Slave of the Cannibal God
Italy / 1978
Directed by Sergio Martino
Starring
Ursula Andress
Stacy Keach
Claudio Cassinelli
Color / 90 Minutes / R
Format: DVD (R0 - NTSC)
Diamond Entertainment
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2007 Blue Underground edition
Mountain of the Cannibal God
Review by
Brian Lindsey
 
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Gore doesn't really bother me. After all, it's just movie makeup and special effects trickery. It's not due to notoriously excessive gore that I've never sought out films in the "Italian Cannibal" subgenre. The most (in)famous of these, Cannibal Holocaust and Cannibal Ferox, are flicks I've purposely avoided for an entirely different reason. I've read in numerous sources that in these movies real live animals are killed on camera in particularly nasty ways for no other purpose than to shock the audience. (A regular staple of the formula, in fact.) Now I'm not a vegan or a PETA activist or anything like that... but this, I feel, enters the realm of obscenity.
So how then did I end up watching Slave of the Cannibal God? For one thing, I recalled that this 1978 film by Sergio Martino (All the Colors of the Dark, Mannaja) was supposedly one the earliest and "mildest" of the Italo-cannibal flicks. Also, the DVD only cost eight dollars! And oh yeah Ursula Andress gets naked in it.
She plays Susan Stevenson, who arrives in Port Moresby, New Guinea with her obnoxious younger brother Arthur (Antonio Marsina). They've come to organize a search for Susan's husband Henry, an explorer who's gone missing on an unauthorized trek to a remote island off the coast. The government, which has already conducted its own fruitless search for the missing man, refuses to help Susan since her husband's expedition was illegal. Determined to find him, she enlists the aid of American scientist Dr. Ed Foster (Keach), a friend of Henry who knows the jungle well and who's willing to help. (He's also something of a mental basket case due to a bad experience with cannibals years earlier he was forced to eat human flesh.) Hiring a small group of native bearers, Susan's illegal search party strikes out across the jungle toward the coast.
Along the way the natives pause to cut open and devour a live iguana, ostensibly for religious purposes, all of which is lovingly photographed. Later we're treated to a nasty, prolonged sequence in which an obviously suffering monkey is slowly crushed and devoured, head first, by a huge python. The poor simian's limbs twitching pitifully, one baleful, frightened eye stares out from within the serpent's maw as it dies. This scene, like the evisceration of the iguana, is utterly repellent. Even worse, these actual animal deaths serve no purpose whatsoever in the plot; there was no reason for them to be filmed in the first place. (Animal Planet this ain't.) Cynically, I can only think they were included so as to provide some prurient "shocks" visual jolts that could not be achieved with the cheap, unconvincing gore effects at hand.
Eventually, after much barking of orders by Keach in "native-speak", the party reaches the coast and takes an inflatable raft across to the island. Tempers flare between Foster and Arthur, whom the scientist suspects has an ulterior motive for the expedition. As they press inland towards Rah-rah-mee, the "Mountain of the Cannibal God", the bearers are either spooked off or killed by various booby traps, critters (a particularly rubbery looking croc that Martino wisely keeps the camera on for but a few seconds at a time) and enemy action... It seems cannibals may be tailing the group as it makes for the mountain. At the jungle mission of Father Moses (Franco Fantasia), Susan hooks up with Manolo (Cassinelli), an adventurer who's spent 2 years in the bush trying to "find himself". He agrees to help Susan locate her husband, even though (and partly because) she seduces him so much for the concerned wife routine!
If you think you know where this is going, you'd be right.
After more tedium in the jungle the search party eventually reaches the mountain. Foster snuffs it when the treacherous Arthur allows him to be swept over a waterfall. Arthur gets his just desserts, though, when he takes a spear in the gut, eventually becoming a community feast for the grubby, cave-dwelling cannibals. Susan and Manolo are captured. In the film's most famous scene, Andress is tied to a post, stripped naked and covered with ochre paint by a pair of agreeable female cannibals. (At 42 the ex-Bond Girl still has a magnificent bod; this sequence is much too short.) She's later forced to eat a piece of her brother... Yum! Things are looking pretty grim for the captives until a midget cannibal decides to torture Manolo while everyone is sleeping. Manolo kills the dwarf and manages to free himself. After rescuing Susan (who it turns out didn't give a shit about her husband; she and Arthur were really after uranium deposits), Manolo defeats a couple of cannibal warriors and the two of them escape from the mountain. The end.
And not a moment too soon. This movie, regardless of how much footage is cut or restored this disc is supposedly minus a castration scene or what title it's under (see below), is dumb, boring and vile. It's a complete waste of time... even with Ursula in her birthday suit. (The keepcase says the film runs 86 minutes but our DVD player clocked it at around 90. The Italian cut is supposed to run 99. I don't really know what footage is missing, nor do I care.)

This is another budget DVD from Diamond, which specializes in ultra-cheap public domain releases or outright bootlegs (or so we've heard). But they must be legal (right?) since they're stocked by e-merchant Amazon.com and sold at retail outlets like Best Buy. Anyway, as with the other Diamond DVDs (House By the Cemetery, the House on Haunted Hill/Last Man on Earth double feature disc), extras are non-existent. Bizarrely, the credits on the back on the keepcase state that the film was produced by Darryl F. Zanuck and written by William Faulkner! The feature is divided into only four long chapters. One I hope unintentionally is cued to the sad, pitiful death of the monkey. Picture quality of the letterboxed presentation is surprisingly good for such a cheapie. Print damage is minimal. The disc's mono audio track is far from perfect, however; dialog in one scene (when the party is stranded at the rapids) is virtually unintelligible. But for less than five bucks the DVD is more or less acceptable. Even gratis, the movie that comes on it is not. (Note: Anchor Bay will release a fully-restored version of this film on anamorphic DVD in January 2002, under its alternate title, Mountain of the Cannibal God.) 6/09/01
UPDATE The remastered Anchor Bay version mentioned above went OOP in 2007, but that same year an identical edition was released by Blue Underground.
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