Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Fake-umentary: Mondo Cane

Can a film live up to nearly 50 years of controversy?  This is the question posed by today's film: Mondo Cane.  Released in 1962, this film made the Mondo Genre, for better or for worse.  Without this film, we wouldn't have such 'classics' as Mondo Bizarro, Mondo Freudo or Mondo Magic.  Hell, we wouldn't have Good-Bye, Uncle Tom either!  Can you imagine living in a world without a fake, fake documentary about how slaves were treated in the Antabellum South?  I thought not.  So what is a Mondo film?  A Mondo film is a documentary designed to shock- at least, that's the original concept.  What the Mondo film came to represent, however, was a film that presented its message in whatever means were considered necessary.  This came in large part due to Mondo Cane 2 and it's infamous 'Buddhist Monk' scene, but I'll get to that in a later review.  So what is Mondo Cane- which translates to 'A Dog's World'- about?  It's basically about the world and how weird it is.  That actually sums it up quite well.  Prepare to clean up the sidewalk as we enter this...
* One of the most infamous films of all time begins with...a story about people trying to be the next Rudolph Valentino.  Wow- that's random and innocuous.  On the plus side, you have nowhere to go but up!
* We see that dogs are treated badly in one way or another in different parts of the world.  Look- you just made PETA cry.
* We learn that African people kill animals for food.  Well, that and this...
* The movie actually seems to have a real 'hard-on' for animals as we see bulls fighting and being killed.  This is life before the Discovery Channel, people!
* Speaking of animals, we see a place in China that eats snakes.  I hope you like on-screen animal killing!  Note how the one shot where a guy should be 'eating the snake,' but does nothing but eat around it (see below).  Also take note of the random rant about how the Chinese are always eating- odd.
* Somewhere else, fishermen kill sharks, but also get horribly-maimed in the process.  It's like a reunion with the cast of Freaks!  To get back at the sharks, they wound them, stuff Sea Urchins in their mouths and release them.  That's...very convoluted, but cruel...assuming that this is at all accurate.
* A long segment is about the island of Galapagos where, allegedly, the fallout of nuclear bomb testing has made animals do the opposite of their nature.  Fish flee towards the land and birds won't land, etc.  We see a turtle crawling away from the Ocean, only to end up as a skeleton.  As some have noted, the turtle somehow ended up on its back...off-camera.  Hmm...
* It's not all animal death, however, as we see a town where people do a ritual involving beating up their legs.  No, I don't really know why.
* We see women who drive past Naval ships while wearing bikinis.  Was this a necessary fact to learn?
* We also see African tribesmen in their native land and, later, facing up against modern life.  I guess this is supposed to be interesting.  Mostly though, I just keep thinking about that turtle...
Is this the real life or is this just fantasy?  This movie really has no plot, so there's no point in trying to summarize.  Basically, it is all about how place in other parts of the world are weird.  There's no message other than that, so don't go looking for one.  Much like Faces of Death, it only tries to throw in a bit of morality when it feels like it (i.e. the 'evil of Kosher' rant).  Speaking of that movie, it- alongside stuff like Good-Bye, Uncle Tom and others- kind of killed most of the 'shock factor' for this film.  Mind you, a lot of that is killed by some of the obviously-staged bits (i.e. the bit where 'Rudolph' is mobbed conveniently on-camera by women) and the confusing tone of it.  The movie jumps from animals being killed to people doing weird stuff.  If you were going to make a film subject, pick one!  This movie is just too erratic for my liking, spending only a few minutes on any subject before jumping awkwardly to the next.  Incidentally, the title has jack-shit to do with the actual film.  What was the point of it?  Obviously, it is best to try and look at this movie objectively.  If I were alive in 1962 and hadn't seen the world, would this movie have shocked me?  Hell yes.  As a modern viewer who's seen some of the more infamous Video Nasty films of all-time, does this shock me?  No.  It's not bad by any stretch of the imagination, but so much of it's shock value is simply gone thanks to Cable News and the Internet.
Up next, Rare Flix brings us a Doris Wishman film whose title says it all.  Are people nude and on the moon?  Yes and, well, yes.  Stay tuned...

1 comment:

  1. Watching this now, and having many of the same thoughts. It certainly shocked me much more at age 10, before Faces of Death etc. jaded me.