Friday, 5 April 2013

Mountain of the Cannibal God

I wouldn't say I'm especially into the Cannibal sub-genre of movies, mainly put off by the insistence of anyone making them on including genuine animal violence, basically for shock purposes - it was a common staple as anyone knows who's ever seen more than one.  It's a shame because stripping away that aspect sometimes leaves relevant pieces of work I would say, whether it be social commentary of some sort or in many cases just a good adventure story.  Mountain of the Cannibal God (or Prisoner of the Cannibal God as it's sometimes known) begins with a brother and sister duo unsuccessfully going to the authorities for help when the woman's husband never returns from an unauthorised jungle expedition in New Guinea.  They hire someone who knows the region, along with a few native assistants, and head off into the jungle in search of the missing spouse.  Briefly staying mid-trip with a vibrant tribe, their presence brings unwanted attention from masked cannibals sneaking around in the bushes throwing spears at people, and they're forced to quickly head off deeper into the undergrowth towards a mountain that is essentially the place of worship for the primitives, and where the husband has most likely also gone before them.
Produced in 1978 this one was helmed by the unlikely director Sergio Martino, creator of some of the best seventies Gialli, and obviously made to cash in on what was a bit of a money-spinner at the time.  Surprisingly Ursula Andress was drafted in as the lead, even being persuaded to strip off for some of the later sequences.  The opening credits create a sense of trepidation, as plentiful shots of animals going about their ethic-free business create an idea in your mind of what might be to come, while this is underscored by an ominous soundtrack.  As suggested earlier, there is some nasty animal violence for you to fast-forward through, easily the most deplorable level to which any film-maker has ever stooped, and I'm surprised a director of Martino's calibre was sucked into this tradition.  Even preparing yourself for that, there was one sequence involving a pig (not being slaughtered or anything but truly f**ked up nonetheless...) that really astounded me.  Eliminating the animal issues from the occasion what remains ultimately is an adventure story that takes some time to pick up, but becomes fairly epic as the characters take up an increasingly arduous journey across quite a scope of land/water, their numbers dwindling during the odyssey it goes without saying.  Attractively photographed by Giancarlo Ferrando (who had worked with Martino a few times before), and with an emotion-provoking score by Maurizio/Guido De Angelis, Mountain... was from my perspective a number of steps up from the negative reviews I've occasionally seen, though not exactly a roller coaster in terms of excitement.

This review was based on the uncut EC Entertainment DVD.  Despite being over a decade old now it's actually a very strong presentation for standard definition, mastered (as claimed by EC) from negatives in 2002.  The 2.35:1 anamorphic image is consistently pleasing, with digital flaws only really evident on close up inspection or during some of the night-time scenes.  Anchor Bay (and later Blue Underground) released this on DVD also, with similar technical specs but containing improved extras.  It's hard to imagine how it could look any better on DVD than the EC version.  Whilst extras are very thin on the EC disc (basically a couple of trailers and some stills) there is a nice fold-out poster/notes section.

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