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Mondo films are a subgenre of exploitation films and documentary films. Many mondo films are made in a way to resemble a pseudo-documentary and usually depicting sensational topics, scenes, or situations. Common traits of mondo films include portrayals of foreign cultures (which have drawn accusations of ethnocentrism or racism), an emphasis on taboo subjects such as death and sex, and staged sequences presented as genuine documentary footage. Over time, the films have placed increasing emphasis on footage of the dead and dying (both real and fake).
The term mondo is derived from the Italian word for "world". The term shockumentary is also used to describe the genre.
Mondo films began to soar in popularity in the 1960s with the releases of Mondo Cane (1962), Women of the World (1963) and Africa Addio (1966). The genre arguably reached its peak with Faces of Death in 1978, a film that inspired myriad imitators, such as the Traces of Death series, Banned from Television, Death Scenes and Faces of Gore series.
Although earlier films such as Alessandro Blasetti's Europa di notte (Europe By Night, 1959) and Luigi Vanzi's Il mondo di notte (World By Night, 1961) may be considered examples of the genre, the origins of the mondo documentary are generally traced to the 1962 Italian film Mondo Cane (A Dog's World—a mild Italian profanity) by Paolo Cavara, Gualtiero Jacopetti and Franco Prosperi which was a commercial success.
Documentary films imitating Mondo Cane in the 1960s often included the term "mondo" in their titles, even if they were in English; examples include Mondo Bizarro, Mondo Daytona, Mondo Mod, Mondo Infame and Mondo Hollywood. Films outside the genre followed suit: Mondo Trasho, Mondo Weirdo: A Trip to Paranoia Paradise, Mondo Keyhole and Mondo Brutale (a German release of Wes Craven's The Last House on the Left) title themselves mondo, although none are mondo documentaries. Later in the decade, this naming convention began to fall out of favour and fewer mondo films identified themselves as such in their titles. The War Game, a 1965 British film depicting conditions before and after a nuclear attack on England, would not see public broadcast for twenty years.
Filmmakers wanted to top each other in shock value to attract audiences. Cruelty to animals, accidents, tribal-initiation rites and surgeries are features of a typical mondo. Much of the action is staged, although the filmmakers may claim their goal is to document "reality". Subjects of mondo films include sex (Mondo Sex and Mondo Sexualis USA); celebrities (Mondo Elvis and Mondo Lugosi); youth culture (Mondo Teeno) and the gay subculture (Mondo Rocco).
Russ Meyer's film Mondo Topless was one of the few "documentaries" restricted to the old midnight movie circuit in the pre-VCR era; it explored strip clubs in 1960s San Francisco at a time when strip clubs were a novelty in the United States, restricted to centers of port-city decadence (such as San Francisco). Other examples of this genre include Mondo New York by Harvey Keith, Mondo di Notte by Gianni Proia and Mondo Balordo by Roberto Bianchi Montero.
The 1980s saw a resurgence of mondo movies focusing almost exclusively on (onscreen) death, instead of world cultures. The Faces of Death series is a notable example of this type of mondo (or "death") movie. The producers used fake footage (passed off as real), but some of the footage was legitimate (including scenes of autopsies, suicides and accidents).
The rare 1985 film Mondo Senza Veli (World Without Veils or Mondo Fresh) was purported by viewers to feature at its end the brutal execution of a young Arab rapist by public rectal impalement. This episode was, however, believed to have been a staged execution by some viewers.
Mondo films in the 21st century feature gore, exemplified by the Faces of Gore and Traces of Death series. There is less fake footage, and many use news footage of accidents from East Asia.
The late 2010s saw another resurgence beginning with the Bootleg Death Tape series and Faces of Dying series from filmmaker Dustin Ferguson which both involved various independent Directors from around the world.
