The second entry in our Week of Horror series is Slave of the Cannibal God, a 1978 Italian film starring none other than Ursula Andress.
Originally released in 1978 over in Italy and then in 1979 here in America, Slave of the Cannibal God tells the story of a small party venturing into the jungles of New Guinea in an effort to find the husband of Susan Stevenson, played by Ursula Andress of Dr. No fame. Unfortunately, where he was last believed to be located is a mountain known as Ra Ra Me, which is believed to hold a curse over the surrounding area. Midway through the film, during their attempt to reach the mountain, a tribe of cannibals captures them. The rest of the film deals with their attempts at escape while continuing to search for Susan’s husband.
Predating the legendary 1980 movie Cannibal Holocaust, there are many similarities between it and Slave of the Cannibal God; even though Holocaust was directly inspired by the film Ultimo mondo cannibale, there are still obvious influences from Slave as well. Both movies feature heavy jungle in which cannibals reside, both films contain footage of real animal mutilation/sacrifice, both films were heavily banned upon release, and both films portray the cannibal tribes as being people who happen to eat other humans rather than being nothing more than evil monsters. The tribe shown in Slave of the Cannibal God is more ferocious and seemingly more bloodthirsty, but their daily way of life and social peculiars are still explored.
Both films are also noted for their relatively realistic looking special effects, although Slave of the Cannibal God is presented in a traditional film format rather than as a “found-footage” documentary like Cannibal Holocaust. Despite the many similarities between these two movies, Slave to the Cannibal God is the more enjoyable one for me. It feels more like a movie someone was making that happened to be shocking, rather than Cannibal Holocaust which seemed to be made specifically to be shocking. Holocaust owns the title of being more widely known, more graphic, and more controversial, but Slave is the better film.
Slave of the Cannibal God (which is the US censored version, although the live animal scenes remain intact) is also known by various other names: The Mountain of the Cannibal God, Prisoner of the Cannibal God, Primitive Desires, and its original Italian title La montagna del dio cannibale. Following in the footsteps of (and helping to pave the way for) Italian exploitation films, Slave focuses heavily on character interaction and the back story of individuals. Although their motivations remain hidden, each character has enough personality and realism surrounding them to make you feel as if you already know them. Considering the low-budget, exploitation style of this film I was surprised at the amount of character development that is present here. By the time the credits roll, you will feel that you know these people and were an intimate part of their journey to the cursed mountain.
No apparent cleanup has been performed for the DVD transfer. The picture remains slightly fuzzy, with mid contrast and switching between very low and very high midtones. Details can be difficult to make out in some scenes, but overall the picture quality is suitable considering the type of film; in a way, the dirty and unrefined picture adds to the feel of the movie. The sound was either originally done well, or has been restored. Voices are clear, and the volume balance between voice vs. environment vs. music is near perfect, although the music does clip in a few spots. Like many other Italian horror/exploitation films, the script is delivered by the actors almost entirely in English.
Coming out seemingly in the middle of the Italian horror film renaissance, Slave of the Cannibal God is a must-have for horror fans. While those not used to more graphic fare may not enjoy it on that level, there is still a great movie in here behind all the human eating and animal killing. Best of all, it can be bought for practically nothing off Amazon. Slave of the Cannibal God is one of the better Italian exploitation films, and I would highly recommend it for genre regulars and newcomers alike.