Review Date: December 18, 2001
Released by: Anchor Bay Entertainment
Release date: 1/8/2002
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 2.35:1 | 16x9: Yes
Screen shots were cropped for the purposes of making this review more presentable. The actual DVD is NOT cropped.
Ah, the Italian cannibal sub-genre. Every so often, one of these films will be the topic of discussion of horror fans for odd reasons. Ruggero Deodato's Cannibal Holocaust became big again when people noticed how much it bore resemblance to The Blair Witch Project. Umberto Lenzi's Cannibal Ferox has always touted the tag line "Banned in 31 countries!" A slightly more obscure film in the genre is Sergio Martino's Mountain of the Cannibal God. In fact, its biggest claim to fame might just be the appearance of a nude Ursula Andress, the very first "Bond girl" in Dr. No. Anchor Bay has released this film with some unseen footage added. Sit down for dinner, but wash your hands first.
Susan Stevenson (Ursula Andress) arrives in Pakistan (or FROM Pakistan, they don't exactly make this clear), alarmed about her husband Henry's disappearance while on an expedition in New Guinea. She and her brother Arthur (Antonio Marsina) plead with government officials to lead a rescue party, but they refuse. As a result, the siblings plan their own expedition, to be led by Edward Foster (Stacy Keach), a colleague of Dr. Stevenson. He explains that it's likely that Dr. Stevenson was not lost in the New Guinea jungle, but rather Roku, small island off the coast. There's a mountain on the island, Ra-Rami, that is supposedly "cursed."
The trio, along with a few guides, head for New Guinea. Interspersed among tense jungle walking scenes and stock footage from the Discovery Channel are some expository scenes where we find out a little more about everyone's motives. OK, "stock footage" may not exactly be fair, but you rarely see the actors and the jungle animals in the same shot. Anyway, Foster was once on Ra-Rami, a captive of the Puka. The Puka are a cannibalistic tribe, and forced Foster to dine on humans with them.
They arrive at the island, and stay at a mission led by Father Moses (Franco Fantasia). There they add Manolo (Claudio Cassinelli) to the group. But they're soon banished from the mission for "improper conduct", and must travel the rest of the way with no local help. After more spine-tingling jungle hiking and some white-water canoeing scenes, they find a cave loaded with Uranium. As it turns out, that was the Stevensons' motives for exploring Ra-Rami all along.
Their joy of discovering the radioactive cache is short lived when they're set upon by the Pukas (who up until now have been only seen hiding in bushes and trees). The tribe takes the group (or at least who remains of them) to their home. They've set up a shrine to Dr. Stevenson, and believe Susan to be a goddess. She's stripped naked, painted from head to toe, and dressed in spiritual garments for some bizarre rituals. And let me tell you, these are some BIZARRE rituals. Can they escape? Will they have dinner with the tribe, or will they BE dinner? Pick up this DVD and find out. I won't give away the answer, but I bet it tastes just like chicken.
This is supposedly a "classier" cannibal film as opposed to Deodato's Cannibal Holocaust and Lenzi's Cannibal Ferox (though I'd say REAL cannibals are probably classier than Cannibal Holocaust). Director Sergio Martino puts a little less emphasis on the animal violence than in the other two cannibal movies. That's a welcome break, as I see no need for it. There are still some animal scenes, mostly of alligators and pythons making meals of their fellow jungle dwellers (and a few scenes of the locals devouring reptiles as well), and they're a lot easier to take. But I don't think cutting down on the animal violence is something Martino should be proud of. If he really wanted to be "classier", he could have removed it altogether. Supposedly, the animal scenes were added by requests of the producers. Did any moviegoers actually clamor for animal violence?
Despite its "classiness", I still prefer the other two "big" cannibal films, because they simply aren't as BORING as Mountain of the Cannibal God. The entire first hour of the film is nothing but jungle scenes. Now, supposedly Martino was trying to make more of a "fantasy adventure" film, which is admirable, but at least make it interesting. We get almost no character background until way too late in the film, so we can't even get any suspense during the exploration scenes. Doublecrosses are always a fun plot device, but only if we're led to believe a character will act a certain way then they suddenly change. Here, it seems like everyone is hiding something.