A number of films have parodied the genre. Examples include Ricardo Fratelli's Mondo Ford, Mr. Mike's Mondo Video by Saturday Night Live's Michael O'Donoghue, and Is There Sex After Death? by Jeanne and Alan Abel. Mondo Beyondo spoofed the films' approach to titling but was a parody of satellite television. The Italian cannibal film is arguably an offshoot of the mondo film.
|Title||Year||Country||Director and screenplay||Music||Uncut run time||Notes|
|Mondo Cane||1962||Italy||Gualtiero Jacopetti
Franco E. Prosperi
|Riz Ortolani||108 minutes||R-rated run time 85 minutes|
|La donna nel mondo||1963||Riz Ortolani
|107 minutes||a.k.a. Women of the World|
|Mondo Cane 2||1963||Gualtiero Jacopetti
|Nino Oliviero||95 minutes||R-rated run time 76 minutes; a.k.a.Mondo Pazzo|
|Africa Addio||1966||Riz Ortolani||139 minutes||Unrated English version 128 minutes; R-rated version 80 minutes|
|Addio Zio Tom||1971||136 minutes||Unrated English version 123 minutes; a.k.a.Goodbye Uncle Tom|
The pair's Mondo candido (1975) is not a "Mondo" film; the title was imposed on them by the studio, who wished to cash in on their earlier successes. The film is a retelling of Voltaire's novel, Candide.
|Title||Year||Country||Director and cinematography||Screenplay||Uncut run time||Notes|
|Mondo Cane Oggi||1986||Italy||Stelvio Massi||Stelvio Massi||78 minutes||AKA Mondo Cane 3|
|Mondo Cane 2000, l'Incredibile||1988||G. Crisanti||73 minutes||AKA Mondo Cane 4|
In 1969, brothers Angelo and Alfredo Castiglioni began to make a series of their own mondo films until the early 1980s. They made five films in all, tying Jacopetti and Prosperi as the most prolific mondo film producers. Each film examines brutal and bizarre behavior on the African continent. Their films are considered some of the most graphic Mondo films ever made.
|Africa Segreta||1969||Italy||Angelo Castiglioni
|Angelo Francesco Lavagnino||AKA Secret Africa; uncut run time 103 min|
|Africa Ama||1971||AKA Africa Uncensored|
|Magia Nuda||1975||Ciro Dammicco (credited as Zacar)||AKA Mondo Magic|
|Addio Ultimo Uomo||1978||Franco Godi||AKA The Last Savage|
|Africa Dolce e Selvaggia||1982||AKA Shocking Africa|
Antonio Climati, cinematographer to Prosperi and Jacopetti in many mondo films, joined Mario Morra in 1974 to produce their own string of mondo films, known as the Savage Trilogy. Prosperi also produced the films. Climati and Morra were known for staging scenes.
|Title||Year||Country||Director and Screenplay||Music||Notes|
|Ultime grida dalla savana||1975||Italy||Antonio Climati
|Carlo Savina||AKA Savage Man Savage Beast; uncut run time 94 min|
|Savana violenta||1976||Guido De Angelis
Maurizio De Angelis
|AKA This Violent World|
|Dolce e selvaggio||1983||Daniele Patucchi||AKA Sweet and Savage|
The 1978 Faces of Death popularized a Mondo style known as "death films", which depicted humans or animals dying in graphic ways.
|The Faces of Death Series||1978–1996||John Alan Schwartz||John Alan Schwartz||Six parts|
|The Worst of Faces of Death||1987||Compilation of first three Faces of Death films|
|Faces of Death: Fact or Fiction?||1999||John Alan Schwartz
James B. Schwartz
|Documentary about Faces of Death|
Uwe Schier bought the rights to the Mondo Cane and Faces of Death films and released his own entries in both series, consisting largely of footage lifted from other mondo films. Faces of Death 5 draws heavily on Death Scenes; Faces of Death 6 consists almost entirely of Days of Fury and Mondo Cane IV (not to be confused with Mondo Cane 2000, l'Incredibile, Schier's Mondo Cane IV is in fact the fifth film in the series) lifts from other films (including Death Scenes and Death Faces IV). In 1993, Hurricane Pictures edited a mix of scenes featured in Addio ultimo uomo and Shocking Africa, labeling it the "fifth chapter" of the saga (Teil V in German).
|Mondo Cane IV||1992||Germany|
|Mondo Cane teil V||1993||AKA Mondo Cane 5; producers Uwe Schier and Gian Carlo Rossi|
|Faces of Death 5||1995|
|Faces of Death 6||1996|
Several imitators followed the Faces of Death series; many used (or were composed entirely of) footage from other mondo films.
