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Mondo film

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Mondo film is a subgenre of exploitive 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),[1] 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).[2]

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 (1978), a film that inspired a myriad of imitators, such as Banned from Television, Death Scenes, and the Traces of Death and Faces of Gore series.


Although earlier films such as Alessandro Blasetti's Europa di notte [it] (Europe By Night, 1959) and Luigi Vanzi's [it] Il mondo di notte [it] (World By Night, 1961) may be considered examples of the genre,[3] 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.[4][5][6]

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.[7] Films outside the genre followed suit: Mondo Trasho, Mondo Weirdo: A Trip to Paranoia Paradise, Mondo Keyhole[8] and Mondo Brutale (a German release of Wes Craven's The Last House on the Left[9]) 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.[7] 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.[citation needed]

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.[10] The Italian cannibal film is arguably an offshoot of the mondo film.[8]


The original mondo film series was the Mondo Cane series by Gualtiero Jacopetti, Paolo Cavara, and Franco Prosperi. When this type of film proved successful, many imitators followed.

Jacopetti and Prosperi
Title Year Country Director and screenplay Music Uncut run time Notes
Mondo Cane 1962 Italy Gualtiero Jacopetti
Paolo Cavara
Franco E. Prosperi
Riz Ortolani 108 minutes R-rated run time 85 minutes
La donna nel mondo 1963 Riz Ortolani
Nino Oliviero
107 minutes a.k.a. Women of the World
Mondo Cane 2 1963 Gualtiero Jacopetti
Franco Prosperi
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.

In the late 1980s, Stelvio Massi (a.k.a. Max Steele) made two spinoffs of the original Mondo Cane series, known as Mondo Cane 3 and Mondo Cane 4 on video.

Max Steele
Title Year Country Director and cinematography Screenplay Uncut run time Notes
Mondo cane oggi - L'orrore continua 1986 Italy Stelvio Massi Stelvio Massi 78 minutes a.k.a. Mondo Cane 3
Mondo cane 2000 - L'incredibile 1988 G. Crisanti 73 minutes a.k.a. 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.[11]

Castiglioni brothers
Title Year Country Directors Music Notes
Africa segreta 1969 Italy
  • Angelo Castiglioni
  • Alfredo Castiglioni
Angelo Francesco Lavagnino a.k.a. Secret Africa; uncut run time 103 min
Africa ama 1971 a.k.a. Africa Uncensored
Magia nuda 1975 Ciro Dammicco (credited as Zacar) a.k.a. Mondo Magic
Addio ultimo uomo 1978 Franco Godi a.k.a. The Last Savage
Africa dolce e selvaggia 1982 a.k.a. 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.

Savage Trilogy
Titl Country Director and screenplay Music Notes
Ultime grida dalla savana 1975 Italy
  • Antonio Climati
  • Mario Morra
Carlo Savina a.k.a. Savage Man Savage Beast; uncut run time 94 min
Savana violenta 1976 a.k.a. This Violent World
Dolce e selvaggio 1983 Daniele Patucchi a.k.a. 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.

John Alan Schwartz
Title Year Director Screenplay Notes
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).[12] 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).

Uwe Schier
Title Year Country Notes
Mondo Cane IV 1992 Germany
Mondo Cane teil V 1993 a.k.a. Mondo Cane 5
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.

