Bruno Mattei’s gen­re cash-ins are amongst the sleazi­est ripoffs in exploita­tion film his­to­ry but you must give him cred­it for one thing: he kept the faith long after the rest of his fel­low Italian exploiteers threw in the tow­el and went to work in tele­vi­sion. Mattei hung in there as the bud­gets and oppor­tu­ni­ties shrank, switch­ing to cheap video to pump out his sleaze­ball fare. A note­wor­thy exam­ple of his lat­ter work is Mondo Cannibal, a shame­less Cannibal Holocaust ripoff than trans­forms its inspiration’s gut-wrench­ing shocks into low-road camp.

Like Cannibal Holocaust, Mondo Cannibal begins with some unscrupu­lous media types plot­ting to exploit the “myth” of can­ni­bal­ism to boost their tele­vi­sion rat­ings. The lead­er of the pack is Grace Forsyte (Helena Wagner) who ropes ex-war cor­re­spon­dent Bob Manson (Claudio Morales) and a crew of techs into prowl­ing through the jun­gle for can­ni­bal atroc­i­ties to film. They use vicious tac­tics to get the footage they want, includ­ing destroy­ing a vil­lage, and receive their just desserts when they over­play their hand with the wrong MonCan-dvdtribe.

Simply put, Mondo Cannibal steals every­thing that isn’t nailed down from Cannibal Holocaust. The film often reen­acts entire sce­nes from the orig­i­nal arti­cle: in addi­tion to the afore­men­tioned vil­lage infer­no, there’s also the mur­der of a preg­nant native, a gang-rape filmed by the cam­era team, the “I won­der who the real can­ni­bals are” line and some real-life ani­mal cru­el­ty. However, the results come off more tacky than dis­turbing thanks to the way it’s made: the glossy video strips away the veneer of dan­ger that the grainy film achieved in Cannibal Holocaust and Mattei’s goofy direc­tion gives it the vibe of a back­yard film made by low-I.Q. hor­ror fans.

There’s also a dash of the dement­ed acci­den­tal humor one often sees in Mattei’s work. For exam­ple, you’ll here plen­ty of bizarre dia­logue, like when Grace refers to the execs who want to fire her as “snot fanciers,” and Bob sud­den­ly shifts from a social­ly con­scious type to a bru­tal exploiteer for rea­sons that are nev­er explained. Performances range from som­nam­bu­lis­tic to scenery-devour­ing, with Wagner tak­ing top hon­ors with a nos­tril-flar­ing turn as the main media vil­lain.

In short, Mondo Cannibal is best left to those who can stom­ach the cheap­est rotgut that Italian exploita­tion cin­e­ma has to offer. That said, those who answer to the sin­gu­lar call of such odd plea­sures will get their fill of luna­cy — and every­one else will get an object lesson in how the way one han­dles intense mate­ri­al deter­mi­nes whether it induces chills or laughs.

DVD Notes: This title was recent­ly released on DVD in the U.S. by the InterVision Picture Corp sub­la­bel of Severin Films. It presents a faith­ful rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the film’s video cin­e­matog­ra­phy and cheap dub­bing. The one extra is a trail­er for the film that is as daft as the full-length ver­sion.