Thursday, October 20, 2022

#2,843. Mountain of the Cannibal God (1978)


With 1978’s Mountain of the Cannibal God, director Sergio Martino dipped his toes into the Cannibal subgenre, which was growing in popularity at the time.

Truth be told, he did more than “dip his toes”… he jumped in headfirst! Mountain of the Cannibal God is a violent, shocking, sometimes sleazy Italian horror film that’s also damned entertaining.

Susan Stevenson (Ursula Andress) and her brother Arthur (Antonio Marsina) travel to New Guinea to search for Susan’s husband, an archaeologist who disappeared during an expedition. With the help of Professor Edward Foster (Stacy Keach), who agrees to act as their guide, they journey deep into the jungle. Their destination: a mountain off the coast of Roka that the locals believe is cursed.

Along the way, they meet Manolo (Claudio Cassinelli), a friend of Foster’s who agrees to accompany them. The group encounters one danger after another as they draw closer to the mountain, yet it’s a run-in with the dreaded Puka tribe, an ancient people still practicing cannibalism, that may be their undoing.

Mountain of the Cannibal God features all of the goodies you’d expect to find in a solid ‘80s Italian horror film, from the superb score composed by Guido and Maurizio De Angelis to Martino’s stylish, occasionally flamboyant direction (the scenes set on a river are especially engaging).

Every bit as impressive as the technical aspects is the film’s international cast. The always-strong Stacy Keach (Road Games, The Ninth Configuration) does a fine job as Foster, who is battling demons of his own; while Swiss sex symbol Ursula Andress (Dr. No, Clash of the Titans) proves she’s just as tough as her male counterparts. At one point, she even fights off a python! Also solid is Claudio Cassinelli as the heroic Manolo and Antonio Marsinal as the slimy Arthur, while Sri Lankan actor Dudley Wanaguru makes a brief but memorable appearance as a government official who warns Andress’s character not to undertake the expedition.

Like all good Italian horror films from this period, Mountain of the Cannibal God is loaded with blood and gore, from stabbings and beheadings to a gruesome castration. Sadly (and in keeping with the norm for the cannibal genre of this era), Martino and his crew also include some real-life animal violence. A scene in which a python devours a monkey is tough to watch, but pales in comparison to the slaughter of a lizard, which is cut open, skinned, and carved into pieces as part of a jungle sacrifice, performed by natives to ward off evil spirits. Equally as unsettling is the film’s final act, set in the cave dwelling of the Puka Tribe, which features, among other things, soft-core porn, an attempted rape, and a (thankfully) brief moment of bestiality!

Whether or not Mountain of the Cannibal God is as shocking and upsetting as Ruggero Deodato’s notorious 1980 film Cannibal Holocaust is up for debate, but there’s no doubt that Martino’s opus of the extreme has, at the very least, earned its spot in the conversation.
Rating 7.5 out of 10

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