One of the filmmakers behind MONDO CANE bares all in the semi-biographical fictionalized mondo film THE WILD EYE, out on Blu-ray from Scorpion Releasing.
Joining filmmaker Paolo (Philippe Leroy, THE LIBERTINE) and his cameraman Valentino (Gabriele Tinti, LISA AND THE DEVIL) on a gazelle hunt – which turn out to be chasing it down with a land rover until its heart give out and capturing it on camera – Barbara (Delia Boccardo, SHOOT FIRST, DIE LATER) is both attracted to and repulsed by her host. When the petrol and water runs out and the expedition – which also includes Barbara's husband (Lars Bloch, EMANUELLE IN AMERICA), producer Rossi (Giorgio Gargiullo, PLOT OF FEAR), assistant Ruggero (gaffer Tullio Marini, JUNGLE HOLOCAUST), and socialite Mrs. Davis (Luciana Angiolillo, GRAND SLAM) – must cross the desert on foot, Paolo further alienates them by filming their suffering and posing questions to Barbara like "Would you make love to another man for a drink of water?" Although her husband warns her about Paolo, he does not forbid her from seeing him when they are rescued and Paolo tries to convince her to come along with him to Singapore, Vietnam, and China while he continues shooting his film. Although Paolo explains that he wants her to be in the film as the audience surrogate, shocked but slowly succumbing to the allure of the Orient, Barbara tries to get him to admit that he loves her. She is shocked less by the deaf-mute prostitutes, opium addicts whose rehab includes beatings with sticks, and filmed executions by the Viet Cong as the realization than the realization of the extent Paolo will go to stage sensational events for the camera including sending out scouts to warn him of upcoming executions. When Paolo gets word of an upcoming terrorist bombing, he plans to capture the carnage from all angles.
Scripted in concert with Antonioni-regular Tonino Guerra (BLOW-UP), Ugo Pirro (THE GARDEN OF THE FINZI-CONTINI), and prestigious Italian author Alberto Moravia (THE CONFORMIST), THE WILD EYE could be seen as an indictment of the practices of shock journalist Gualtiero Jacopetti (AFRICA BLOOD AND GUTS) with whom he partnered on the seminal "mondo" films MONDO CANE and WOMEN OF THE WORLD. Leroy is wonderfully cynical as Paolo, making Barbara's attachment to him bewildering and tiring even though she gets in some pointed rebukes to some of his observations (he describes the film as being about the decline of the Orient but she counters that it is actually the west that is in decline by reducing everything to merchandise). For modern viewers, the film as exposé might have come a bit too late into general circulation after films like CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST and a number of more recent found footage works in which predatory filmmakers get what's coming to them, and the downbeat ending and its additional touch of cynicism in the final shot may not have the intended impact if viewers have watched the Mondo films. There is much for Eurocult viewers to savor from the Italian eye for the exotic and unusual (fabricated or not), the Techniscope lensing of Marcello Masciocchi (ACE HIGH), and the very MONDO-y score of Gianni Marchetti (EMANUELLE'S REVENGE), but the film remains of interest primarily to Mondo fans and scholars and may not inspire many repeat viewings. Cavara followed up the Jacopetti films with the comparatively lighter solo efforts MALAMONDO and WITCHDOCTOR IN TAILS before moving on to narrative films with the war film LA CATTURA, the comic western DEAF SMITH & JOHNNY EARS, and the accomplished gialli BLACK BELLY OF THE TARANTULA and PLOT OF FEAR along with some undistinguished comedies.
Released theatrically by American International in 1968, THE WILD EYE was one of many AIP foreign pickups that did not see a video release (either through lack of interest or the rights reverting) and comes to Blu-ray in a 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 2.35:1 widescreen transfer. The film was released on DVD in Germany in 2008 in an anamorphic widescreen transfer without English options, but that transfer looks softish, faded, and unrestored next to the Blu-ray. After the somewhat grainy opening credits opticals, the transfer settles down to crisp textures and stable colors apart from a couple grabbed shots and some shaky handheld ones. Audio options include dubbed English and Italian DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono tracks. Both tracks are fairly clean, with the English track having two or three bumpy transitions not evident on the Italian. Optional English subtitles are also included for the Italian track and reveal that the Italian dub follows the English dialogue fairly closely with a few exceptions.
Besides the film's American theatrical trailer (2:17) – "He used a camera like most men use a woman… and a woman like something you'd keep in a cage!" – the disc also includes an amiable interview with actor Bloch (13:01) who reveals that he was asked to work sound on the film when schedule changes meant that his two scenes in the film would have to be shot at the beginning and end of the shoot and they could not otherwise justify paying him for the whole time. He has warm recollections of Cavara, Tinti, and Leroy (the former two no longer with us) as well as Boccardo with whom he still maintains contact. He also briefly discusses some of his other credits including EMANUELLE IN AMERICA (also featuring Tinti and his wife Laura Gemser). Scorpion Releasing's Blu-ray is available through Screen Archives. (Eric Cotenas)
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