Savage Man Savage Beast (1975)

Rating: C+

Dir: Antonio Climati + Mario Morra

What lifts this mondo flick up is that it does, at least, have an underlying philosophy running through it. Yes, of course, it is largely an excuse to show shock footage from around the world. But it is also espousing the largely cynical viewpoint that, despite all the efforts of humanity to distinguish itself, there really is little or no difference between us and the animals. There’s plenty of footage of animals hunting animals, humans hunting animals, but the most infamous sequences are the alleged killing of a South African tourist by a lion, and a hunting of a South American tribesman by mercenaries, ending in his supposed castration and scalping [not present in the version I saw, the slightly-edited Australian release present in the Grindhouse Experience box-set].

I use the qualifiers advisedly, since there’s significant doubt over their realism, but I note the irony in the film also showing man’s attempts to imbue the hunt with ‘meaning’, which parallels the makers’ efforst to do the same with their footage. Not sure whether this was conscious. James Ferman, the late head of the BBFC supposedly called this, “One of the most vile and objectionable films ever submitted.” I’ll give my usual response to such claims: Well, I wouldn’t have said it was that good… However, much as with porn, you get the sense the makers made more effort with their mondo, back in the day, down to the deliberately ill-fitting hippie songs of love [which, of course, goes back to Mondo Cane, whose theme was an Oscar nominee for Best Song!].

Now, the sincerity is highly-doubtful and there’s definitely marks taken off for the significant volume of fabricated footage – stuff like the elephant-hunting footage packs a bigger wallop (unless you’re Go Daddy’s Bob Parsons, anyway). But in between the footage of African tribesmen fucking the ground (it’s a fertility rite), you might be given pause for thought. You may or may not agree with it, but it’s hard to deny the presence of a genuine philosophical point here.