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Mondo Cane (1962) - Gualtiero Jacopetti

Related: Mondo series - 1962

All the scenes that you are about to see are real and were shot as they were taking place. If sometimes they seem cruel it is only because cruelty abounds on this Planet. And anyway, the Duty of the reporter is not to make the truth seem sweeter but to show things how they really are. --from the opening of Mondo Cane (1962)

Soundtrack to Mondo Cane (1962)


Mondo Cane (A Dog's Life) is a semi-documentary movie made in 1962 by Italian filmmakers Gualtiero Jacopetti and Franco Prosperi. The film consists of a series of travelogue-vignettes providing glimpses into strange cultures and practices throughout the world, most memorably a look at a practicing South Pacific cargo cult. Mondo Cane's shock-exploitation-documentary style was the inspiration for numerous imitations, including Shocking Asia and the Faces of Death series of movies.

The movie's theme song, "More" was written by Riz Ortolani & Nino Oliviero and was translated into the English language by Norman Newell. In 1963, the song was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Song and was recorded by Roy Orbison on his 1969 album, Roy Orbison's Many Moods.

The film started a fad known as "Mondo films." --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mondo_cane [Apr 2005]

Gualtiero Jacopetti [...]

Having embarking on a successful career as a print journalist (Jacopetti helped found the magazine L'Espresso) and working on newsreels, Jacopetti teamed up with anthropologist Franco Prosperi, news cameraman Antonio Climati and composer Riz Ortolani, a unit that remained constant for all of Jacopetti's feature film output.

Mondo films and travelogues

One of the earliest examples of mondofilm, in my opinion, is J. Stuart Blackton and Albert E. Smith's film about the battle of Santiago Bay. These gentlemen where among the first to carry a camera into battle and did successfully capture Theodore Roosevelt's attack on San Juan Hill in the Spanish-American war on Cuba in 1898. But safe at home in New York they read in the newspapers that a big battle had been fought in Santiago Bay. Annoyed that they had missed this historical battle, they came up with a brilliant idea. They bought some books about ships, some cigars, and gunpowder and turned an upside-down table filled with water into Santiago Bay!

They had cut out ships from the book, and pulled them into the scene with strings. A local boy helped blowing cigarsmoke into the set and gunpowder was fired. This innovative film, together with the not-so-great quality of the film stock, fooled a whole world and this was probably the first re-enactment in cinema history.

As time went by, the audience found a new genre to love, the travelogue. The travelogue was documents from, let's say, Africa and Papua New Guinea. Exotic beasts side by side with the wild bushman, and if you where real lucky, the bushman could also practice the noble art of cannibalism. Several of the daring and in some cases foolish, photographers made this into an art. Some of the finest films where made by Osa and Martin Johnsson with films with exiting titles like Head hunters of the South Sea and Among the Cannibal Isles of the South Pacific (1918).

The crux of the biscuit for many was that traveling across the world cost an awful lot of money, but that they REALLY wanted to cash in on these kinds of films. And why not? Many big cities have a zoo where you can film some animals and later cut into some exotic tale. Even big events like the Boer war in Africa and riots in China were produced and filmed in Europe and America. And no one seemed to care.

The producers certainly got their money back and the audience got the action they craved. And this went on, it really never stopped, but it wasn't really until 1962 it all took a new turn. --Christer Persson via Google's cached page [May 2005]

Mondo Cane (1962) - Gualtiero Jacopetti

  • Mondo Cane Collection [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]
    Gualtiero Jacopetti and Franco Prosperi are widely considered to be the creators of the "mondo," the cynical and often exploitative '60s-era cousin of the documentary and the template for today's reality TV. Blue Underground compiles five of the pair's most controversial films in an eight-disc set (which includes uncut versions of two titles) that proves their images have not lost their power to shock and amaze. Journalist-turned-director Jacopetti and former naturalist Prosperi first teamed for 1962's Mondo Cane (A Dog's Life), which explored strange customs around the world. The film (co-directed with Paolo Cavera) balanced its humorous and repulsive images with some genuinely beautiful ones and captured audiences' imaginations worldwide as well as an Academy Award for composer Riz Ortolani's theme, "More." Many critics decried the film, but a fleet of copycat mondos appeared in its wake. Enough footage was shot during the making of Mondo Cane to allow for a sequel (also known as Mondo Pazzo) in 1963; it was quickly followed by Women of the World, which explored women's roles around the globe.

