Review Date: November 1, 2000
Released by: EC Entertainment
Release date: 2000
Region 0, NTSC
Widescreen 2.35:1 | 16x9: No
Three months ago, noted anthropologist Professor Henry Stevenson disappeared into the Marabata jungle of New Guinea on an expedition, and has not been heard from since. Arriving in Port Moresby, his wife Susan (Ursula Andress
) and her brother Arthur (Antonio Marsina
) meet with the local authorities, who tell them it’s hopeless. They have launched an air search without luck, and since Professor Stevenson’s expedition was not authorized by the Guinean government, they feel no particular responsibility for any further efforts to find him. The British ambassador suggests the two go to noted anthropologist Edward Foster (Stacy Keach
) if they want to organize a private search party.
They meet with Foster, who has been a colleague of both Henry and Arthur for a number of years. Edward doesn’t like Arthur, and the feeling is mutual, but he agrees to lead them on an expedition to find the missing scientist. Pulling out a map of New Guinea, Edward states that he doesn’t believe that Henry went into the Marabata like he had announced, but rather to the small coastal island of Roka. A number of years earlier, Edward was on a ship that sank and was washed up on Roka, where he was taken in by a tribe of natives that inhabited the mountain of Ra Ra Me. The natives were going to kill him, but he managed to save their chief’s son from death with some spare antibiotics, and they let him live. Eventually he escaped, and when he told the story to Henry, the scientist became fascinated with it.
And so the three set off, joined by Edward’s faithful teenage servant Lazaro and a number of native porters. However, the trip through the jungle towards the coast is hardly tranquil, as Arthur almost immediately causes a number of the porters to abandon the party when he makes a big deal over their sacrificial killing of a lizard. Edward, who realized long ago what a neurotic little putz the guy really was, quickly loses patience with him.
Finally landing on Roka, the group quickly finds evidence of Henry’s party having been there. As they advance into the jungle, one of their porters is killed when he’s caught in a Vietcong-style booby trap, and Lazaro disappears. Another is mauled by a crocodile as they take a downriver detour. Another is decapitated by a native wearing a mask and white body paint, who chases Susan through the jungle and nearly kills her. Fortunately, the group is rescued by Manono (Claudio Cassinelli
), a physician helping run a nearby mission led by Father Moseas (Franco Fantasia
), who welcomes them in.
Edward identifies the native who attacked them as belonging to the Puka, which is the tribe that he stayed with at Ra Ra Me. Moseas reassures him that the Puka are extinct, which Edward hopes is true - because the Puka were cannibals. However, Arthur’s bad behavior, which this time results in a native girl and her husband being killed, gets them all kicked out of the mission. Susan, who has become romantically involved with Manono, persuades him to lead the party to Ra Ra Me to find out what exactly what kind of fate befell Henry Stevenson.
Italian cannibal films have gotten themselves a reputation as being among the most violent, sick and repulsive films ever to be produced. Although that may be true of other gut-munchers produced during the late-70’s and early 80’s, many people will be surprised to find out just how tame Mountain of the Cannibal God
really is. This is not to say that it wasn’t violent, no, it had quite a bit of violence, but it just didn’t contain the same amount of blood and guts as you would expect from one of these movies. There also wasn’t the same level of animal violence as you would associate with an Italian cannibal flick. The film does contain a lot of “real” violence of jungle creatures devouring each other, although it is hard to tell whether these were staged, natural or stock footage.
The cast of familiar faces helps the proceedings much. The late Claudio Cassinelli, a familiar face for Italian exploitation fans, appears here in one of the earliest of his teamings with Sergio Martino, while Stacy Keach gets an unusually sympathetic role as Edward. Ursula Andress, still just as wooden and stilted here as she was in Dr. No
sixteen years earlier, at least gets to take off her clothes a couple of times. Even though she was in her 40’s when the movie was shot, she was still in great shape.
