Here's a National Geographic style documentary that's alternately exploitive and informative. The film presents a wide variety of ways that humans interact with nature. It depicts the actual footage of a careless man (Pit Dernitz) leaving the safety of his car to film lions close up and ends up being their dinner. Other highlights include natives humping the ground in hopes of bringing life to the land, various big game hunting and last but not least naked hippies. Written by
Sujit R. Varma
The scene involving the hired guns torturing and killing indigenous South American tribes is staged. The lion attack sequence is also under suspicion as to being staged, but it has not been proven. See more »
The closing credits say "The producers are grateful to: Alitalia, for the generous collaboration in trasporting our crews and their equipment". (The word "transporting" is spelled incorrectly) See more »
[directly before lions attack a tourist]
This sequence is part of the evidence examined by the court in a lawsuit brought by the heirs of the victim against an insurance company.
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Not everyone is bound to find merit in a Mondo film. They're an acquired taste, no doubt, and the new-age Mondo/death films are left solely for sadists and sick extremists to get their rocks off on. Generally, the mainstream movie critic will tear apart a Mondo film as condescending, racist, and misinformative trash, not worth the free bin at your local WalMart. While this is true to a certain extent, well made Mondo films were still wonderfully crafted pieces of art that were able to find beauty in even the most hideous and gruesome situations. No other Mondo team (not even the Godfathers of the genre, Jacopetti and Prosperi) was able to depict this beauty as well as the team of Antonio Climati and Mario Morra. These two have an uncanny ability to manipulate and exploit natural imagery to offset any and all ugliness hurled at the viewer, achieving the perfect oxymoron of beautiful ugliness. Their first solo project, Savage Man Savage Beast, is no exception, and it manages to come across (at least visually) as an exploitation masterpiece.
The main theme that the film attempts to document is the different ways of hunting found around the world, and how humans and animals interact in the way of the hunt. This is illustrated in the very first scene, as a prolific hunter introduces himself and his craft and immediately heads into the woods in search of a stag. Mesmerizing slow motion shots of the buck fleeing through the forest accompany the opening credits, successfully fazing out the unconscious reality that the animal will be killed before us momentarily. Most of the film is presented in such a manner, making the whole ordeal feel like a fictional narrative instead of a document of reality (and, to a certain point, this is true, as a few scenes are indeed staged). Other than the opening stag hunt, noteworthy scenes include several wildlife encounters, consisting of wild animals hunting other wild animals. Though the fear and anguish of the prey can be unsettling, the visual impact of the cinematography manages to make the film seem less exploitative than it really is. This is particularly true in the scenes of Aboriginal hunting, as the slow motion shots of boomerangs and spears in mid flight heading towards their targets becomes a wonder, even though we're witnessing the animals die a painful death.
Of course, then come the infamous scenes of human death, the major highlight being the debated and controversial scene of the violent death of Pit Dernitz, who is tackled, maimed, and killed by a pride of lions he left his safari vehicle to film. All of this is witnessed by his wife and kids, whose tears and agony are also captured by the constantly moving camera. The debate on this scene is over the authenticity of the sequence. If real, it is a disturbing gem of Mondo exploitation and a sad reality of a man's poor decision making. If fabricated, it is another testament to Climati's cinematographic skills, providing quick camera movements, rough edits, and jump cuts to conceal whatever may expose the scene as a phony. Overall, the scene is marvelously exploitative and was no doubt an influence on Ruggero Deodato when he went to make Cannibal Holocaust. The other intense scene of human death is the torture and murder of a South American native man by mercenary killers. This scene is obviously a fabrication, yet it uses the same camera techniques as the lion attack sequence, and thus remains a disturbing and exploitative highlight of the film.
Mixed in with these stand out scenes are different customs and bizarreness somehow associated with hunting, and each scene manages to awe in the way of its set up (or the content itself). For instance, in the African tribal dance, the camera focuses on the men's hip region. The flopping of the men's penises becomes amusingly hypnotic, as is the pelvic rhythm of the African men fertilizing the ground with their own sperm. There are still less masterful scenes that take away from this wonder, however. The staged "race" between ostriches and cheetahs leaves a bad aftertaste, as the film makers admit to setting the birds up for slaughter. Also, the ludicrous (to the point of humor) anti-fox hunt sequence (involving the utterly generic and fictional "Wild Fox Association") constitutes the low point of the movie and is laughable enough to not be taken seriously, even though Alberto Moravia manages to keep a straight face throughout. Despite these few scenes of sloppiness, the film remains a unique look at the world of "hunting" that while exploitative and disingenuous (and perhaps offensive), is still a cinematic sight to behold.
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