    Tiring of the travelogue approach, the pair headed to Africa to document the unrest that had erupted in the wake of colonial abandonment. The result, 1966's Africa Addio, was acclaimed for its disturbing images but also earned the duo charges that they had orchestrated on-screen executions. Though they were eventually acquitted, Jacopetti and Prosperi's reputations was irreparably marred. They attempted to amend the situation with Goodbye Uncle Tom (1971), an overripe fantasy that transported them to the pre-Civil War South to explore slavery. Unfortunately, its horrific violence further turned off audiences, and the duo split soon afterwards. Though the early titles are somewhat dated, and the later films are often overwhelmingly grotesque, the Mondo Cane Collection is a powerful visual experience that avoid the sheer exploitativeness of other mondo and their modern offspring. --Paul Gaita for Amazon.com

    Mondo films

    Mondo film is a type of quasidocumentary, usually depicting sensational topics and scenes.

    The fad started with Mondo Cane (1962) and proved quite popular. Over the years the film makers wanted to top each other in shock value in order to draw in audiences. Cruelty to animals, accidents, tribal initiation rites and surgeries are a common feature of a typical mondo. Much of the action is also staged, even though the film makers may claim their goal to document only "the reality".

    The Faces of Death series is probably the best known example.

    Killing for Culture: An Illustrated History of Death Film from Mondo to Snuff, by David Kerekes and David Slater, ISBN 1871592208, paperback, 1996

    --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mondo_film [Mar 2005]


    1. Mondo Macabro : Weird & Wonderful Cinema Around the World - Pete Tombs [Amazon US]
      "Sometimes it feels like there's nothing left to discover. Bookshelves bend under the weight of tomes devoted to all things 'cult,' 'B,' or obscure. Films you might once have crossed town to see now turn up on new video labels every week. [But] for those who still value the shock of the new, the special kind of thrill that comes from confronting previously unsung greatness, ... there are plenty of strange new worlds left to explore.... Mondo Macabro is a peek into the treasure trove of fifty years of film from around the world. We've sifted through the dross and picked out the dusty jewels."

      Those who enjoy horror movies, and bizarre movies of all types, will find Peter Tombs's Mondo Macabro: Weird and Wonderful Cinema Around the World a welcome companion on the shelf next to their (and Cathal Tohill's) Immoral Tales: European Sex & Horror Movies 1956-1984. With the help of three other writers (Giovanni Scognamillo, Diego Curubeto, and David Wilt), Tombs gives us an overflowing cornucopia of well-written descriptions of movies made in Hong Kong, the Philippines, Indonesia, India, Turkey, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, and Japan. Each section provides film-historical background on the individual countries and studios, a handy folklore primer on the indigenous monsters and myths that appear in the films, plenty of movie stills and poster art, and portraits of important personalities such as Brazil's José Mojica Marins (creator of the infamous evil persona Zé do Caixão, a.k.a. Coffin Joe).

      As horror-fantasy writer Ian McDowell writes, "The sheer range of bizarre cinema that Tombs covers is amazing. My only serious cavil involves his first chapter, one of three on Hong Kong cinema. I know that he leaves the mainstream fare to others, but he still makes some odd statements about the timing of the golden age of Chinese martial arts films."

      Best of all, Tombs prizes the pungent, if sometimes raw, flavors of individual creativity and local traditions, so his book is especially helpful for distinguishing between horror films that are unique to a country or region, those that are hybrids of Western models and local themes, and those that are mere copies of Western films. Mondo Macabro also includes top 10 lists from five world cinema experts, tips on where to find the videos, and an index of film titles. --Fiona Webster

    2. Killing for Culture: An Illustrated History of Death Film (1995) - David Kerekes [Amazon.com]
      A captivating read...Creation's most accomplished film publication so far. This study on the way death has been treated on film is cleverly structured, well researched and lucidly written. It comprehensively covers films made as fiction - e.g. "Peeping Tom", "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer" - films purporting to be real - e.g. "Faces of Death" series - and material that is all too real, such as car-crashes, autopsy films and news footage. --amazon.com

      Included is a radical critique of feature films which have incorporated a „snuff“ element; a comprehensive history of „Mondo“ movies and „shockumentaries“; analysis of the validity or otherwise of supposedly real-life „snuff“ footage, and its links with certain individuals and organisations; a summary of other real deaths captured on film suchas live-TV suicides, executions, news-reel footage etc; and also a comprehensive filmography. The whole book is profusely illustrated with rare and extraordinary photographs from both cinema, documentary and real life.

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