La montagna del dio cannibale, Primitive Desires, The Mountain of the Cannibal God (1978)
Directed by: Sergio Martino
Written by: Cesare Frugoni, Sergio Martino
Starring: Claudio Cassinelli, Stacy Keach, Ursula Andress
HCF may be one of the newest voices on the web for all things Horror and Cult, and while our aim is to bring you our best opinion of all the new and strange that hits the market, we still can not forget about our old loves, the films that made us want to create the website to spread the word. So, now and again our official critics at the HCF headquarters have an urge to throw aside their new required copies of the week and dust down their old collection and bring them to the fore….our aim, to make sure that you may have not missed the films that should be stood proud in your collection. This week, Dr Lenera is venturing into the world of Italian exploitation and taking a look at a film which was once on the Video Nasty list, Mountain Of The Cannibal God.
HCF REWIND NO.9.MOUNTAIN OF THE CANNIBAL GOD 
AVAILABLE ON DVD:Now
RUNNING TIME:101 mins
REVIEWED BY:Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
Susan Stevenson, accompanied by her brother Arthur, is trying to find her missing anthropologist husband Henry in the jungles of New Guinea. They enlist the services of Professor Edward Foster, who thinks Henry went to the mountain Ra Ra Me, which the locals believe is cursed and the authorities won’t allow expeditions there. Nonetheless they head towards it, en route meeting another explorer called Manolo. However, it seems everyone has their own private agenda and a deadly cannibal tribe are living nearby…
The Italian film Mountain Of The Cannibal God, which is also known as Prisoner Of The Cannibal God and Slave Of The Cannibal God, was once on the Video Nasty list, and it’s a really awkward melding of jungle adventure with a few ‘shocking’ elements such as animal cruelty and cannibalism. It’s not a good movie, though it does have points of interest. It was directed by Sergio Martino, who had just made some reasonable giallos, and he wanted to make a Boy’s Own Paper-style pulp adventure in the manner of H.Rider Haggard or Edgar Rice Burroughs. He was given a rather larger budget than normal, allowing for two bankable names in Ursula Andress and Stacy Keach, but the filming in Sri Lanka and Malaysia was beset with problems. The Muslim natives protested against the production because of its sexual content, scorpions and mosquitoes bit most of the crew including Martino, and much of the film was shot in a grotto which everyone had to climb 1600 feet up a mountain to get to every day! When filming was almost over, Martino was forced to add the ‘shocking’ elements by his producers, who were aware of the increasing popularity of the cannibal subgenre such as Deep River Savages, and the result is a really uneven movie, where some of what you see jars with the overall fairly light, almost innocent tone. These days there are several different versions, and the current UK DVD could almost be termed the version of choice, as it omits the most unsavoury elements, but the trouble is that without them the movie is a little dull!
The film gets off to an odd start, with stock shots of various jungle creatures, some of them fighting including a turtle biting down on an alligator, all to sinister music. Then the titles come up, saying
THE MOUNTAIN OF THE
THE CANNIBAL GOD.
Honestly. It doesn’t bode well if they can’t even do the titles properly. Anyway things start very slowly until our protagonists are on their way, and things become even slower. About a third of the film consists of either National Geographic style footage of native ceremonies and footage of the explorers trekking across land, on a boat, climbing a mountain, all to mediocre music, and there’s no sense at all of any suspense as they near their destination. Every now and again though, some brief bit of brutality is thrown in to keep you awake, such as one guy on a boat having his arm bitten off by an alligator, and another walking into an animal trap, being strung up in a tree and impaled on spikes. The shots of gore are often quite quick and sometimes edited like they would be in a modern movie, with fairly fast cuts. The plot gets a little complicated with most of the characters having different motives, then finally they reach where they want to get to, a grotto populated by cannibals, and here are probably the dubious highlights of the movie. There’s a gloriously gratuitous sequence of Andress being stripped and painted, by somebody’s rotting flesh, for a ceremony that doesn’t actually happen [a scene that was recreated by Bo Derek in the awful 1981 version of Tarzan The Ape Man], cannibalistic gut munching, a horrid castration which Eli Roth should have studied, and another gratuitous scene of an orgy, which consists of one man having sex with a woman from behind, another woman pleasuring herself, and, unfortunately [though only in the full version which is on the Anchor Bay and Blue Underground DVDs]] a man screwing a pig! Then, after some brief chasing and fighting, it ends.
What action there is, is actually pretty funny, very poorly staged and with exaggerated sound effects that are often badly out of synch! Not so funny is the animal cruelty, such as a lengthy sequence where the expedition’s guides cut open an iguana, squirt its blood around, remove its skin and eat it. At least scenes like that could possibly be justified in that they are showing how the natives eat, but there’s no excuse for having the filmmakers stage a scene where a monkey is obviously pushed [by something which is covered up, but it’s there] into the path of a hungry snake, and we are treated to close ups of the monkey’s terrified face as he’s inside the snake’s mouth. This really is filmmaking of the most objectionable kind and there’s no excuse for it. Something that one can praise about the movie is Giancarlo Ferrando’s terrific widescreen photography of the locations. Although some of this movie was filmed in Sri Lanka’s Kendal National Park, a concentrated section of preserved jungle, most of it was shot out in the jungle, and I always admire filmmakers who actually ‘go out there and do it’. You can almost always tell when scenes are shot in studios. I also liked the masks of the cannibals, which actually rather creepy and yet all slightly different. As for the film’s political incorrectness, such as ‘primitive’ people deifying a white woman, it’s something that is quite common in these films and I think it is best not to take it too seriously.
Martino was rarely as stylish as many of his temporaries and his direction is strictly run of the mill though perfectly adequate. The acting is quite good, with Keach clearly enjoying himself swanning around in an Alan Quatermain costume, though Andress appears to have pasty white makeup all over her face, making her look like a vampire. I will say, though, the 41 year old actress has a great body [all Bond fans ought to check it out!], and, though never a great actress, she seems to enjoy the great physical demands of her role. Then again, in the 60s she explored Africa so it was a walk in the park for her. Probably the best performance, even though he’s obviously dubbed from Italian into English, is by Claudio Cassinelli as Manolo-sadly he died a few years after in a helicopter crash filming Martino’s Fists Of Steel. Prisoner Of The Cannibal God is, for the most part, a fairly poor effort, one of those films which is not as interesting nor as enjoyable as it might seem, but I would still cautiously recommend it for those interested in exploitation cinema, especially of it’s period.