Thursday, May 21, 2015

Mondo Cane (1962)

Today's random movie trailer is for the Italian film which launched a whole genre: Mondo Cane (A Dog's Life), the granddaddy of all 'Mondo Movies'.  An alleged documentary chronicling various weird and eccentric cultural practices from around the world, it caused something of a sensation when released back in 1962.  Of course, the world was a bigger place back in 1962 - nowadays, thanks to TV and the internet, there is virtually no corner of the globe so remote that we can't see it, hear it or read about it.  Everything is available at the touch of a key pad.  But back then, for the supposedly 'civilised' world of Europe and the US, much of the rest of the planet was remote and mysterious and films like Mono Cane had novelty value with their depictions of the weird and the wonderful.  

That said, a lot of the footage in the 'documentary' was actually staged by the film makers themselves.  Which is what the subsequent genre became about: sensationalised reconstructions of supposedly exotic, forbidden or completely made up rites from around the world.  As time went on, 'Mondo Movies' tended to focus on a single theme: witchcraft, cannibalism, sex, slavery and the like.  But, being the first, Mondo Cane presents the viewer with a smorgasbord of the bizarre, from a dog cemetery in the US to cargo cults in the southern pacific, via Chinese funeral rites, mating rituals in New Guinea, Italian catacombs and much, much more.  The trailer gives something of a false impression, with its jocular tone, as the actual film clearly sets out to shock and consequently maintains a relatively serious tone, (as befits a supposed documentary. 

I finally got around to watching Mondo Cane this week, having previously seen various other, later 'Mondo Movies'.   Whilst its power to shock has diminished somewhat over the course of more than half a century - bared breasts don't have the novelty value they held for audiences in 1962, for instance - some sequences, particularly those involving pretty graphic animal cruelty - remain quite disturbing.  Indeed, animal cruelty, nudity and a condescending attitude toward supposed 'primitive' peoples are characteristics which 'Mondo Movies' have in common with another, later, Italian genre, the cannibal movie.  Technically well made, with a memorable soundtrack, Mondo Cane is itself now a curiosity, a relic of a bygone, more 'primitive' age.



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