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Blue Underground presents
The Mondo Cane Collection (1962)

"For centuries, they have played a sport on these beaches, that which is very popular here too: manhunting."
- narrator (Stefano Sibaldi)

Review By: Chuck Aliaga  
Published: June 10, 2005

Stars: Rossano Brazzi, Peter Ustinov
Director: Franco Prosperi

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (graphic violence, nudity)
Run Time: 15h:26m:00s
Release Date: October 28, 2003
UPC: 827058300292
Genre: cult


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- ABC+ A

DVD Review

If you're a fan of the utter fakeness that is the Faces of Death series (and it's difficult not to be, despite the silliness), then it's about time you nestle up to some truly authentic footage of death and carnage, and explore The Mondo Cane Collection. This massive set makes it easy to see where the Faces of Death schlockmeisters got their inspiration, but that series pales in comparison to the wonderful educational value that this gruesome footage brings to the table. The major difference between the two series is the realism of Mondo Cane, although the claims that all of this is real have been under scrutiny for quite some time, with the filmmakers even admitting that some of it might be slightly fabricated and even staged.

The brainchild of Italian filmmakers Franco Prosperi and Gualtiero Jacopetti, these pictures are studies in world culture that leave nothing to the imagination. It's no surprise that each documentary turned the film industry on its ear upon their release decades ago, beginning with Mondo Cane. The public and critical reaction was pretty much split down the middle. You either saw this as fascinating filmmaking, opening doors to worlds we never thought we'd see, or as pure exploitation junk, designed only to shock viewers for commercial purposes. The gore might seem tame in this time of zombie films and other hard-R horror movies, but this is 1962 we're talking about, and the general public just wasn't prepared for such vivid material because most of it was real.

As a result, all of these films were difficult to find in many theaters upon their initial release, but Blue Underground has gone above and beyond the call of duty and presented all of them in their original, uncut formats, as well as in some alternate cuts that present a few of them in an entirely different light.

The first two films, Mondo Cane and Mondo Cane 2, are basically interchangeable, but both offer original footage of various tribal rituals, animal slaughters, and odd sexual practices. While they could have been edited into one long film, having them spread apart gives us a much needed break between the shocking scenes, and a bit more overall cohesion in the way each section is presented.

The third entry, Women of the World, might look like a long-lost Russ Meyer documentary with all of the nice-looking women on display, but, in reality, this is a thoughtful tribute to women and the hardships they have to endure on a daily basis.

Two different versions of Africa Addio are included, and these films are the ones that the animal rights activists will definitely want to avoid. Over half of the time is spent on animal slaughter, with human carnage featured as well during this chronicle of Africa's liberation from the West. The first cut is the English version that has been available, but there's also a previously unseen "director's cut" that is one of the most difficult films I've ever had to get through.

If you thought the rest of these films were controversial, just wait until you've seen both the infamous Goodbye Uncle Tom, and it's "director's cut," Addio Zio Tom. Many people through the years have called this feature racist in its depiction of Caucasians treating African-Americans as slaves and the harsh punishments they inflict upon them. While the racist claims seem somewhat valid for Goodbye Uncle Tom, Addio Zio Tom has much of the same footage edited in an entirely different style, resulting in an equally harsh yet more sympathetic look at this dicey situation.

A perfect companion piece is along for the ride, in the form of Disc 8, The Godfathers of Mondo. This original feature tells us all we ever wanted to know about these landmark projects and their place in film history.

This is simply one of the most amazing, complete film collections to ever appear on the DVD format. Even though this isn't material that Average Joe Moviegoer would rush out to find, those who are serious about film history and don't mind a few animal carcasses along the way should seek out this set .

My only real problem is with the music, which, while intentionally cheesy, is extremely out of place in many sequences. Some of the earlier films in the series are supposed to have a tinge of black comedy, which they do, but the schmaltzy narration and aforementioned music call to mind Faces of Death, which was distracting. Still, in all, The Mondo Cane Collection is a force to be reckoned with, and is not something you'll see on The History Channel anytime soon.

The films in The Mondo Cane Collection are:

Mondo Cane: This is where the fun originates, as Prosperi and Jacopetti begin the film innocently enough by exploring how women are attracted to men for their money and status, regardless of whether we're discussing a rich Italian gentleman or the lucky focus of a tribal ritual that has hundreds of women chasing him down and, basically, raping him. From here, things get much more disturbing and often vomit-inducing for those with weak stomachs, including footage of animals being slaughtered, and people eating dogs.

Women of the World: Women throughout the world are put under the microscope in this piece that seems out of place compared to the rawness of the rest of these films. This is basically a celebration of women, chronicling the roles that they play in various cultures. While many of these roles have changed since this film's initial release decades ago, many of these themes still ring true today.

