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  Mountain of the Cannibal God Good Enough to Eat
Year: 1978
Director: Sergio Martino
Stars: Ursula Andress, Stacy Keach, Claudio Cassinelli, Antonio Marsina, Franco Fantasia, Gianfranco Spinola, Carlo Longhi, Lugina Rocchi, Dudley Wanaguru, T.M. Munna, M. Suki, Akushla Sellajaah
Genre: Horror, Sex, Trash, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 2 votes)
Review: Like many Italian cannibal movies, Mountain of the Cannibal God (also known as Slaves of the Cannibal God) kicks off with a po-faced prologue declaring its sincere intent to warn us cannibalism really does exist, thriving just a stone’s throw away from civilisation. Gasp! Truth be told, the film is more a gore-and-sexed up throwback to old-fashioned jungle romps like King Solomon’s Mines or the Tarzan movies. Susan Stevenson (Ursula Andress) and her quarrelsome brother Arthur (Antonio Marsina) hire grizzled jungle explorer Edward Foster (Stacy Keach), ostensibly to help find her ethnologist husband who disappeared in the jungle of New Guinea. The trio venture deep into the grimy, sweaty jungle enduring horrors like lurking boa constrictors, deadly man-traps, treacherous rapids and ravenous crocodiles. Most hazardous of all are the Pooka, a cannibal tribe whose masked warriors stalk them at every turn.

As cannibal gut-munchers go, this is a well-crafted effort and good fun, give or take some nasty animal snuff footage. Here a tarantula is speared, a lizard ripped apart and its innards devoured as part of a native ritual (yeah, right), and most disturbingly, a terrified little monkey is slowly devoured by a huge snake. Rather more fascinating, in a National Geographic sort of way, the film opens with a wildlife montage including a brief scene where a tortoise attacks a crocodile! Wonder who won that fight…

Lush photography and evocative staging by exploitation veteran Sergio Martino ably convey the sense of being trapped in an oppressive environment where death lurks around every corner, but scarcely compensate for the wholly unnecessary animal slaughter. This cruelty had been a fixture of the genre since its inception by Umberto Lenzi with his Deep River Savages (1972), swiftly followed by Last Cannibal World (1976) by Ruggero Deodato. Where Deodato moved on to bleak and vicious social satire with Cannibal Holocaust (1979) and Lenzi lapsed into inept grotesquery with Eaten Alive (1980) and Cannibal Ferox (1981), Martino keeps it simple. He focuses on telling a ripping yarn and foregrounds stunts and suspense work over slapdash gore, although the film was banned in the UK as a “video nasty” and isn’t immune to the usual cynical pontificating over civilised man being no less savage than the cannibals.

Hot-tempered Edward essays the genre’s regulation idiot, punching natives and recklessly endangering everybody’s lives with his bad behaviour. After the party find refuge at a mission run by elderly Father Moses (Franco Fantasia), the prettiest native girl (Akushla Sellajaah) takes a shine to Edward. Their hot voodoo sex is interrupted when she takes a spear to the chest from an angry Pooka. As if to underline the message that the Pooka are prudes, Father Moses blames everything on the newcomers introducing his peaceful natives to adultery and fornication. Which ignores evidence suggesting they had plenty of that before the white explorers came along. Even our glamorous heroine proves far from innocent, since Susan’s motives are rather less honourable than they seem…

Stacy Keach’s career was at a low-point when he signed up for this exploitation movie, although he has arguably appeared in far worse. Nevertheless, though Foster talks up a subplot about taking revenge on his onetime cannibal captors, he abruptly and inexplicably exits the plot. Our real hero is Manolo (Claudio Cassinelli, who died tragically in a helicopter accident while filming Martino’s Terminator rip-off, Hands of Steel (1986)), Father Moses’ sidekick, humanitarian, and all-round good egg. It is he who eventually accompanies Susan to the titular mountain hideaway where they discover a vast fortune in uranium and her husband’s rotting corpse which has a Geiger counter embedded in its chest and worshipped by those crazy cannibals.

In a justly infamous scene many a Bond fan might wish had been included in Dr. No (1962), Ursula Andress is bound naked and smeared with honey by two foxy cannibal girls to be worshipped as their golden goddess. Even a subsequent bit where Cassinelli is force-fed a live lizard by a cannibal midget fails to top this earlier scene, which was imitated with even more pronounced sexual overtones both Eaten Alive and Zombie Holocaust (1980), although the Region 1 DVD release of Mountain of the Cannibal God restores four minutes of simulated sex footage, including some native bestiality and a cannibal girl pleasuring herself. Ursula Andress was fresh off a pair of altogether more light-hearted jungle romps, Africa Express (1975) and Safari Express (1976) that had been big hits in Europe. Though she does her fair of screaming and models chic leatherwear, she was a rare glamorous star able to convincingly handle more rough and ready scenes, and does so capably here. Music by Guido and Maurizio De Angelis, a catchy and atypically sober effort from those two.

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Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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