August 14, 2005


MONDO – a marriage of National Geographic, peep-show, freak-show, geek-show, medical curio. All these weird and wonderful repulsive but fascinating glimpses into global life documented for bizarre tastes.

Surgical close-ups and medical atrocities blend with stark detailed dismemberment; point blank assassinations and nauseating cruelty by man or nature are offered to the viewer as steak tartare exploitation. The most perturbing thing – this is going on!! These are the things that sure as hell won’t make any sanitised news programme that concentrate more on gloss than guts.

These films stir viewers’ sensibilities when watching; you will either love them fascinated by the genre that is as close to snuff as we can possibly find, and as thrilling as anything visual we can get. Then there are the moralists, who like we are entitled to their own opinion, that feel this is possibly the worst kind of exploitation cinema that makes entertainment out of human suffering. Dear moralist ask yourself if you are a fan of reality TV, dear moralist ask yourself if you have ever looked or slowed down to view an unfortunately all too frequent motorway car crashes if you have you are in no place to condone or chide. For those who say no to either then you may not be of human origin or should simply watch constant loops of Little House On The Prairie – the complete set , there we are isn’t that lovely.

Mondo movies could stake there humble beginnings as gar back as when movie first wowed. Thomas Edison filmed ‘An Execution by Hanging’ (1898) possibly the first and last film to visually depict unflinchingly an execution. Edison again filmed ‘Electrocution of an Elephant’ (1903), featuring the disturbing annihilation of Topsy, an elephant used to build Coney Island.

In 1931 saw ‘Ingagi’ highlighting human sacrifice to a gorilla god. The movie done very well at the box office and one of the reasons was the fact that during the ritual sequence this gave the viewer to ogle admirably at the topless slaves dancing in frenzied rites of pantomime. Due to this all involved no doubt rubbed their hands and saw the green dollars.

1950 saw the beginnings of the darker side of the Mondo movie being debuted for the first time in ‘Wild Rapture’, we are treated to pygmy hunting and dissection of Elephant and Gorilla, lip splitting and the staple repulsive image of most Mondo movies – ‘bug eating’.

1954’s ‘Karamoja’ saw an American dentist on an African tour. As with most Mondo experiences this has to be one of the firsts to feature predominantly violent and graphic footage.

Then in 1962 came the turning point in Mondo cinema , Paolo Cavara, Gualtiero Jacopetti and Franco E.Prosperi created ‘Mondo Cane’ (transl.It’s A Dogs life’), this mixed a heady cocktail of immorality for the times), sex, drugs and offensive newsreel footage and documentary footage from the creators themselves. Segments in time from around our world luridly cinematographed and unflinchingly executed; shamelessly showing the nature of the beast, warts and all.

So popular was the theme ‘More’ by orchestrational exploitational maestro Riz Ortolani that it reached top 5 in numerous countries. The film was banned in England (there’s a surprise) and has not surfaced ever since. Judging by the way the u.k censors make up the snip-snip rules as they go along what version and when will remain a mystery.

Due to its superfluous success ‘Mondo Cane No.2’ promised we ‘it’s sick, sick time again’ in 1963. The same persons also brought ‘Women of the World’, Africa Addio and the startling mockumentary, ‘Adio Zio Tom’ (Goodbye Uncle Tom) in 1971. The mondo style was taken back to the Deep South in one of the yanks’ merciless periods in history – slavery in ‘Tom’ and caused a wave of controversy - this will be a tough one to review but expect it shortly.

So popular was Mondo Canes’ appeal it launched a whole sub-genre of shockumentary. True scenes of death and despair gaily skips along with mock suicides and anything humanitarianly grim. As the Emanuelle films - some of these (especially the early ones) are hit and miss and would probably be able to be broadcast on most channels in a late night slot. Some however would not stand a snowballs chance in hell of being released in this country – uncut that is.

During a delirious period in exploitation history such jaw droppers would have been at our nearest and dearest fleapit with such stunningly sinful titles as; Malamondo(1964), Taboos Of The World (1965), Mondo Balaordo (1964), Our Incredible World (1966), Sadismo (1967), Mondo Magic (1972), Faces Of Death (1978), The Shocking Africa (1978), Inhumanities (1988) and Executions (remember the furore in the U.K over that one) (1994). As the series progressed so the shock values escalated from mildly nauseating to monitor switch-off out and out vile. All trying to excel one another and scale the depths of the taboo. What started with dwarves dancing and an actor having the shirt ripped off him by besotted fans became catalogues of cruelty showing third world abortions, holocaust aftermath, female and male circumcision and some of the most despicable acts bestowed upon all things cute, warm and fluffy.

Mondo also poked its nose where it was most welcome – the horror genre. Those insatiable Italians used real animal cruelty and human gruel intercut into many such films. Purely for thrills and with the cash registers of the box office ringing in their ears the whole time. It was mainly the ‘cannibal’ genre that done well by this treatment. Deep River Savages, Cannibal, Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals and the holy grails of this subgenre ‘Cannibal Holocaust’ and ‘Cannibal Ferox’ revelled in this technique to achieve stark violent cinema- verite to an otherwise already gruesome adventure.

During our journey throughout this website such tantalising glimpses into such a fascinating but morally neglected genre could prove that these ‘unmentionables’ are no more blueprints for our 20th century viewing habits.

We mustn’t forget they were here first and perhaps it’s about time they were rediscovered. A friend once commented that ‘you name it and it would’ve been filmed’, watching a clutch of these and some other choice titles I tend to agree with him wholeheartedly. I love ‘em!



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