Monday, September 5, 2016
Naked and Violent (1970)
Although pre-dated by the cautionary films from the 1930’s and 40’s such as Reefer Madness (1936) and Mom and Dad (1945), the “mondo” film is nonetheless one of the oldest subgenres in the exploitation field. Generally speaking, the mondo film in its classic form is very much an Italian creation with the main men responsible being Gualtiero Jacopetti, Franco Prosperi and Paolo Cavara with their film Mondo Cane (1962), which caused a sensation worldwide and spawned numerous imitators. While Jacopetti and Prosperi continued to steer the ship with other infamous films like Africa Addio (1966) and Goodbye Uncle Tom (1971), more Italian directors decided to throw their hat in the mondo ring such as the Castiglioni brothers Angelo and Alfredo with their series of African based mondos and Antonio Climati and Mario Morra with their “savage trilogy”. Of course there are other international examples of films that came in the wake of mondos, perhaps the most infamous being the Faces of Death series which in turn led numerous similarly themed imitators, however by and large, the exploitation documentary market was cornered by the Italians. Sergio Martino, an Italian master, began his directorial career in the mondo genre with Wages of Sin (1969) which he quickly followed-up with Naked and Violent, a stand out film in the mondo genre for its setting but also for being of the most bizarre films of its type.
Unlike other Italian mondo films of the time which mainly focused on Africa or other exotic locations, Naked and Violent is a travelogue across the United States casting its leery and often scandalous eye on a variety of topics ranging from the homeless, living conditions of the elderly, the hedonism of Las Vegas, hippies and the anti-Vietnam war movement, race relations, the sexual practices of the bored bourgeois, fringe religions, bikers, the plight of Native Americans and everything in between.
There are those who will no doubt be quick to label the film racially insensitive although such reactions are quickly dismissed considering Martino’s condemnation of the bastardization of Polynesian culture in Hawaii for tourism purposes, and the film does paint a fairly sensitive portrait of the struggle of the American Indian. Plus those with racist beliefs shown in the film are generally portrayed as backwards thinking and ignorant. Its bears mentioning that the film was scored by Bruno Nicolai who would go on to score Martino’s Arizona Colt Returns (1970), The Case of the Scorpions Tail (1971), All the Colors of the Dark (1972) and Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key (1972). Jess Franco fans will immediately recognize cues from Nicolai’s soundtrack for Franco’s Eugenie… the Story of Her Journey into Perversion (1969) reused here during the satanic ritual which, despite being recycled was a perfect choice. Naked and Violent isn’t mentioned all that often despite having an official DVD release from Mya Communications. Like all mondo’s its bound to incite some sort of reaction, never apathy. Its an interesting look into Martino’s pre-giallo days and a fascinatingly weird film in general especially when compared to other mondo films. Those looking for a serious Italian critique of early 70’s America should know better, however as an exploitative freak show, Naked and Violent has all the bases covered.