|Banned from Television||1998||Joe Francis||APM Music||Three parts; released in the US by Mantra Films. Banned in the UK by the BBFC|
|Banned! In America||1998–2003||Nomo Ichi||Delta 9||Six parts; released in the US by Brain Damage Films.|
|The Traces of Death Series||1993–2000||Damon Fox||J. R. Bookwalter||Five parts|
|The Faces of Gore Series||1999–2000||Todd Tjersland||Three parts|
|The Best of Faces of Gore||2000||Compilation video|
|Mondo Nudo||1963||Italy||Francesco De Feo||Gian Carlo Fusco
|Teo Usuelli||AKA Naked World|
|I Tabu||1963||Romolo Marcellini||Ugo Guerra||AKA Taboos of the World|
|Il Pelo nel Mondo||1964||Antonio Margheriti
|AKA Go Go Go World and Weird, Wicked World|
|Kwaheri: Vanishing Africa||1964||United States||Thor L. Brooks
|Michael Vittes||Byron Ross|
|I Malamondo||1964||Italy||Paolo Cavara||Guido Castaldo
|Le Schiave Esistono Ancora||1964||Maleno Malenotti
|Teo Usuelli||AKA Slave Trade in the World Today|
|Ecco||1964||Gianni Proia||R.W Cresse||Riz Ortolani||AKA This Shocking World|
|Mondo Balordo||1964||Roberto Bianchi Montero||Guido Castaldo
|English version narrated by Boris Karloff|
|L'amore primitivo||1964||Luigi Scattini||Massimo Pupillo
|Lallo Gori||AKA Primitive Love|
|Mondo Topless||1966||United States||Russ Meyer||The Aladdins|
|Mondo Freudo||1966||Lee Frost||Rodney Lee Bermingham|
|Mondo Bizarro||1966||Lee Frost||Lawrence Von Lattman|
|Macabro||1966||Italy||Romolo Marcellini||Giancarlo Del Re|
|The Mystery and the Pleasure||1966||United Kingdom||Edward Stewart Abraham||AKA Our Incredible World|
|Mondo oscenità||1966||Joseph P. Mawra||Ernest Franklin||AKA World of Obscenity|
|Mondo Hollywood||1967||United States||Robert Carl Cohen||Mike Curb|
|Sweden: Heaven and Hell||1968||Italy||Luigi Scattini||Piero Umiliani|
|L'altra faccia del peccato||1969||Marcello Avallone||Giacinto Ciaccio
|Peppino De Luca||AKA The Queer, the Erotic|
|Mille peccati... nessuna virtù||Sergio Martino||Peppino De Luca||AKA Mondo Sex|
|Inghilterra nuda||Vittorio De Sisti||Pino De Martino
|Piero Piccioni||AKA Naked England|
|America così nuda, così violenta||1970||Sergio Martino||Luciano Martino||Bruno Nicolai||AKA Naked and Violent|
|Shocking Asia||1974||West Germany||Rolf Olsen||Rolf Olsen
Ingeborg Stein Steinbach
|Erwin Halletz||Uncut run time 94 min.|
|Australia After Dark||1975||Australia||John D. Lamond|
|Notti Porno nel Mondo||1977||Italy||Bruno Mattei||Gianni Marchetti||AKA Mondo Erotica|
|This Is America||1977||United States||Romano Vanderbes||Emmanuel Vardi||AKA Crazy Ridiculous American People (UK), Jabberwalk|
|Brutes and Savages||1978||Arthur Davis||Jenny Craven||Riz Ortolani|
|Mr. Mike's Mondo Video||1979||Michael O'Donoghue||Mitch Glazer||Paul Shaffer|
|This Is America Part 2||1980||Romano Vanderbes||Bill Milling||Emmanuel Vardi|
|Days of Fury||1980||Fred Warshofsky||AKA Doomsday|
|Cannibal Holocaust||1980||Italy||Ruggero Deodato||Gianfranco Clerici||Riz Ortolani|
|Des Morts||1981||France/Belgium||Jean-Pol Ferbus
|Alain Pierre||AKA Of the Dead; uncut run time 105 min.|
|Great White Death||1981||Canada/United States||Jean-Patrick Lebel||Jean Sauvageau||AKA Sharks! Pirates of the Deep|
|The Killing of America||1982||United States||Sheldon Renan
|W. Michael Lewis
|AKA Violence U.S.A. in Japan; uncut run time 90 min.|
|Shocking Asia II: The Last Taboos||1985||West Germany||Rolf Olsen||Erwin Halletz|
|True Gore||1987||United States||M. Dixon Causey||Monte Cazazza|
The Atom Smashers
|Mondo New York||1988||Harvey Keith||Harvey Keith
|Luis Perico Ortiz||Uncut run time 83 min.|
