Thursday, 8 March 2012

The Mountain Of The Cannibal God

Ursula Undress

The Mountain Of The Cannibal God
aka Primitive Desires
aka La Montagna Del Dio Cannibale
aka Slave Of The Cannibal God
aka Prisoner Of The Cannibal God
US 1978
Directed by Sergio Martino
EC Entertainment Region 0

Warning: This may have some very light spoilers, depending on what spoilers you think there could possibly be from a film with such a “does what it says on the tin” title.

So where do I even start with the illustriously entitled movie known to many simply as... The Mountain Of The Cannibal God... or even, "that movie where that Bond girlie takes her clothes off?"

Well, for me, it has to start somewhere in the mid 1990s when my sleepy little town of Enfield got “cabled up” by an enthusiastic company and we all had access to about a gazillion cable channels for the first time ever (yeah, okay, it’s also about a half a gazillion less than most digital services these days but, hey, we only had five channels before then so what do you want from me?). This service lasted for four or five years until the cable company decided we were getting too good a deal and tried to hike the prices up. This had the effect of making a lot of people, myself included, ditch the cable service and thus, for the time being, return to a simpler way of life. I don’t know if the cable company survived but knowing the inhabitants of my town like I do... I’m guessing they didn’t have much take up.

Okay then, so there I was with my fresh cable channel and we had a weird channel called HVC which, once it came on at about 10pm every night, seemed to be intent on showing the people of Enfield soft core porn movies... or, to be more precise, what were once hard core porn movies which had been rendered less hard and... erm... more soft by the use of various edits and optical zooms enforced on the poor customers of this particular cable company by whatever self appointed moral guardians felt it was right and proper to do so this time. But don’t get me started on the evils of censorship...

Now then, I’m sure you all know that I wouldn’t want to watch any of those nasty porn films (butter not melting in my mouth anytime soon) but, you know, I was interested in film so felt it best I watch some anyway, just to check on the levels of artistic and educational content that such films had to offer... and one of the things this channel used to show was a watered down broadcast of... um... a “porn programme” (?) called Electric Blue. With me so far? Good...

Now one of the episodes of this Electric Blue was a “celebrity special” showing clips from various porn films or steamy scenes from movie featuring as near as they could get to bona fide celebrities who had been in such things. You know the drill. It can be a bit of a stretch tenuously filling up this kind of compilation programme I’m guessing. So they had Sylvester Stallone on there, of course, in his “early” Italian Stallion phase. And the likes of La Cicciolina, Madonna, Koo Stark, Charlie Sheens ex-girlfriend (I’m sorry but the name escapes me), Helen Mirren (in a clip from Caligula) and... former two time Bond girl Ursula Andress in a clip from a movie where she is tied up naked to a pole and has red paint rubbed suggestively all over her body by two equally naked native gals. Now, at the time, I’d not seen any of the movies that these dubious gems were taken from but, after now having seen The Mountain Of The Cannibal God... I can say I have finally seen the movie where the Ursula Andress clip was taken from. Classy.

There were three reasons, really, why I wanted to get around to watching this movie at this time. Number one on that list is, naturally, the appreciation of the curvy nakedness of the film’s female lead... but I also wanted to see this one because it’s directed by the director Sergio Martino, who has made, in my opinion anyway, some of the greatest movies in the Italian giallo genre there are (some of which give Dario Argento a good run for his money). Thirdly, I have to admit, was the tempting allure of the discount boxes at the Camden Film Fair where I was able to purchase an uncut edition of The Mountain Of The Cannibal God for the less than princely sum of... £2 or three for a fiver. I like a good bargain.

So there I was, getting ready for the second half of a double bill on a late Friday night (I’d just watched Umberto Lenzi’s giallo Eyeball), armed with a big bag of popcorn and a can of shandy... I doused the lights, hit play and... the film commenced.

Okay... so The Mountain Of The Cannibal God is not a great film. Sergio Martino’s directing is pretty competent and he certainly tries hard with this tale of a brother and sister penetrating the jungle to gain access to a forbidden island in a search for the sister’s lost husband who is missing, presumed dead. He even tries to add depth to a lot of the shots by shooting through trees and using angles made by branches (many of which I’m sure have been strategically placed for just such a purpose rather than having been found growing naturally) to make the compositions more interesting. He also has a nice thing he does in a few early scenes where a person who is standing in medium to long shot and addressing a couple of people also in shot who are, say, siting down, walks across the set in time with a tracking shot swivelling around the composition... but it has to be said that, for all the artistic effort put into this movie... it’s more than just a little boring.

There are hangovers from the mondo and cannibal movies which were popular enough to obviously have necessitated Martino’s involvement with this kind of shock sensationalist entertainment (none of which I’ve seen as it happens). So you have various scenes of pseudo people eating scenes juxtaposed with actual footage of animals killing each other and so on but, even with this shock material inserted (and it’s way less than shocking compared to what I expect is to be found in the other films of this nasty little sub-genre), it has to be said that this film really does start to drag.

Andress is not particularly convincing in this one and the director seems to take every opportunity he can to get her wet... be it walking through heavy rain or falling into white water... but that all seems a bit of a waste when his camera quite astonishingly fails to linger on any of Ursula’s wet bits... refraining from all such instances of cheap sexual exploitation until we get to that later sequence which was lifted for the Electric Blue video programmes years later. Seems a bit pointless to have gone to all that trouble of getting her wet in the first place if you’re not going to linger on the effects of said wetness on the clothed female form. But enough of that...

The film is of interest, probably, only to those who find the Italian Cannibal genre something worth exploring or to those, like myself, who admire the movies of Sergio Martino... and, of course, for those of us who are intrigued by Ursula Andress’ on-screen presence. And even then, I had to sit through an extended and painfully paced piece of footage of a snake eating a live monkey and, also, a scene where... there’s no way to put this delicately methinks... a guy happily shags a pig... or possibly a wild boar come to think of it... yes, he bores a boar. And I had to sit through Stacy Keech’s performance too... that’s no easy thing.

Frankly, this movie wasn’t that hard to watch but wouldn’t exactly fit the term “pulse pounding” either. There really are a fair few more worthwhile movies I could have been watching rather than putting up with this and I was also disappointed that Ms. Andress didn’t “go all Conan” and deliver muscle-bound, nipple-poking, she-wolf justice as she appears to have been doing on the DVD cover art. Now that’s the film I wanted to see!

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