MOUNTAIN OF THE CANNIBAL GOD ****
Directed by Sergio Martino. Starring Ursula Andress, Stacy Keach, Claudio Cassinelli, Antonio Marsina. Horror, Italy, 101 mins, cert 18.
Released in the UK on DVD & Blu-ray by Shameless Screen Entertainment on 28th May 2018.
Despite its brutal title and the connotations of gut-munching violence that it invokes, Sergio Martino’s MOUNTAIN OF THE CANNIBAL GOD (a.k.a. SLAVE OF THE CANNIBAL GOD) is a relatively tame entry in the Italian cannibal genre, the director’s original inspiration being Ruggero Deodato’s legendary video nasty CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST and combining it with a jungle adventure movie. The bulk of the movie sticks to this idea as Susan Stevenson (Ursula Andress – DR. NO) and her brother Arthur Weisser (Antonio Marsina – KEOMA) enlist the services of rugged adventurer Professor Edward Foster (Stacy Keach – CLASS OF 1999) to try and find Susan’s husband Henry, who has gone missing in the vast jungles of New Guinea. The trio head into the wild jungle situated on an island just off the main coast, where Henry was talking about visiting as there was a mythical mountain that the locals kept away from, and soon get to witness the cannibal movie staples of animals fighting each other, natives slaughtering said animals and a tribe of vicious cannibals looking to capture their next meal. It’s all pretty standard stuff really, as Ursula Andress pouts and occasionally takes her top off while Stacy Keach clearly believes he is in some Charlton Heston-style adventure movie and takes the whole thing very seriously as white-painted savages leap out of the trees and often come to an unfortunate end with some fairly gruesome kills that splash a bit of blood but aren’t really anything too extreme. Basically, it is an INDIANA JONES movie with a bit of extra gore and not as much charm
...at around the 75-minute mark we get what we came to see as our intrepid adventurers reach the caves up on the mountain, a whole tribe of cannibals appear to offer their traditional welcome and the film goes totally crazy as Susan is stripped completely naked and her body painted, the cannibals start having an orgy, one unfortunate native is relieved of his manhood and somebody who couldn’t get a date decides to turn his attentions to an unlucky wild pig who clearly just wants to eat, and all manner of absurd behaviour makes the final 25 minutes of MOUNTAIN OF THE CANNIBAL GOD the wild ride that its title suggests.
But is it a good film? Well, like all Italian cannibal movies it comes down to your tolerance for explicit content and how well it was shot, and MOUNTAIN OF THE CANNIBAL GOD is probably one of the best looking Italian genre movies from the period. Exotic scenery notwithstanding, the cinematography is a whole lot better than some of the sleazier genre entries and, thanks to Shameless’ 2K scan, the film looks stunning, the reds and greens looking sharp and colourful and the level of detail, especially in some of the bloodier gore effects, is very high but doesn’t do what many HD transfers of older films do and reveal how the effects were done by highlighting mismatched latex and skin tones. The animal violence has been trimmed and edited in a similar way to what Shameless did with CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST and this cut is likely going to be as much as the BBFC will ever allow to pass through so if you’re a purist about these things then be warned that this version is not fully uncut but it is the longest and most visually pleasing version that has been put out in the UK so far. Is sacrificing a few seconds of unnecessary animal cruelty worth it for how striking the film looks on Blu-ray? You bet it is.
Coming backed with CANNIBAL NIGHTMARE, an archive documentary on the making of the movie, and an interview with Sergio Martino about animal cruelty in films, you also get a fantastic reversible sleeve and a snakes-and-ladders-style board game (fun for all the family!) to play in case the movie just wasn’t enough, and given the treatment the film has received you can tell a lot of care has gone into making this a special package for collectors. Taken on its own merit MOUNTAIN OF THE CANNIBAL GOD is really a three-star movie, having been well made and turning up the carnage to suitable levels near the end but the first 75 minutes is a bit of a drag as the main characters travel through the undergrowth and get alarmed at the various animals fighting and eating each other. The presence of recognisable faces like Ursula Andress and Stacy Keach is a bit odd when you consider where the movie goes, and it is highly likely that nobody told them what type of film was being made during shooting (although alarm bells should have rung with Andress as she does get tied to a rack and reveals a whole lot more of herself than her bikini in DR. NO allowed), but they do help lift the quality level than if the film was cast with nobodies. Although it doesn’t have the social commentary of CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST or the total shock factor of CANNIBAL FEROX it is worth sticking with for the final act and this excellent release gets an extra mark for being one of the most gorgeous presentations of a grisly video nasty that Shameless have put out so far.
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