My journey through the filmography of the legendary Italian director Sergio Martino continued recently with The Mountain of the Cannibal God. Before divulging my thoughts on this film specifically, I should point out that the Italian subgenre of cannibal films have really never done it for me. I love Italian horror in general, as I’ve discussed several times here on Bloody Disgusting, but the cannibal films have never really been my favorite. I don’t dislike them, mind you, they’re just not my favorite and not something I typically go out of my way to watch. I feel like this disclaimer is important because there could be a bit of bias that slips into my review as a result. Or maybe not, but either way at least the air is now clear.
Ursula Andress stars as a woman who ventures into the jungles of New Guinea to find her husband. Assisting her in her search is her brother (Antonio Marsina) and Professor Edward Foster (Stacy Keach). The belief is that her husband may have explored the mountain of Ra Ra Me, and if so that’s bad new. Ra Ra Me is believed by the locals to be a cursed mountain that none should dare enter. As such, the authorities have forbidden any expeditions there, making a rescue mission quite difficult.
After some violent run-ins with the wildlife in the jungle, the trio finally make it to the mountain where they meet Manolo (Claudio Cassinelli). Manolo is a jungle explorer out on his own that agrees to help them find the missing husband. It quickly turns out that all parties involved have an ulterior motive for heading out on this trek. None of those motives really matter when it turns out that the mountain is home to a tribe of bloodthirsty cannibals. Turns out those locals were right — this place is cursed.
I’ve thought about this movie a lot after watching it and my opinion on it has constantly wavered. One moment I think to myself, “Hey, maybe this is the movie that will turn by on the Italian cannibal films,” and the next I say, “Nah, this is precisely why I don’t care for these films.” Ultimately, I believe this film falls somewhere between those opposing positions. The Mountain of the Cannibal God has a lot of what I don’t like from this period of Italian exploitation, but it does have some slight variations that appeal to me.
The number one factor responsible for pulling me into this film is that despite its brutal nature, it’s quite beautiful to look at, which is a testament to the stunning work from director of photography, Giancarlo Ferrando. The film was shot on location in Sri Lanka and really takes advantage of the gorgeous, lush jungles the island has to offer. Later, when the film moves into the mountain for the more horrifying moments, Ferrando does an impressive job photographing the grim caves. While what is actually taking place on camera isn’t always pleasant to look at it, it’s hard not to be impressed by the craftsmanship that went into capturing it all.
Mountain also earns some extra credit for having bigger stars than most like-minded films from the era. Keach is the most notable of the bunch and for good reason. The man is a bonafide star and it’s hard not to be mesmerized by him every moment he crosses into frame. It is, however, Andress, that manages to steal the show here. She has a certain magnetism and it’s easy to see why she was the first ever Bond girl. I think better results could have been achieved by plopping her character, along with those of Keach and Cassinelli, into a more fun oriented action-adventure movie. For those intrigued with seeing more of Andress I recommend checking out some of her other work. Hammer’s She and 1967’s Casino Royale are two that stand out, but if you just want to have fun you can never go wrong with Andress opposite Elvis in Fun in Acapulco.
The biggest problems with this film, are the same problems that plague other Italian cannibal films — animal cruelty and the representation of native people. The latest Blu-ray release from Shameless Films, fortunately, tackles the first issue by pulling back on some of the violence towards animals. The film opens with a message that indicates Shameless, along with the filmmakers (Martino), “soften” some of the animal cruelty, despite re-inserting some previously cut footage. So this isn’t an uncut release, but a lot of the time the animal cruelty doesn’t add to the story, so kudos to Shameless and Martino for electing to forgo some of it for this release. The issue regarding natives, however, well there really isn’t any way around that. I understand you have to factor in when the film was made and consider that it is an exploitation film setting out to shock, but the treating of natives as nothing more than uncivilized savages because their world is different than the world most of us are accustom to isn’t great. It’s especially bad when you think about how indigenous people are still poorly treated to this day. I won’t begrudge anyone that is able to set these issues aside to enjoy these films more, but for me, they leave a bad taste.
My recent viewing of The Mountain of the Cannibal God gave via the new region B Shameless Films Blu-ray. The release features a new 2K restoration and it looks wonderful. That new restoration played a big role in making this film easier for me to watch. In my head the Italian cannibal films are always very grimy and muddy looking, but as I stated earlier this film has outstanding jungle scenery and it really pops on this new transfer. As far as the extras go, there isn’t a lot here, but what is included is a nice touch. The film has an intro from Martino and then there is a short interview-esque segment where he discusses animal cruelty. Martino talks about how they filmed some stuff that he’s not very proud of and the producers put that footage in the cut for international distribution. He genuinely seems to be bothered by the footage of a monkey and an anaconda and it’s actually a touching, warming moment with a man known for creating some truly barbaric films.
The other big bonus included is a documentary called Cannibal Nightmare. This looks to be an older, making-of, doc centered specifically around Mountain, but there is some discussion of other Martino works throughout. This is a fun watch, with Martino and some of the other folks involved sharing their opinions on the film and its production.
The special features are topped off with some alternate Italian credits and a theatrical trailer.
The Mountain of the Cannibal God didn’t really do much to sway my overall viewpoint on Italian cannibal cinema. Even with my reservations, I was able to enjoy this, and my guess is that most horror fans are much higher on this than I am. If I were judging the film on just its own merits, I’d give this a 2.5/5, but considering the excellent quality of the Blu-ray release I have to bump this up to 3/5. If you’re a Martino completest, or just a fan of the Cannibal films, you’re going to want this Blu-ray.
The Mountain of the Cannibal God is available on region B Blu-ray from Shameless Films.