Mondo Cane 2: This is basically more of the same murder, animal slaughter, and other grisly events, some of which were newly shot, and the rest of which was left-over footage from the original film. One notorious scene features a monk who sets himself on fire. While this event actually happened, it was staged for this project since the filmmakers were unable to shoot footage of the actual suicide.

Africa Addio: Two versions of this film are included in the set: the English cut that's been available in North America for quite some time, and a director's cut that is 20 minutes longer. Both feature a harrowing look at Africa over a three-year period. During this interval, the continent was transitioning from European rule, and after the British left, the new African government didn't know what to do with itself. The resulting chaos brought great turmoil, and the real images that are conveyed through this film are some of the toughest things you'll ever see in any viewing format. You'll see numerous animals being literally destroyed while they are alive, along with human massacres, and plain disgusting living conditions. Watching these films in one sitting is a real chore, but if you can make it through, you'll be simultaneously moved and appalled.

Goodbye Uncle Tom: This, along with its counterpart alternate version, Addio Zio Tom, is the most controversial, and only fictional entry in The Mondo Cane Collection. Much maligned for the way that African Americans are depicted in it, this English version of the film looks at the horrors of the American slave trade. Back in the 1970s when this was filmed, the filmmakers came under heavy fire for just how graphic the actions of the White oppressors were, and the mistake that said filmmakers were portraying them as almost sympathetic figures.

Addio Zio Tom: This newly uncovered director's cut changes things immensely, though, as the film is edited in a drastically different manner, dispelling any and all claims of racism on the filmmakers' part. Of course, the footage can be considered racist by nature, but most of it is based on fact, which is hard to argue with, even though no one in their right mind would agree with the action of the oppressors.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A

 

Image Transfer

 OneTwo
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyesyes
Anamorphicnoyes


Image Transfer Review: The aspect ratio for each of the films in The Mondo Cane Collection varies from disc to disc, but in general each looks better than ever. The first three pictures show up in their original full-frame presentations, the other films in anamorphic 2.35:1 widescreen, and the documentary on Disc 8, in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Quite a bit of grain and dirt show up from time to time, but this isn't surprising given the age of these pictures. Colors are muted, as well, but there isn't any noticeable bleeding or other flaws in the rendering of the palette. Goodbye Uncle Tom and Addio Zio Tom are the most impressive transfers, but this is probably a result of them being newer than the others.

Image Transfer Grade: B

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglish, Italianoyes


Audio Transfer Review: Everything's mono here, which, again, isn't a shock since these movies are old. With everything up front, there isn't much cause for directionality or fantastic dynamic range. There is, however, crisp, clear dialogue that never wavers in its clarity. Again, the newer Goodbye Uncle Tom and Addio Zio Tom shine brightest in this technical department, but there aren't any glaring problems with the other mixes either.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 214 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
10 Original Trailer(s)
3 TV Spots/Teasers
1 Documentaries
Packaging: Nexpak
Picture Disc
8 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Various Poster and Still Galleries: Seven different galleries.
  2. Lobby Promo: Original marketing item.
  3. The Unofficial Mondo Phenomenon: Text-based article by David Flint.
  4. Behind-The-Scenes 8MM Footage with audio commentary by Giampaolo Lomi: Location footage from Goodbye Uncle Tom.
  5. U.S. Press Book: DVD-ROM based feature for Africa Addio.
Extras Review: While there is a decent amount of extras spread out among the eight discs in this set, the main bonus is the feature-length documentary, The Godfathers of Mondo. This was produced in 2003, and is 90 minutes of reflection upon the films of Jacopetti and Prosperi. There's both interview footage and clips from all of the films, and it's so refreshing to hear a pair of filmmakers thoroughly analyze their infamous projects, even heavily criticizing a few of them.

Other extras include a total of 10 trailers for the various films, three TV Spots, and five non-specific Poster & Still Gallery images.

There are also the specific, themed still collections, Benito Frattari's Location Stills from Mondo Cane and Giampaolo Lomi's Behind-The-Scenes Still Gallery, which is a series of photos from Goodbye Uncle Tom, and are published here for the first time.

A Lobby Promo is also available, and is a five-minute audio clip played while we view a photo of a theater that was playing Mondo Cane. The Unofficial Mondo Phenomenon is a textual article by David Flint, which focuses on the films' influences around the world.

Next, we have a U.S. Press Book, which can be viewed via a DVD-ROM drive, and there's also a 49-minute piece called Behind-The-Scenes 8MM Footage with Audio Commentary by Giampaolo Lomi. This lengthy piece has rare footage of location footage from the making of Goodbye Uncle Tom.

Extras Grade: A

 

Final Comments

Cult cinema fans rejoice! After years of scrounging for poor VHS and DVD copies of the ultimate in cult documentaries, The Mondo Cane Collection is finally available in an amazing box of remastered DVDs. Blue Underground didn't stop there, as this set has a whopping eight discs with the original film, its sequel and four other films by the same filmmakers, including alternate, seemingly lost versions of two of them.

 


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