Mondo Cane (1962)

The original shockumentary that started it all. We follow the exploits of journalist Gualtiero Jacopetti as he takes his camera where no one dared and frightened audiences of all ages with weird rituals and bizarre customs of tribal societies. A stray dog is placed in a kennel and the audience it led to believe that the poor creature is torn to bits by the dramatic music and images of growling dogs. Footage from New Guinea is showcased, and we see many bare-breasted natives, one weird early scene shows a woman suckling a piglet, and we are told she had an infant who had died, and the pig was given to her to by tribal law. We next see one of the first of many counter-spectacles in this film as men from the same tribe is shown clubbing pigs to death; the narrator adds that these people may have indeed tasted human flesh. We then see a pet cemetery in Hollywood and in an ironic twist Thai restaurants that serve dogs on their menu. Cattle Breeders in Japan are shown feeding cows beer and massaging them to tenderize their meat. The camera then moves to scenes of radioactive islands and explains that the effects of the blast have altered the animal population by knocking out their sense of direction and natural instincts. We then see another weird counter-spectacle with ritual cattle decapitations followed by a running of the bulls in Spain. This first ever Mondo film was quite a spectacle to those who had never been overseas or encountered Asia up close. I must stress that this movie does not include any human death or images of dead bodies, this makes the film much less gory than most later Mondo style films. Not so much a documentary in a legitimate way but much better made than most of today's Mondo films that use human death as their sole focus. Btw- Cane is pronounced like Kahn.

Mondo Cane 2 (1963) aka Mondo Pazzo

Like the first film, this one opens to a kennel of dogs, yet the noise from their barking seems to be missing. The narrator confirms there is no audio trouble as the sound of the cameraman can be heard easily. The narrator explains that the dogs have had their vocal cords surgically removed. The Mexican holiday of Day of the Dead is shown in its glory, a custom that is very familiar to my area. We then witness stock footage of insect eating, slave markets, cops in drag and many other weird customs from around the globe. The producers wanted to do more the just show animal slaughter and bizarre human rituals. A sequence is shown from Saigon as a Buddhist monk assumes a lotus position; a second monk douses him with gasoline and bows before he leaves the sitting, monk. He is then set afire as a gesture of protest against the persecution of Buddhist by the pro-catholic government. One must wonder at the validity of this footage as police officers are shown holding back crowds, yet the same police would have stopped such a spectacle by shooting the same monks. The event did indeed occur, and it is just the footage shown that is dubious. This staged scene would set the trend in forthcoming Mondo films as original footage was often replaced by more shocking images of staged death.

Africa, Blood and Guts (1966) aka Africa Addio

From the producers of Mondo Cane comes a documentary that attempts to look at the effects of revolution and post-colonialism in Africa. We first saw the uneasy takeover of Kenya from British control in 1963. This is followed by scenes of Mau Mau terrorism, death along the Congo from a civil war, race riots, revolutions in newly formed countries like Zanzibar and genocidal slaughter of tribes by Rwandan natives. This is mixed in with images of dead animals on game parks and according to the narrators the film crew had barely escaped death themselves. One infamous scene has a group of natives moving in on a family of hippos as they spear the poor animals to death. They spare the baby only to inflict an even more cruel death as the animal is speared and cut to pieces, as it dies a slow painful death. The narrators explain they were in the area to film native rituals yet the timing of their arrival made it more of a treat as they used the revolutions and political upheavals to make this movie more exciting. As with the earlier film the validity of such claims is questionable. Numerous scenes are too convenient and just don't seem accidental, the hippo scene in particular just screams of blatant exploitation that was probably staged intentionally for the camera. It is sure that people do die, as there are scenes of political executions and death at the hands of natives. As with many of these films, the message coming from the producers is that the departure of white colonial control has left these savages to prey on one another, yet again we find the comparison of our civilized society versus their barbaric ways. The implication that because they are black and primitive, they are uncivilized would figure into so many films of this type well into this day and age. We do know that there is plenty of political struggle and death in Africa even to this day but never let the racists message of this film cloud your understanding. This is not a true documentary but merely an attempt at exploitation. The film was released in many cut versions, the American copy wore the label Africa Blood and Guts and had some of the most potent scenes deleted.