Faces of Death imitators
Title Year Director Screenplay Music Notes
Banned from Television 1998 Joe Francis APM Music Three parts; released in the US by Mantra Films.
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 Various Five parts
The Faces of Gore series 1999–2000 Todd Tjersland Three parts
The Best of Faces of Gore 2000 Compilation video
The Death Scenes series 1989–1993 Nick Bougas
  • Nick Bougas
  • F. B. Vincinzo
Richard Gibson, Peter H. Gilmore Three parts
Other films
Title Year Country Director Screenplay Music Notes
Mondo Nudo 1963 Italy Francesco De Feo Gian Carlo Fusco
Giuseppe Marotta
Teo Usuelli a.k.a. Naked World
I Tabu 1963 Italy Romolo Marcellini Ugo Guerra a.k.a. Taboos of the World
Il pelo nel mondo 1964 Italy Antonio Margheriti
Marco Vicario
Antonio Margheriti
Marco Vicario
Bruno Nicolai
Nino Oliviero
a.k.a. Go Go Go World and Weird, Wicked World
Kwaheri: Vanishing Africa 1964 United States Thor L. Brooks
Byron Chudnow
Michael Vittes Byron Ross
I Malamondo 1964 Italy Paolo Cavara Guido Castaldo
Paolo Cavara
Ugo Gregoretti
Francesco Torti
Ennio Morricone
Le Schiave Esistono Ancora 1964 Italy
  • Baccio Bandini
  • Gianfranco Calderoni
  • Roberto Malenotti
Teo Usuelli a.k.a. Slave Trade in the World Today
Ecco 1964 Italy Gianni Proia R.W Cresse Riz Ortolani a.k.a. This Shocking World
Mondo Balordo 1964 Italy Roberto Bianchi Montero
  • Guido Castaldo
  • Francesco Torti
English version narrated by Boris Karloff
L'amore primitivo 1964 Italy Luigi Scattini
  • Massimo Pupillo
  • Luigi Scattini
Lallo Gori a.k.a. Primitive Love
Mondo Topless 1966 United States Russ Meyer The Aladdins
Mondo Freudo 1966 United States Lee Frost
  • Rodney Lee Bermingham
  • The Duvals
  • Chuck Morgan
  • Bill Wild
Mondo Bizarro 1966 United States Lee Frost Lawrence Von Lattman
Macabro 1966 Italy Romolo Marcellini Giancarlo Del Re
The Mystery and the Pleasure 1966 United Kingdom Edward Stewart Abraham a.k.a. Our Incredible World
Mondo oscenità 1966 United States Joseph P. Mawra Ernest Franklin a.k.a. 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 Italy Marcello Avallone
  • Giacinto Ciaccio
  • Massimo D'Avak
Peppino De Luca a.k.a. The Queer, the Erotic
Mille peccati... nessuna virtù 1969 Italy Sergio Martino Peppino De Luca a.k.a. Mondo Sex
Inghilterra nuda 1969 Italy Vittorio De Sisti Pino De Martino
Ettore Mattia
Piero Piccioni a.k.a. Naked England
America così nuda, così violenta 1970 Italy Sergio Martino Luciano Martino Bruno Nicolai a.k.a. Naked and Violent
Dove non è peccato 1970 Italy Antonio Colantuoni
  • Antonio Colantuoni
  • Augusto Marcelli
Piero Umiliani a.k.a. Tämä on Suomi
(This is Finland)
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 a.k.a. Mondo Erotica
This Is America 1977 United States Romano Vanderbes Emmanuel Vardi a.k.a. 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 a.k.a. Doomsday
Des Morts 1981
  • France
  • Belgium
Jean-Pol Ferbus
Dominique Garny
Thierry Zéno
Alain Pierre a.k.a. Of the Dead; uncut run time 105 min.
Great White Death 1981
  • Canada
  • United States
Jean-Patrick Lebel Jean Sauvageau a.k.a. Sharks! Pirates of the Deep
The Killing of America 1982 United States
  • Sheldon Renan
  • Leonard Schrader
  • Chieko Schrader
  • Leonard Schrader
a.k.a. 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
Mondo New York 1988 United States Harvey Keith
  • Harvey Keith
  • David Silver
Luis Perico Ortiz Uncut run time 83 min.
Empire of Madness 1989 United States M. Dixon Causey a.k.a. True Gore II
Engineering Red 1993 United States Russia Andrey Yi Andrey Yi
Mondo Ford 2001 United States United States
  • Scott Calonico
  • Ricardo Fratelli
Man VS Man 2004 Italy
  • Davide Lingua
  • Giuseppe Vercellotti
Murder Collection V.1 2009 United States Fred Vogel Don Moore
Fred Vogel
Shelby Vogel
Jerami Cruise
Mondo Sexxxx: The Terry Kobrah Story 2011 United States Logan Myers
Mondo Delirium 2011 Italy Flavio Sciolè Uncut run time 170 min.
Made in Italy 2012 Italy Jephta
Mondomanila 2012 Philippines Khavn
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 II 2014 United States Thomas Extreme Cinemagore
Occult Holocaust 2014 United States Dustin Ferguson a.k.a. Occult Predator
Faces of Dying 2015 United States Dustin Ferguson
Mondo Shock 2016 United States Dustin Ferguson
Mondo CANEvese 2016 Italy
  • Davide Lingua
  • Pasquale Vigilante
At the shadow of the tower 2017 Italy
  • Davide Lingua
  • Luigi D'Alessandro
  • Fabio Tosa
Heart of Africa 2018 Italy
  • Davide Lingua
  • Pasquale Vigilante
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

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kerekes & Slater, p. 108.
  2. ^ Mondo New York (1988) The New York Times
  3. ^ Kerekes & Slater, p. 102.
  4. ^ Mondo Cane (1962) The New York Times
  5. ^ Revisiting a Cinematic Smackdown, and Other Avant-Garde Pleasures The New York Times, October 1, 2009
  6. ^ Mondo Cane Variety Reviews, December 31, 1961
  7. ^ a b Kerekes & Slater, p. 107.
  8. ^ a b Kerekes & Slater, p. 109.
  9. ^ Kerekes & Slater, p. 315.
  10. ^ Kerekes & Slater, p. 155.
  11. ^ Dennison, Stephanie; Lim, Song Hwee (2006). Remapping World Cinema: Identity, Culture and Politics in Film. Wallflower Press. pp. 121–122. ISBN 978-1-904764-62-5. Retrieved 15 July 2024.
  12. ^ 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.