Earlier this year in January, famed Italian musical composer Riz Ortalani passed on. His musical scores graced such films as “Cannibal Holocaust,” “Mondo Cane,” “Confessions of a Police Captain,” “House on the Edge of the Park,” Lucio Fulci’s Giallo classic “Don’t Torture a Duckling”, and he even did work for some of the more recent Quentin Tarantino films such as the “Kill Bill” series, as well as “Django Unchained” before his untimely death.
One of the lesser-known films he scored was the 1978 Mondo film, “Brutes and Savages,” which I’ll be going over shortly.
If you’re not familiar with the term “Mondo Film,” let me give you a quick overview. The genre got its start in 1962 with “Mondo Cane,” an Italian pseudo-documentary showcasing a series of vignettes from around the world, of different customs and traditions meant to shock theatergoers who might not have known about them, unless they were longtime subscribers to National Geographic. In the mid-to-late 1970s a lot of these films were being made. One of the more recognizable Mondo series you most likely have seen or heard of would be “Faces Of Death.” Like a lot of other exploitation films from around this time, “Faces” depicted scenes of real animal cruelty, something that would never get past the sensors in this day and age, but back then it was considered shocking and cutting edge.
“Brutes and Savages” showcases a series of “Travels” of one explorer Arthur Davis, but I find his credentials as convincing as those of Dr. Frances B. Gross (actor Michael Carr—Wade Davis he certainly is not). His travels take us on a journey to Africa, where there are quite possibly the most ridiculous and laughable scenes ever caught in on film. A young tribal warrior crosses an alligator infested river, and well…..This is what happens:
Also I doubt African Indigenous tribes wear bright yellow pants and use mirrors to apply brightly colored war paint, But I digress……
The rest of the film is more or less forgettable after the first 30 minutes. There’s a scene of Davis visiting a South American museum of erotic sculptures, which is followed by stock footage of brain surgery—why they put these two sequences back to back I have no idea. My guess is poor editing. This is a trend for most Mondo and Exploitation films of the time, Re-enactments or filmed sequences followed by random pieces of real stock footage. I.E. The real footage of a mass execution in Africa placed in the middle of Cannibal Holocaust and called a “staged scene” for a fake Mondo movie entitled “The Last Road To Hell.” I should note Ruggero Deodato put this scene in the film as commentary on American media from the late 1970s.
As I mentioned before the rest of the film is very forgettable and sometimes even hard to sit through, There’s a scene set in some unnamed, tropical location where a father gives a daughter away for three fish (he obviously didn’t love her that much), and their wedding ceremony is celebrated with the slaughtering of a turtle on the beach (that’s right, more blatant animal cruelty).
Is this film worth seeing? Well, yes and no. It’s essentially the “White Fire” of Mondo. If you’re sensitive about animal cruelty in film, simulated or otherwise, I recommend you stay from the exploitation genre, altogether. These films are definitely a product of their time. In today’s day and age of filmmaking scenes like that wouldn’t happen.
Definitely watch “Brutes and Savages” at least once (the first half hour, that is). The scenes that take place in Africa are the highlight of the film, due to just how laughable and crude they are, If your new to the world of Mondo films, I suggest starting out with the original “Mondo Cane,” after seeing that, this will seem like a very watered-down cheap imitation (which it essentially is).
One interesting bit of trivia regards the films narration, The voice you hear that accompanies you on all of these “Journeys” is none other than that of British veteran actor Richard Johnson, who you might remember as Dr. David Menard from Lucio Fulci’s “Zombie Flesh Eaters”, More often referred to as “Zombie 2”.
“The boat can leave now, Tell the crew”