Saturday, June 10, 2006

Mondo Fabuloso!

I did a bad thing today.

Not bad in the sense that I touched children or kicked in a nun's head or anything. Just a selfish, silly thing I probably shouldn't have done... but I did. Yep'. I ordered me the Mondo Cane Collection.

For those who don't know the glory and wonder of the Blue Underground 8 DVD box, here's the scoop: Gualtiero Jacopetti and Franco Prosperi were a pair of documentary film makers who in 1962 shocked and amazed the world with MONDO CANE (It's a Dog's Life), a film which brought the beauty and violence of man and beast to the silver screen in glorious technicolor. Basically the original Discovery Channel, Mondo Cane featured bizarre religious rights, animals doing what they do best (eating each other), wild and bizarre customs and was as educational as it was entertaining. This was the start of the so-called "Mondo" genre, a term which would go on to mean explotave and graphic documentary film making. While often immitated, it's been said that Jacopetti and Prosperi's works could never be immitated. After years of loving SHOCKING ASIA and FACES OF DEATH (to a lesser extent), I'm going to find out for myself.

The set contains 5 films on 8 DVD's, and is numbered to 10,000 copies. It retails for a whopping $150, but I got it for around half that: hence why I blew THAT much money at one time. Making it even more frustrating is the fact that Blue Underground has since released 2 "Shockumentary Collections", 3 DVD sets which contain the sane films on display in the box set. So what's the big deal? Simple: 2 of these films come in 2 separate editions. Mondo Cane, Mondo Cane 2, Women of the World and the Godfathers of Mondo (a retrospective on the Mondo phenomenon) are identical in both releases. The controversey starts in AFRICA ADDIO and hits two-fold in the controversial classic ADDIO ZIO TOM.

AFRICA ADDIO (Goodbye, Africa) was truly the Mondo opus, or so I'm told, with the films' creators having lived a total of 3 years in Africa, filming everything they saw during a time of great civil unrest as the government changed from British rule to a return to it's natives, in which formers enemies took up their old ways. Released in US theatres cut to a mere 83 minutes, though the original English dubbed version ran 122 minutes. The full Italian cut of the film runs a whopping 140 minutes, nearly an HOUR longer than the old theatrical cut. The uncut version includes many new nasty sequences, including butchered hippo's and the aftermath of war-zones caught in conflict. It isn't pretty, but it is real, and ingoring history is even worse than staring it in the face. The Shockumentary Collection only includes the 122 minute cut: the box set on it's way to me includes the full 140 minute version, in Italian no less. I can't wait to see both cuts.

ADDIO ZIO TOM (Goodbye Uncle Tom), meanwhile, may be one of the most misunderstood films in cinematic history. After 4 popular documentaries and watching the people of Africa retake their homeland in a bloddy coup first hand, the directors decided to try something new: to recreate history and use actors to play real historical figures, and show what the American slave trade was like in the 19th century before the Civil War. This is a film which, though not as "real" as Africa Addio (no dead animals on display here) is far more important in the grand scheme of things, and is so far the only film to try and realistically look at a controversial topic, and spare no detail. Slaves are raped, beaten, shot, treated like animals, forced to breed like live stock, mauled, and so much more. While I don't think that being angry for what past generations did is productive (and if anyone tells you that you're The Man keeping him down, please, tell him to kiss your flat white ass), you should at least know the facts of what did happen. Perhaps the least sleazy scene in the whole affair is seeing a slave get a cork shoved up his ass so he doesn't shit on the ship he's being carted to the states in. Yeah. It's that honest. That honesty, however, has led a lot of people to believe that the film itself is racist: that showing the horrible things that happened to blacks in America some hundred fifty years ago in and of itself is shameful. It isn't. The film makers don't agree with what's happening, no more than they agreed with the sight of seeing poachers hunting animals or men beind executed in Africa Addio. All that they've done is given us the facts, and let us judge for ourselves. If we judge the sight of history to be racist... then we're a PC prude and need to shove it up our ass.

Seriously. Dubbing a black woman in Tom and Jerry cartoons over with a white woman pretending to be black isn't less racist than a black woman using her natural speaking voice and using a now out-of-fassion Southern dialect. This is how The Man keeps you down, not by making you look bad, but by trying to make you look like him. Not to bitch about Ted Turner and his butchering of old cartoons, but it's the same principle.

That having been said, I saw the old BLACK DEVIl, WHITE DEVIL print of Goodbye Uncle Tom, a 123 minute re-edit made by the film's distributors, which lacks the real footage of Martin Luther King's followers giving interviews shortly after his death, thus grounding the footage in a sort of modern light. It also cut the more disturbing footage, all in an attempt to not cause riots in the early 70's. It didn't work, but they sure tried. Anyway, the 123 minute version is in the Shockumentary pack, the box set includes both. It's almost a shame that the uncut version is in Italian... much as I try to watch all films in their original languages, Italian (and most European films from the 60's through about the late 80's) were shot without sound, and then dubbed in all languages later on. The Italian dubs of the era were pretty awful, and some were so badly recorded and acted that even Italian directors (like Michael Soavi) have admitted that the English dubs were better. Anyway, the main reason I wish it were in English is a matter of context: the film takes place in America, and damnit, we speak Americanese here. Either way, I can't wait to see it uncut. Not to mention the rest of the Mondo Cane legacy.

Will I do anything else bad? Hard to say. Mid-June and Early December are sale-times at Deep Discount DVD and DVD Pacific - so if you want yer' fix, you'd best look up the info and order now (hint: the coupon DVDTALK will get you 20% off at DDD 'till the 17th). I should probably take this $20 I have left over and wait for THE HILLS HAVE EYES to be released unrated and pick that up instead of any other random smut or gore. Plus, all of the Media Balsters DVD mysteriously dissapeared the day of the sale, leading to much cursing and threatening of the internet on my part.

DAMN YOU ALL!!!!!!!!


Anyway, I've designed a bunch of menu's for KAZE TO KI NO UTA, my next not-legit project, and I've translated over half of my next legit DVD... even if I've beeen dragging ass as of late due to personal reasons. So, bugger it, I'm gonna' go back to translating my gory smut.