no longer required to play a film in any cinema
but you had to rate the film before booking it to warn parents. The "Mondo" movies ended up
receiving "R" ratings. "Goodbye, Uncle Tom" received an "X" although it wasn't pornographic, just
sleazy and offensive. The X rating was originally given to movies that were for adults only.
Films like "Midnight Cowboy" and "A Clockwork Orange" were originally given that rating
for subject matter as opposed to nudity or graphic sex. However, by the early seventies, X became
associated with hardcore films like "Deep Throat" (1972) so the studios would cut movies to get an
R rather than receive that classification.

The Ratings System had some trade offs. While it enabled complete screen freedom, it also forced most
of the movie palaces to fold since there were too many restricted pictures made (R and X) and they
couldn't fill up the seats of those theaters without families. In fact, attendence was cut in half
after the demise of the Production Code because it changed the moviegoing demographics from
general audiences to targeted viewers.
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post #4 of 5 Old 07-24-07, 03:03 PM
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Re: Mondo Cane Collection DVD review

Very interesting and informative. I was raised in a city noted for the number of theaters that it had in the downtown area (something like 14) back in the 50s and 60s. Outside of the competition, I imagine your last paragraph would explain a lot why many of them suddenly closed.

Thanks for the information.


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post #5 of 5 Old 07-24-07, 04:57 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Mondo Cane Collection DVD review

You're welcome. Every theater I used to go to in Westchester and NYC folded. It was very depressing
to watch the movie palaces and large screen cinemas on Broadway get demolished. It was like a virus
as one by one they disappeared. I used to go the Cinerama Twin on 46th street and The Rivoli on 49th
and Broadway. Spectacular theaters with huge curved screens. I saw "2001" in Cinerama twice in
1976 and 1978. Home video had a devistating impact on the revival theaters which also went like
dominoes as moviegoers stayed home to watch classics on tape rather than screen them at The Regency or Elgin.
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