The Real Cannibal Holocaust:
Just when you thought the DVD market had completely dried up, here comes a weirdly re-titled eurotrash mondo movie enjoying its first North American DVD release. As it's coming out now as The Real Cannibal Holocaust, you'd think One 7 Movies was hoping to sucker in a few fans of Italian gut-munchers, when in fact enraged sickos are really getting the joint Japanese/Italian mondo movie, Nuova Guinea, l'isola dei cannibali from 1974. Those savvy enough will discover that the back of the box kindly reveals at least some of this subterfuge anyway, and that this middling affair in the shockumentary milieu deserves a short run release more-or-less just so we can know that it's been done.
Focusing on a Papua New Guinea, then under Australian rule, Real Cannibal wastes no time getting to its point: those primitive natives sure are weird sickos, aren't they? And so we're invited to gawk at a hypnotic 'n' offensive display of native weirdness, of which 50% seems to be of dubious veracity. Narrated in Italian, (with English Subtitles) the movie starts with a royal visit to the territory by Queen Elizabeth the 2nd - immediately setting a leering and spurious tone. We're told that, since the Queen doesn't have a bone through her nose, the natives "don't get what all the fuss is about." From an ethnocentric standpoint, this is likely true, but since the filmmakers chose to score this sequence to the tune of 'Hail To The Chief,' any shred of credibility flies away like spray from a departing pontoon plane.
Of course the real reason for this documentary is to lure in the punters with promises of topless native girls and genuine cannibalism. While we get many different flavors of the former, the latter is mostly left to the ludicrous sight of a mourning woman munching maggots off of a well-desiccated corpse she's kept in her hut. Presumably some of her morsels come with a bit of flesh, and she's kept the corpse with her as a funerary rite. The fact that the corpse looks to have been lying in state for ten years or more, and the mourner and corpse are never seen together in the same shot, would lead one to believe that this is all a crock of shit. But what do I know?
More atrocities are paraded with the same ambling geniality and mild derision, including the usual animal cruelty - bats being skinned alive and boars bashed in the noggin - amongst more plebian weirdness. Tattooing and scarification procedures are lingered over in loving detail, lots of that loving detail being surreptitious shots of naked boobies. Other weird funerary madness is displayed, which many times simply results in footage of skeletonized remains - not exactly the flesh-eating horror we might expect.
We must continue on, however, for 'backwards sexuality' including ways Papuan males protect their penises, the way men and women get it on out in the bush (careful, friends) and the bizarre practice of ... homosexuality ... here depicted by male tribesmen traipsing about whilst holding hands.
There is more, but I'll leave that for you, intrepid explorer, to discover. Just bear in mind a few things: this isn't exactly a reputable source for information on Papuan tribal activities. Also, you aren't really going to see any cannibalism. Oh yeah, this has absolutely nothing to do with the infamous Cannibal Holocaust (unless you count seeing animals killed on camera). However, if you can make it past all of that, The Real Cannibal Holocaust (erm ... yeah) at least represents an odd time capsule - and more importantly an ethnographic/ethnocentric one - into an era when glimpses into the 'dark corners' of the world were considered salacious entertainment. Nowadays we just don't really want to know what's going on beyond our doorstep because it usually says too much about human responsibility than we'd care to acknowledge. But that's enough from my soapbox. On the face of it, this one's for mondo-completists only. If you want to get in on the ground floor, check out the original Mondo Cane and if you want the worst, move on to Africa Addio, if you're a scholar and haven't seen this one yet, you can thank One 7 Movies for the dubious opportunity.
This 1.33:1 fullscreen presentation might represent the original aspect ratio. It sure looks that way, though my brief attempts at research don't reveal a definitive answer. Whatever the case, this transfer seems to have been drawn from a garden variety, beat-to-hell print, with plenty of grain, film damage, scratches, and whatever else you'd associate with a third run showing in a grindhouse theater. At that, it creates a nice, authentic atmosphere. Compression artifacts, however, aren't a problem.
The DVD box indicates a presentation of Italian Mono Dolby Digital 2.0 Audio, whatever that is. I'll call it mono, and note that the audio source is not much better than the video source, although a little bit of hiss and crackle here and there is also somewhat welcome in a weird way. If your Italian's great, you will likely find audio to be easy to understand, and the score sounds good enough, too.
Aside from those English Subtitles you'll find no other extras.
As far as misleadingly re-titled mid-'70s mondo movies are concerned, The Real Cannibal Holocaust can best be described as a curiosity. It has nothing to do with the real Cannibal Holocaust, nor does it actually show any legitimate cannibalism. It does, however, treat you to a healthy dose of First World ethnocentrisms while showing a slimy corpse or two, plus plenty of topless native girls (and their much less fulsome grandmothers). If you really, really have a jones for mondo movies, I'd go ahead and Rent It, before considering dropping dollars just to say you have every mondo movie ever released in your collection.
- Kurt Dahlke
~ More of Dahlke's DVD Talk reviews here at DVD Talk I'm not just a writer, I paint colorful, modern abstracts, too! Check them out here KurtDahlke.com