Now, this genre has its followers, and they're not expecting Citizen Kane when they pop in an Italian cannibal flick. Those fans are definitely going to want this film, no matter what anyone says about it. But I still have to think that even the biggest Italian cannibal fanatic will be tempted to skip over the first hour of this film. Admittedly, there's some intrigue and suspense (and quite a bit of gore and nudity) in the finale. I just wish Martino could have made the journey there a little more interesting.
You can't discuss a cannibal movie without discussing the cannibal scenes. These for sure are quite nasty, and you do get the usual genital removal scene. But what sets Mountain of the Cannibal God apart from any film, cannibal or not, is the bizarre sexual scenes that take place during the rituals. Supposedly, these were resurrected from Martino's own private collection, and this is the first time anyone's ever seen them. I don't know, I've never seen the film before. But I will say that these are some of the most disturbing and graphic sex scenes I've seen in a non-pornographic film. Hell, they'd be disturbing even in a porn film. Like most of the movie, I'm not sure how it fits in, but it's definitely different. You've been warned.
Maybe the subject matter isn't very pretty, but this disc sure is. It's a 2.35:1 transfer, enhanced for widescreen TVs. The print used is just fantastic. There's one instance, about 30 minutes in, where a white vertical line shows up for around a minute or so. That's forgivable, considering we're talking about a low budget Italian cannibal flick here. The colors are good, although a bit faded in some points. Blacks are nice though, and the few dark scenes are quite clear. Another bang-up job from Anchor Bay Entertainment.
Mountain of the Cannibal God is presented in Dolby 2 Channel Mono. It's not the best sounding mix I've ever heard, though I'm sure that's due to the original elements. About halfway through the film, a some of the dialogue develops a slight distortion, and during the rapids scenes, there is some major fuzziness. I don't know how it could be done any better short of completely redubbing the sound for those scenes. No one's buying this movie as a home theater sound demo anyway, but I'd be a little happier if that distortion could have been cleaned up a little better. It's passable though.
We do get a nice share of extra features on this disc. There are the requisite bios, trailer (and why do Italian trailers give away so much of the movie?), and photo gallery. But the real "meat" (no pun intended) on this disc is a 13 minute interview with director Sergio Martino. Martino discusses the making of the movie, as well as working with the actors involved. The interesting parts are where he talks about the controversial aspects of the film, specifically the animal violence and the sex scenes. After Martino makes a point, they show scenes from the film that directly contradict his statements. A nice touch from Anchor Bay, and I wonder if Martino's actually seen the finished documentary, because it sure doesn't paint the most positive picture of him.
I have to say, I don't find the Italian cannibal genre to be too interesting. In fact, I consider these films to belong to the exploitation genre as opposed to horror. I've seen Cannibal Holocaust, Cannibal Ferox, and now Mountain of the Cannibal God (I've not seen Lenzi's Eaten Alive). Holocaust is probably my favorite of the three I've seen, mostly due to its interesting pre-Blair Witch premise. Mountain isn't terrible, and not as tasteless as the others, but it just takes way too long to get started. And think the bizarre sex scenes are what one takes away from this movie more than anything else. It's interesting for a one-time viewing, but I don't think I'd want to watch this all the way through on a regular or semi-regular basis. I'd want to just watch the last 45 minutes or so. Despite any objections I may have about the film however, Anchor Bay has once again done a stellar job with the disc. Even if the film isn't everyone's cup of tea, they still put just as much work into this title as their top sellers. I'd like to see more companies take Anchor Bay's lead and make each and every disc they release the best it can possibly be.
Movie - C-
Image Quality - B+
Sound - C
Supplements - B+
- Running Time - 1 hour 43 minutes
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- Dolby Digital Mono 2.0
- Legacy of the Cannibal God - a 13 minute interview with Sergio Martino
- Theatrical Trailer
- Poster & Still Gallery
- Talent Bios