AKA LA MONTAGNA DEL DIO CANNIBALE, THE PRISONER OF THE CANNIBAL GOD, THE SLAVE OF THE CANNIBAL GOD
AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY
RUNNING TIME:100 mins
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
Susan Stevenson is trying to find her missing anthropologist husband Henry in the jungles of New Guinea. She and her brother Arthur enlist the services of Professor Edward Foster, who thinks Henry might have headed for the mountain Ra Ra Me, which is located just off the coast on the island of Roka. The locals believe that the mountain is cursed, and the authorities will not allow expeditions there. So they surreptitiously head on into the jungle and eventually make it to the island where they meet another jungle explorer named Manolo at a nearby mission camp who agrees to join them in their expedition – though it seems that each of them has their own private reasons for coming to the island….
I sometimes enjoy revisiting films I reviewed in the past, partly because it gives me a chance to tidy up and improve on an older review [some of our earlier reviews for this website are a bit messy], and partly because views can change. Shameless Entertainment’s release of Mountain Of The Cannibal God was a good opportunity for me to do just that. I don’t recall being much impressed with it first time round, but it has an interesting place in Italian exploitation cinema, being basically a simple, old fashioned, Boy’s Own pulp adventure in the manner of H. Rider Haggard or Edgar Rice Burroughs, jazzed up with some extreme content because of the way things were going at the time, especially the burgeoning cannibal movie cycle. If it had been made even just ten years before it would have probably been quite different, though this is unfortunately also one of those films where, if you take out the shocking stuff, it’s a little dull, even if much of said shocking stuff seems out of place and gratuitous. But it does have bits which you won’t forget in a hurry [which I think is a good thing], the large amount of outdoor shooting does make it a slightly better watch on Blu-ray, and – well – male James Bond fans above a certain age really need to see it [as they also need to see The Sensuous Nurse but that’s a review for another day].
The director was Sergio Martino, who had just made some good giallos like Torso, The Suspicious Death Of A Minor and Your Vice Is a Locked Room And Only I Have the Key [all reviewed on this website]. He was given a rather larger budget than normal, allowing for two fairly bankable names in Ursula Andress and Stacy Keach, plus lots of filming in Sri Lanka and Malaysia. Shooting was beset with problems though. The Muslim natives protested against the production because of its sexual content, scorpions and mosquitoes bit most of the crew including Martino, and the final third of the film was shot in a grotto which everyone had to climb 1600 feet up a mountain to get to every day, and via steps which the natives kept removing at nighttime. When filming was almost over, Martino was forced to add some of the more extreme material by his producers, and the result has existed in several different versions. While the full version ran 102 mins, most countries outside Italy received a 94 minute ‘export version’ that lost an orgy scene [more on that later] and some dialogue, while the US cut entitled The Slave of the Cannibal God ran for only 82 minutes. Tightening sections may have improved things, but a plot revelation near the end was also removed. The 99 minute UK The Prisoner Of The Cannibal God version was actually the 102 minute version minus two minutes of animal cruelty, the orgy and a castration, though the film was still banned as a video nasty until 2001. For the UK Blu-ray, Shameless have been able to restore everything except most of the animal cruelty which UK laws prevent from being shown on screen.
The film gets off to an odd start, with stock shots of various jungle creatures, some of them fighting though two or three shots have had to be removed, all to sinister music. Then the titles come up, and most older versions of this film have THE MOUNTAIN OF THE THE CANNIBAL GOD come up. Honestly. It doesn’t bode well for the rest of the film if they can’t even do the titles properly, though that’s been corrected on the Shameless Blu-ray. The pausing of a plane landing so text can appear informing us about “New Guinea….where life has remained at its primordial level” is rather awkward though. Susan and Arthur are given reasonable introductions, though Edward first appears to those strange electronic whooshing sounds that often turn up in Italian cannibal and zombie movies of the time. Our three initial protagonists are eventually on their way, though things hardly speed up. About a third of this film consists of either National Geographic-style footage of native ceremonies, or footage of the explorers trekking across land, on a boat, climbing a mountain, all to rather mediocre music from Guido and Maurizio De Angelis, and there’s no sense at all of any suspense as they near their destination and encounter Manolo who makes the mistake of accepting a native woman’s advances. Something that one can praise though is Giancarlo Ferrando’s terrific widescreen photography of the locations. Although some of this movie was filmed in Sri Lanka’s Kendal National Park which is a concentrated section of preserved jungle, most of it was shot out in the wild, and I always admire filmmakers who actually go out there and do this. You can almost always tell when scenes are shot in studios, and here it’s nice to see the stars doing lots of trekking and scaling for real, though considering that Andress explored Africa in the 1960’s it was probably a walk in the park for her.