Shocking Asia (1974)

This Hong Kong/German co-production features graphic scenes of the Asian continent. We witness a mass piercing in India, cremated remains of human bodies dumped into the Ganges River in clear sight of bathers. The camera then shows Japanese sex clubs that reenact bizarre sexual rituals and bondage fantasies. There is also a graphic sex change operation in Singapore. There is also a dwarf, and female wrestling featured to round out the fun. This film was shown in many different versions as each market had a different set of acceptable standards. The film was shown in the US boxed with Mondo Magic

The Atomic Café (1982)

Duck and Cover, use it, and you will survive the blast from an A-bomb! Well we know better but to help calm the masses during the forties, fifties and early sixties these and many more slogans were used along with short newsreels to curtail fears of atomic war. These films and much more are included in this excellent documentary that shows how paranoia and fear were dealt with by our government during the height of the cold war. The films are presented in a unique format that mixes documentary footage with military archive footage of atomic bomb explosions. At times, you will laugh at the absurdity of the message as we are told that white bed linens and aluminum foil would help protect you and your family from the big one. Altogether a fantastic look at how the government used disinformation to help calm the masses and reassure them that an atomic war was not only survivable but also winnable. A must see!

Mondo Magic (1975)

In our modern world, we have long dismissed magic for technology, yet many tribes in Africa and South America turn toward magic as a means of survival and way of life. The Mundari tribe in Africa heard cattle but do not slaughter them for meat. They make use of the cattle urine as an insect repellent and shower underneath their cows. They also use the dung as a body covering to thwart further insects and pest. The cattle are so prized to the Mundari that they are treated as a member of the family, and some Mundari are shown puffing into the cattle's vagina to encourage an early birth. A hunt is then shown where the Mundari can bring down mighty Elephants and Giraffes with ease. Unlike sports hunters, they kill merely for survival and pay respect to the beast before eating them. The Dinka tribe is another group who praise their cattle, but they bleed the cows and mix it in their milk to help sustain tribes during periods of hunger. They also migrate to different areas along the Nile as to not over-consume their pastures. The camera then moves to the South American continent where The Yanawana people are shown in their full glory. They sleep in simple hammocks and allow their dogs every freedom. One woman is even shown suckling a puppy along with her child. Hunters prepare to catch their meal and a feast of spiders, crab and tapir are enjoyed by all. The Yanawana hold a gathering each year where the shamans drink a mixture of the crushed skulls of their dead shamans to transfer the soul and release it to the heavens. Psychic healers in the Philippines are shown next, and they appear to do surgery without leaving scars and impress those around them. I know for a fact that such displays are a pure fraud yet they do an excellent job at tricking their clients. Christians are then shown self-inflicting wounds as a form of penance to their saints. The cameras move back to Africa where children in Ethiopia have their Uvula removed for no real reason known to us. An Arab woman takes her daughter to a female called a Marabou and has her checked to ensure she is still pure; others use her services to heal themselves with holy messages from the Koran. The final scene has a tribe that takes a woman and uses them as fertility gods; they help ensure pregnancy and a big family. Not as much of a pure exploitation film as the rest, Mondo Magic still relies on a few shock scenes and some graphic violence against animals. The film is more academic and better quality than most Mondo Films, so it is worth a look or two, yet don't expect to see too many dead bodies or cannibal moments.

Wild Rapture (1950)

Before the days of Mondo Cane, there was Wild Rapture! This was one of those curious films that featured those cool tag lines (See- Pygmy Warriors at work!) and weird scenes of bizarre native rituals. We witness Elephant and Gorilla Hunting and dissection by pygmy warriors. Tribal clans who practice lip splitting, bug eating residents, and pygmy children hunting with poison arrows. This was made as a serious documentary and shown at road shows and art houses to shocked audiences. To fully understand this film and its content we must remember this was made at a time when sex on screen was taboo and married couples were shown sleeping in separate beds. As a first step toward Mondo, this film is very tame by today's standards, but it was banned in some communities for as long as 18 years.