‘When the price of lust is death!’
The Mountain of the Cannibal God (Italian title: La montagna del dio cannibale) is a 1978 Italian cult movie starring Ursula Andress and Stacy Keach with English dialogue that was filmed in Sri Lanka. The film was also widely released as Slave of the Cannibal God and in the UK as Prisoner of the Cannibal God. Despite being shown in cinemas in a BBFC cut version, it was banned in Britain until 2001 for its graphic violence and considered a “video nasty”.
Incredibly, not stopping the cannibal cycle of films which appeared in the late 1970s and early 1980s in its tracks, The Mountain of the Cannibal God is one of the most head-scratching entries. Despite the cruelty inflicted upon animals in the film and the nudity, most famously that of Ursula Andress, underlying is an enjoyable but actually terribly ropey film which offers nothing in the way of tension, drama or soul.
The plot is straightforward enough, Andress playing Susan Stevenson, the wife of an anthropologist who has been missing in the jungles of Guinea (check that sat nav, chaps), sets off to try and find him, with the aid of her annoying brother (Antonio Marsina) and scientist Edward Foster (Stacy Keach). The twist in the tale is that the siblings are actually searching for radioactive uranium hidden in remote caves – that’s if you don’t consider running into a tribe of peckish cannibals as a twist.
Keach was not adverse to taking roles that veered from, for example, Barrabas in Jesus of Nazareth to grimy British crime movie The Squeeze but exactly what Andress’s agent had assured her about the film is unclear – though years had passed since Dr No, an appearance just three years later in Clash of the Titans, surely proved her star had not completely diminished. The setting is anything but as classy as She. Regardless, the pair roam through the utterly unconvincingly dense forest, passing the same cheeseplants again and again, enough times that you too will soon forget why you thought all this was a good idea.
On paper, the plot seems acceptable enough but it runs out of steam almost instantly, leaving us with unlovable characters and some tedious padding. The appearance of the character Manolo (played by Claudio Cassinelli, who tragically died in a helipcopter crash in Martino’s Fists of Fury in 1986) makes little sense, other than to keep prodding Andress and Keach awake. Fortunately, we receive rather bigger jolts to keep us enthralled.
Though Martino has insisted that it was the producers of the film who insisted that footage of animals being slaughtered was inserted into the film, this excuse is used so often that it’s difficult to take seriously; was it really such a prizes project that a director of Martino’s standing and reputation would go along with any request? Thus, a large lizard is butchered, snakes skinned, a large spider trodden on and a cute fluffy thing, clearly with the same manager as Andress, is strangled by a boa constrictor… very slowly.
That said, rather like ivory ornaments from yesterday, what’s done is done, it’s there and though ghoulish, it adds nothing, so poorly added to the rest of the film that it comes across as being just as, if not more gratuitous than, similar scenes in the far more challenging Cannibal Holocaust, Last Cannibal World and Cannibal Ferox. Keach bails out of the horror by falling off a waterfall, whilst Andress survives having a massive, drooling snake (do boa constrictors actually drool? Answers by fax, please) drop on her, the wrestling scene being as convincing as a warm-up between Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks.
If the indignity of the script and the low budget weren’t enough, Andress still had to come to terms with the plentiful nudity she was expected to deliver – she didn’t disappoint. After finding her husband, dead and now looking like a toffee apple that’s been dropped on the carpet, her true motives are revealed but not before the cannibals capture her, treating her first as fondue and then as a Goddess. To prove their adulation, she is stripped and has her breasts anointed with orange mud (or maybe it’s honey) by cannibals who are similarly attired. The camera cuts to another cannibal girl, clearly enjoying herself whilst the frenzy of cannibals feasting and Ursula’s fondling reach a perplexing climax. To confirm you really are imagining it all, a dwarf cannibal is brained on the wall of a cave and one of his mates enthusiastically simulates congress with a large pig. Well done everyone.
Martino is a terribly frustrating director, conjuring up wonderful gems like All the Colors of the Dark and Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key and, well, this. I appreciate we all have gas bills to pay but at what stage this wasn’t a catastrophe I can’t imagine. It is, still, well worth a watch, for all the bad stuff and the good – in particular the score from those prolific brothers, Guido and Maurizio De Angelis.
Daz Lawrence, Horrorpedia