Regrettably, director and writer Sergio Martino (“Torso”) was unable to come up with a better script for Mountain of the Cannibal God
. For such a savvy commercial filmmaker, he seems to have misunderstood what people were looking for when they went to a film with the word “cannibal” in the title. There simply is too much exposition, and the payoff at the end is not nearly enough to justify all the time we spent watching the actors talk, climb mountains, wander through the jungle or float down rivers. It’s not a terrible film, but it certainly would have been better off had it been handled and marketed as what it was - not really a horror, gore or cannibal film, but an old-time jungle adventure with all of those elements tacked on. Those who are expecting too much of the movie are going to be terribly disappointed, but I do enjoy it on a cheap, sleazy level, and if you’re a fan of Italian exploitation in general, no doubt you will too.
EC has done a pretty good job with this one, giving it a very nice letterboxed transfer at what appears to be 2.35:1 (no ratio is specified on the package). The transfer isn’t 16x9, but no doubt this is the best Mountain of the Cannibal God
has ever looked. Out of sheer morbid curiosity, I hauled out my Japanese-subtitled bootleg of the film to compare, and this DVD just blows all previous presentations out of the water. The image is consistently sharp and with a striking level of detail.
The transfer does have some problems, however. Some pixelation and grain are evident, especially in a few of the early scenes. Colors usually appear right-on, but flesh tones are abnormally pale at times. The transfer also has it’s share of speckling, and the occasional scratch or two. Nothing too too bad, although it can be distracting. The opening and closing credits also appear unaccountably soft (different source material perhaps?).
The audio is in Dolby Digital 2.0. The dubbed dialogue comes across as good as you could reasonably expect it to, and there is no distortion evident. During quiet scenes I did hear some occasional pops of background noise, and sometimes a slight buzz, but this was only a problem during a few times in the film. The scenes at Ra Ra Me that occur later in the film have very little dialogue and rely mostly on sound effects, which are reproduced nicely on this disc.
EC has provided optional English subtitles. They were apparently done by somebody who was either careless, or who was not totally proficient in English. I noticed a few grammatical errors, as well as character names whose spelling changed from scene-to-scene, as well as one very funny mistake in which Stacy Keach’s line is “The boy that I cured came with me”, but the subtitles read “The boy that I killed came with me”! There are also Dutch subtitles available for viewer’s in EC’s home country.
Although not very heavy on the extras, EC has provided some nice material. There are three theatrical trailers included on the disc - a very clean-looking English-language trailer for this film under the title Slave of the Cannibal God
, the original Italian trailer for Ruggero Deodato’s House on the Edge of the Park
and an international trailer for Lamberto Bava’s A Blade in the Dark
. Having the extra trailers was nice, even though they’re obviously on solely as advertisements for other EC releases.
Also on the disc is a collection of video box and laserdisc covers, lobby cards, stills and posters for the film’s various releases from all over the world. It’s pretty standard stuff, although I did get a kick out of the Dutch release from a company called “Video for Pleasure” showing a somewhat provocative bit of poster art of Ms. Andress on the cover. Lastly, there’s a fold-out insert with some stills from the film along with an incomplete filmography of Sergio Martino and a few paragraphs on his career to go with it.
Although hardcore gorehounds will undoubtedly be disappointed by Mountain of the Cannibal God
, I’m sure there are fans of Italian cinema who will want to pick this up anyway. EC Entertainment’s presentation of the film is the best the film has ever looked, and will be a complete revelation for those of us who have been watching bootlegs for so many years. If you want the movie, you’d be best to track down this import, and avoid the horrible domestic release from (*ugh*) Diamond Entertainment.
Movie - B-
Image Quality - B-
Sound - B
Supplements - B-
- Running Time - 1 hour 34 minutes
- Rated 16
- 1 Disc
- 14 Chapter Stops
- English Dolby Digital 2.0
- Optional English and Dutch subtitles
- Theatrical trailer
- Trailer for Blade in the Dark
- Trailer for House on the Edge of the Park
- Sergio Martino filmography/biography