|Death Scenes||1989||Nick Bougas||Nick Bougas
|Empire of Madness||1989||M. Dixon Causey||AKA True Gore II|
|Death Scenes 2||1992||Nick Bougas||Nick Bougas
|Engineering Red||1993||Russia||Andrei I||Andrei I|
|Mondo Ford||2001||United States||Scott Calonico
|Man VS Man||2004||Italy||Davide Lingua
|Murder Collection V.1||2009||United States||Fred Vogel||Don Moore|
|Mondo Sexxxx: The Terry Kobrah Story||2011||Logan Myers|
|Mondo Delirium||2011||Italy||Flavio Sciolè||Uncut run time 170 min.|
|Made in Italy||2012||Jephta|
|Bootleg Death Tape||2012||United States||Dustin Ferguson|
|Most Disturbed Person On Planet Earth||2013||United States||Thomas Extreme Cinemagore|
|Most Disturbed Person On Planet Earth 2||2014||Thomas Extreme Cinemagore|
|Occult Holocaust||2014||United States||Dustin Ferguson||AKA Occult Predator|
|Faces of Dying||2015||United States||Dustin Ferguson|
|Mondo Shock||2016||United States||Dustin Ferguson|
|Mondo CANEvese||2016||Italy||Davide Lingua|
|At the shadow of the tower||2017||Davide Lingua|
|Heart of Africa||2018||Davide Lingua|
|Most Disturbed Person On Planet Earth 3||2019||United States||Thomas Extreme Cinemagore|
|HollyWEIRD||2020||United States||Dustin Ferguson|
|Bootleg Death Tape II||2020||United States||Dustin Ferguson|
|Bootleg Death Tape III||2020||United States||Dustin Ferguson|
|Faces of Dying II||2021||United States||Dustin Ferguson|
|Faces of Dying III: The Final Assault||2021||United States||Dustin Ferguson|
|Mondo Shock 2||2021||United States||Dustin Ferguson|
- Kerekes & Slater, p. 108.
- Mondo New York (1988) The New York Times
- Kerekes & Slater, p. 102.
- Mondo Cane (1962) The New York Times
- Revisiting a Cinematic Smackdown, and Other Avant-Garde Pleasures The New York Times, October 1, 2009
- Mondo Cane Variety Reviews, December 31, 1961
- Kerekes & Slater, p. 107.
- Kerekes & Slater, p. 109.
- Kerekes & Slater, p. 315.
- Kerekes & Slater, p. 155.
- Kerekes & Slater, pp. 156-158.
- RE/Search No. 10: Incredibly Strange Films: A Guide to Deviant Films. RE/Search Publications 1986, ISBN 0-940642-09-3
- Brottman, Mikita: Mondo Horror. Carnivalizing the Taboo. In: Prince, Stephen (ed.) 2004: The horror film. S. 167–188. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press. ISBN 0813533635.
- Goodall, Mark 2006: Sweet & Savage. The World Through the Shockumentary Film Lens. London: Headpress. ISBN 978-1900486491. (the standard work on the mondo and cannibal genre)
- Goodall, Mark 2006: Shockumentary Evidence. The perverse politics of the Mondo film. In: Dennison, Stephanie (Hg.) 2006: Remapping world cinema. Identity, culture and politics in film. S. 118–128. London: Wallflower. ISBN 978-1904764625.
- Kerekes, David; Slater, David 2006: Killing for culture. Death film from Shockumentaries to snuff. Manchester: Headpress. ISBN 1900486636.
- Stefano Loparco, 'Gualtiero Jacopetti - Graffi sul mondo'. The first complete biography dedicated to the co-director of 'Mondo cane'. Il Foglio Letterario, 2014 - ISBN 9788876064760
- Shipka, Danny 2011: Perverse titillation. The exploitation cinema of Italy, Spain and France, 1960-1980. Jefferson: Mcfarland. ISBN 978-0786448883.
- Fanzine about Italian Mondo Movies https://www.instagram.com/tv/CicUxVrAjLW/?igshid=YmMyMTA2M2Y=
- Italian Mondo Movies collection '50s- '70s, https://www.spazioeimmagini.com/italian-mondo-movies-50s-70s, Spazio e Immagini.
- Exhibition AI LIMITI DEL MONDO.
Original vintage photos and documents from the Italian Mondo Movies '58 '74,https://www.spazioeimmagini.com/exhibitions-2022, Spazio e Immagini.