Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Mountain of the Cannibal God (1978) - Part 1 of 3: Westerners in the Wild Trilogy

You never forget the taste of human flesh

"The Mountain of the Cannibal God" is an action adventure film intertwined with intrigue, shock and candid looks at nature and those closet to it. This is far from other films that share the tag as this goes for realism rather than fantasy or heroism, is a party pooper when it comes to fun, and is steady with violence and gore to appease a depraved fan of horror compared to someone looking for a safe and easy ride in the jungle.

This is going for a documentary feel with an intimate look at how beautiful and cruel the wild can be. A group of brave westerners with some natives are assembling a trek to this mysterious, remote mountain in New Guinea. When the urbanized natives steer clear and give warning even if it means saving someone, take heed. Though the party members are tightening their boots and stuffing their packs with purpose no matter the peril. But maybe that's because they have their own hidden motives to drive them forward or that cannibals are just things for the imaginative daydreamer. Just maybe.

There's credible tension between the characters as they battle the terrain and encounter deadly animals, along with experiencing inquisitive peaks into odd customs and superstitions along the way. A big sensationalist draw here is there are non-simulated animal vs animal and man vs animal attacks. Its stark and unnecessary realism will be argued from here to the moon, but it ultimately creates an environment where no one is safe and it could be your turn at any moment, so best to keep a blade handy and one eye open when you sleep.

Time is taken with "Cannibal God" to pace the story and build up surprises. The atmospheric and sometimes downright uncomfortable music leaves emotion on the screen like another appendage of the actors. This is structured so the audience feels the tension as much as the performers do in the moment it's occurring. It gives the film a sense of believability over other Mondo cinema that falls short of maintaining that the events taking place could actually happen. Compared to "The Great Alligator" and "Screamers/Island of the Fish Men," this is by far the best in the Sergio Martino, as I like to call it, "Westerners in the Wild Trilogy" starring the late Claudio Cassinelli due not only to a bigger budget but most importantly a more refined focus.

Rating: 8/10

Director: Sergio Martino (The Case of the Scorpion's Tail)
Stars: Ursula Andress, Stacy Keach, Claudio Cassinelli
Link: IMDB

Facts from the Black and Red:

- Cannibal derives from the Spanish word "canĂ­bales" for the Carib people.

- Michael Rockefeller--son to former NY Governor/Vice President Nelson Rockefeller--mysteriously disappeared in 1961 in the New Guinea area while researching a tribe called Asmat that were known for cannibalism and headhunting.

- Survivors from Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 in 1972--after running out of their only food and with nothing to hunt or gather in the cold climate--ate the flesh of their dead friends for sustenance.

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