Every now and again 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 edited like they would be in many modern movies, with fairly fast cuts. The plot gets a little complicated with most of the characters having different motives, though at least screenwriters Martino and Cesare Frugoni made some effort here and you may even be surprised once or twice. It’s in the final act that you get 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 even happen [a scene that was recreated with Bo Derek in the awful 1981 version of Tarzan The Ape Man] – and yes, the 41 year old Andress looks fantastic despite having pasty white makeup all over her face as if she were meant to be a vampire. Then you also get a few gruesome atrocities including some cannibalistic gut munching and a horrid castration which Eli Roth should have studied – plus that orgy which includes – for the first time in the UK – a man having intercourse with a pig! I guess it depends on what you find offensive or not, but I couldn’t help chuckling because the animal seems to be quite happy grazing while being mounted from behind.
What action there is is pretty funny, 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 a baby alligator, squirt its blood around, remove its skin and eat it. At least scenes like that could possibly be justified in that they’re showing how the natives eat, which is probably why it’s been left in the Shameless version. However, in the full version there’s also a scene where a monkey is pushed by something [which is covered up, but it’s obviously there] into the path of a hungry snake, whereupon we are treated to close ups of the monkey’s terrified face as he’s inside the snake’s mouth. This really is film making of the most objectionable kind and there’s no excuse for it. In this UK Blu-Ray edition, this particular scene, plus a few shots elsewhere, have been omitted. In the special features, Martino addresses the scene, admitting that he did stage it but didn’t intend for the snake to attack the monkey, and voices his regrets on it even occurring – which is different from when he pretended he didn’t stage it whatsoever on the old Anchor Bay Region 1 DVD! The film doesn’t suffer for losing this footage, and only the really keen eared will notice jumps in the soundtrack. As for the film’s political incorrectness, such as ‘primitive’ people deifying a white woman and one of the cannibals being a little person employed virtually as comic relief, it’s something that’s quite common from a time and genre where filmmakers didn’t give two hoots about this kind of thing. I think it’s best not to take it too seriously, though no doubt the Twitter snowflake mob would be up in arms if the film came out today. The masks of the cannibals are actually rather effective: quite creepy and yet all slightly different if you look carefully.
Martino’s direction is strictly run of the mill in this one though perfectly adequate. The acting is quite good, with Keach clearly enjoying himself swanning around in an Alan Quatermain costume and Claudio Cassinelli really making the most of the thin part of Manolo. Sadly this rather underrated and diverse actor died a few years later in a helicopter crash filming Martino’s Fists Of Steel. Andress, as usual, doesn’t show herself to be much of an actress, though for some of us guys that doesn’t really matter. Mountain Of The Cannibal God is not, for the most part, a particularly great effort, not even quite as trashily fun as you may expect, but I would still cautiously recommend it for those interested in exploitation cinema, especially of its period. Fans of the better known later cannibal films such as Cannibal Ferox [Coming Soon from Shameless!] will probably notice that quite a lot was actually copied from it.
Mountain Of The Cannibal God has been restored and re-graded from a new 2K scan, and it looks very nice indeed. The picture is still a little soft, but it always seems to have looked that way, likewise the slightly muted brown palette. Grain is well managed and, while Shameless have provided some text just before the film warning that the new material is of lesser quality, it seemed fine to me. Sadly the Italian language track isn’t provided. Three out of the four main cast members dubbed their lines in English anyway while they all seem to be speaking it, but the recording of the dub isn’t too great.
Shameless have provided a few special features. Aside from the afore-mentioned bit on the animal cruelty, Martino also appears in a brief introduction to the film, and also in a very good 46-minute documentary taken from the 2005 Italian No Shame DVD and given English subtitles for the first time. The on-set footage looks pretty rough, but Martino, producer Luciano Martino, cinematographer Giancarlo Ferrando and set designer M. Antonello Geleng provide some interesting recollections. Martino, who claims that he was inspired by The Snows Of Kilimanjaro[!], is especially good value with his stories, notably how he was once abandoned in the jungle and had to make his own way to civilisation. The tale of the shooting would probably make a pretty good movie in itself. And there’s also a Snakes And Ladders-type board game – though I can’t imagine it’s one for the kids.
Despite my reservations about the film which I found highly flawed even when revisiting, there’s no doubt that Shameless have put together its best home media release, so if you’re a fan then I certainly recommend that you buy!
SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
- Exclusive, Limited Edition Serial-Numbered O card
- Cannibal Paradise, a snakes and ladders inspired board game (on a card folded inside the both DVD and BD cases)
- Collector’s reversible inlay sleeve with original poster artwork
- Introduction by Director Sergio Martino
- Interviews with Director Sergio Martino about Animal Cruelty on film
- Making-of Cannibal Nightmare with exclusive on-set footage etc..
- Alternative Credits
- Original English audio soundtrack in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Dual Mono
- Theatrical Trailer