Director: Sergio Martino
Code Red Releasing

Bond girl Ursula Andress is undressed by cannibals as Sergio Martino's SLAVE OF THE CANNIBAL GOD, on Region A Blu-ray from Code Red Releasing.

After her anthropologist husband Edward Stevenson goes missing during an unauthorized expedition in New Guinea, Susan (Andress) comes to Port Moresby to demand that the British Consulate do more to find him after the captain of the police department declares that they cannot expend any more resources after three months. The ambassador recommends that Susan and her brother Arthur Weisser (Antonio Marsina, KEOMA) consult fellow ethnologist Edward Foster (Stacey Keach, ROAD GAMES) who suspects that the course of Edward's expedition was different from what he told Arthur, and that he actually attempted to reach the cursed mountain of the Ra-ra-min where Foster himself had once been held captive by the members of a supposedly extinct cannibal tribe known as the Puka. Susan convinces Edward to accompany her and Arthur in search of her husband, and they set off on an expedition that will take at least a week just to reach the coast. Along the way, they encounter the usual terrors like poisonous insects and giant snakes, Foster's assistant Zura (Akushula Selayah, TARZAN THE APE MAN) vanishes, and the number of native guides are thinned out by mantraps and a lurking masked native. Susan is saved from an attack by the masked native by adventurer Manolo (Claudio Cassinelli, WHAT HAVE THEY DONE TO OUR DAUGHTERS?) who brings them to the missionary village of Father Moses (stuntman Franco Fantasia, MURDER MANSION) and an attack on the village supposedly by the Puka in which Foster is wounded is blamed on Arthur's adulterous dalliance with a native girl. Susan convinces Manolo to accompany them to the mountain where they discover what happened to Edward and meet the Cannibal God himself.

Shot back-to-back with THE GREAT ALLIGATOR and ISLAND OF THE FISHMEN (both of which also starred Cassinelli), SLAVE OF THE CANNIBAL GOD or THE MOUNTAIN OF THE CANNIBAL GOD predates the eighties apex of Italian cannibal films inspired by the notoriety and success of CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, being more like JUNGLE HOLOCAUST and THE MAN FROM DEEP RIVER more of a man versus nature adventure, and more so like a gory and sexed-up take on the forties Hollywood jungle pictures with Andress sadly doing little more tripping into corpses and tarantulas, getting tangled with a python (a la Laura Gemser in EMANUELLE AND THE LAST CANNIBALS) before being stripped down and rubbed down to become the goddess of the cannibal tribe; indeed, Martino seems more interested in the film as action adventure throwback than a cannibal film, merely ticking off the requisite decapitations, castrations, and eviscerations not to mention the scenes of animal violence. He seems particularly disinterested in the "cannibal orgy" sequence including scenes of masturbation and simulated bestiality which had only been recovered during the DVD era (and it turns out this bit was present in the negative but was used by Martino to distract the censors from other bits). As usual, the Techniscope photography of Giancarlo Ferrando (TORSO) is gorgeous, rich in tropical greens and browns, with contrasting wide vistas and compositions that emphasize depth as the camera follows the characters through the jungle wary of traps and leaping natives. The score of Guido and Maurizio de Angelis (A BLADE IN THE DARK) carries the film nicely with orchestral rhythms spiked by throbbing electronics anticipating danger.

Released theatrically in the United States by New Line Cinema in an eighty-two minute R-rated version as SLAVE OF THE CANNIBAL GOD, the domestic cut was shortened from the film's ninety-eight minute export version titled MOUNTAIN OF THE CANNIBAL GOD which became available on laserdisc and DVD in Holland for EC Entertainment in a non-anamorphic letterboxed transfer that found its way stateside from Diamond Entertainment only to be easily bested by Anchor Bay's 2003 DVD – later reissued by Blue Underground – which featured an anamorphic transfer of the export version that further incorporated some additional cannibal orgy footage that Martino had shot and included to distract Italian censors from some of the other violent and sexual material (the long cut ran nearly 103 minutes). The film's export cut suffered different cuts in the United Kingdom theatrically and then on video from Vipco. Earlier this year, Shameless Screen Entertainment in the UK released the film on Blu-ray. The 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 2.35:1 widescreen transfer easily blew the earlier SD renditions out of the water with more naturalistic skin tones, more vivid jungle greenery and muddy browns, and enhanced textures in skin, prosthetic gore, and the rocky settings of the climax; however, it was not a new master, presumably created for NoShame's 2007 Italian DVD with its windowboxed edges to prevent cropping from overscan and sporting the sharpening and noise reduction of such older masters (particularly Italian ones). This version was had been softened in collaboration Martino in terms of the animal violence but was also subject to compulsory BBFC cuts.

Code Red's Region A Blu-ray is derived from a new scan, and the 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 2.35:1 widescreen transfer – which sports the Italian credits that had been an extra on the UK Blu-ray while inserting the English text card from New Line's interpositive – and the image looks sharper with deeper blacks, and more vivid jungle greens and browns. The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track sounds clean, with the De Angelises' score coming through with some nice presence (particularly during the jungle montages where dialogue and effects are otherwise absent). The major extra here is the inclusion of the U.S. New Line Cinema version in its entirety (84:36 versus 102:31) in high definition. The image looks softer with less vivid colors, a blue tinge to the shadows (indeed, much of the exterior scenes look like they were shot on overcast days), comparing poorly to the master of the longer version; however, it is of interest for the abbreviated New Line Cinema logo as well as some judicious cutting choices (the first edit carries Andress and Marsina directly from the airport to meet Keach, dispensing with the British Consolate scene). The English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono is relatively clean but a little harsh sibilance issues. It is an interesting viewing experience for those of us who have only seen this version via Wizard's cropped tape or the various PD DVD rips of that transfer.

The main feature presentation begins with an introduction by actor Keach (1:35) and Banana Man who fortunately disappears for the video interview with Keach (14:31) in which he not only discusses his memories of the film – particularly Andress' robustness in the jungle wilds and how Cassinelli's training for a stunt with a snake came in handy – along with his other experiences with Italian crews and non-permitted stunt sequences. He also talks about some of his other cult roles for the remainder of the featurette. A pair of interviews with Martino (24:30 and 20:26) are also included. The first interview is an older talk that covers his beginnings with his producer brother Luciano on Mario Bava's THE WHIP AND THE BODY and Brunello Rondi's IL DEMONIO before launching into brief reactions and anecdotes about his favorite films in each genre in which he has worked. The second is a shorter edit of the "Cannibal Nightmare" featurette included on the lengthier talk from the NoShame and Shameless editions. This English-overdubbed version focuses on Martino and dispenses with the additional comments from production designer Antonello Geleng (THE CHURCH) and cinematographer Ferrando. It confirms that Martino conceived the film as an action adventure under the guise of a cannibal film, drawing more inspiration from THE SNOWS OF KILIMANJARO. Of the jungle shoot, he recalls the danger of the actors working with the animals and the poisonous reptiles and insects they encountered, as well as the leeches that invaded their clothing while they were walking through water. The disc also includes trailers for LAST CANNIBAL WORLD, CUT AND RUN, IRONMASTER (sourced from a Finnish-subtitled video trailer), HANDS OF STEEL, and 2019: AFTER THE FALL OF NEW YORK. The cover is reversible with new artwork on the outside and the great American poster art on the reverse. A slipcover with the new art is also included. (Eric Cotenas)