“Mondo Cane” of 1962 is the first of a bunch of Italian ‘Mondo’ Shockumentaries and, without any doubt, an immensely influential piece of Exploitation cinema. Gualtiero Jacopetti and Paolo Carva came up with an entirely new style of film-making with this, and back in 1962 it must have made even greater an impact on audiences, and also been more shocking than it is now. While some folks might point out that “Mondo Cane” may seem slightly dated, one must not forget that this was revolutionary and ground-breaking for its time and highly influential for many films to come. “Mondo Cane” has spawned quite a bunch of other ‘Mondo’ films including the sequel “Mondo Cane 2” as well as the notorious “Addio Zio Tom” (1971), and furthermore served as an influence to countless exploitation classics including masterpieces such as Ruggero Deodato’s “Cannibal Holocaust” (1980). But it is not merely the film’s classic status and influence that make this worth watching. “Mondo Cane” is a highly interesting, and often bizarrely ironical film as such, and everybody interested in Exploitation cinema should see it at least once.
“Mondo Cane” shows more or less unrelated scenes from around the world, some of which are shocking, others comical. To label the film as sensationalist may be justified to a certain point, but people who are bothered by this are probably not best advised to watch Exploitation cinema anyway. The scenes include such different things as drunk people behaving like drunk people do, or scenes in a massage parlor, the slaughtering of animals (these are real documentary shots, so Peta and pals are probably best advised not to see them), or bizarre religious rituals. While the film is a documentary it is not to 100 per cent. Inbetween real scenes there are some which are obviously fake, and several with which neither is obvious and which cold be either staged or real. Some might label the premise of “Mondo Cane” voyeuristic or sensationalist, but the film never looks down upon the depicted people, especially not tribesmen of so-called primitive cultures. Some of the scenes are actually quite funny, and make it harder to take the whole thing seriously, but then, some of them are highly interesting, some of them shocking (in a comparatively un-explicit manner), and in some parts, especially in the second half, the film becomes downright fascinating. The brilliant score by maestro Riz Ortolani adds a lot to the atmosphere and overall value of the film. “Mondo Cane” is narrated, and the voice-overs are actually quite interesting without seeming too serious for the films own good. One may look at this film in one way or another, but the least one can say is that Giacopetti and Cavara deserve great respect as pioneers. Not to be missed by fans of Exploitation/Cult cinema!