The 1970’s were full of larg­er-than-life human mon­sters: Charles Manson, Jim Jones, the Zodiac Killer, etc. Their exploits seemed too sleazy to be true and tan­ta­lized pub­lic curios­i­ty, thus inspir­ing exploita­tion film moguls to pump out grot­ty lit­tle expos­es based on their evil deeds (Manson alone inspired an entire sub­gen­re). Idi Amin Dada was one of the very worst – espe­cial­ly when you con­sid­er the geno­ci­dal reach of his crimes- and, though it was late in the game, he final­ly received his own exploita­tion mini-epic in 1982 with Amin: The Rise And Fall.

The film plays like a Cliff’s Notes ver­sion of Ugandan his­to­ry, as if rewrit­ten as an atroc­i­ty-mind­ed mon­do movie. Amin (Joseph Olita) takes over Uganda in a mil­i­tary coup and imme­di­ate­ly begins indulging every dement­ed whim he can dream up. He has dis­si­dents and sus­pect­ed trai­tors mur­dered by fir­ing squad, tries to strong-arm oth­er coun­tries into sup­ply­ing him with weapons or mon­ey and even bans all Asian peo­ples from the coun­try. Since Amin: The Rise And Fall is an exploita­tion flick, we also get tabloid-wor­thy moments like Amin eat­ing pieces of his ene­mies, Amin bring­ing schoolkids into a morgue to see a dis­mem­bered corpse, a freez­er filled with sev­ered heads and Amin seduc­ing (some­times forcibly) every wom­an in arm’s reach.

If you want to find fault with Amin: The Rise And Fall in terms of “respectable” film­mak­ing, it’s easy to do: Wade Huie’s script is mere­ly a string of vignettes of Amin com­mit­ting the same basic crimes again and again. The focus on Amin’s reign of ter­ror is so intense that it bar­rels right over niceties like char­ac­ter­i­za­tion and sub­plots.  Director Sharad Patel lacks the visu­al flair or dark sense of humor film­mak­ers like Jacopetti and Prosperi might have brought to this sort of film. There’s also an abrupt non-end­ing, although this is sad­ly as much a reflec­tion of his­to­ry as it is the script’s prob­lems.

That said, the mak­ers of Amin: The Rise And Fall was exact­ly gun­ning for an Oscar — and the fin­ished pro­duct offers plen­ty of trashy fun for patient sleaze­hounds. Amin: The Rise And Fall is nev­er at a loss for mor­bid spec­ta­cle — in fact, there’s a killing or beat­ing lit­er­al­ly every five min­utes. The act­ing is amus­ing­ly awful across the board — this is a bless­ing in dis­guise because the movie’s cat­a­log of hor­rors would be tough to endure if the act­ing was con­vinc­ing. As Amin, Joseph Olita is inca­pable of deliv­er­ing a decent line read­ing but is so bom­bas­ti­cal­ly into his role that his bad­ness has a per­verse charm to it (“Nobody mess with me! Big dad­dy!”).  Also, you haven’t lived until you’ve seen Olita dis­co-danc­ing with some of his con­cu­bi­nes.

It helps that the film has a nice lev­el of tech­ni­cal pol­ish for a quick­ie.  Though Sharad Patel’s direc­tion nev­er ris­es above per­func­to­ry qual­i­ty, he main­tains a break­neck pace and crams in an aston­ish­ing amount of pro­duc­tion val­ue (parades, huge war sce­nes, plen­ty of sol­dier extras) for this kind of exploita­tion flick.  The pho­tog­ra­phy was done by Harvey Harrison, who also shot the slash­er favorite The Burning, and his work gives the film a slick, pro­fes­sion­al sheen that you wouldn’t expect.  Bonus points for the amus­ing­ly overem­phat­ic score by Christopher Gunning – the orches­tral bom­bast fits in nice­ly with the film’s “beat you over the head” aes­thet­ic.

In short, Amin: The Rise And Fall is a grind­house-styled his­to­ry epic that deserves its noto­ri­ety.  If you want the real ver­sion of the sto­ry, check out Barbet Schroeder’s mem­o­rable doc­u­men­tary General Idi Amin Dada but for shock val­ue and jaw-drop­ping­ly crass exploita­tion of one of history’s most shame­ful moments, this film is hard to beat.  If you real­ly want to over­dose on tabloid trash, pair it with Guyana: Cult Of The Damned for an unfor­get­table sleaze-his­to­ry dou­ble fea­ture.