Mondo film

A mondo film (from the Italian word for "world") is an exploitation documentary film, sometimes resembling a pseudo-documentary and usually depicting sensational topics, scenes, or situations. Common traits of mondo films include an emphasis on taboo subjects (such as death and sex), portrayals of foreign cultures (which have drawn accusations of ethnocentrism or racism[1]), and staged sequences presented as genuine documentary footage. Over time, the films placed increasing emphasis on footage of the dead and dying (both real and fake). The term shockumentary is also used to describe the genre.[2]


Although earlier films such as European Nights (1959) and World By Night 1 & 2 (1961) may be considered examples of the genre,[3] the origins of the mondo documentary are generally traced to the 1962 Italian film Mondo Cane (A Dog's World—a mild Italian profanity) by Paolo Cavara, Gualtiero Jacopetti and Franco Prosperi which was a commercial success.[4][5][6]

Documentary films imitating Mondo Cane in the 1960s often included the term "mondo" in their titles, even if they were in English; examples include Mondo Bizarro, Mondo Daytona, Mondo Mod, Mondo Infame and Mondo Hollywood.[7] Films outside the genre followed suit: Mondo Trasho, Mondo Weirdo: A Trip to Paranoia Paradise, Mondo Keyhole[8] and Mondo Brutale (a German release of Wes Craven's The Last House on the Left[9]) title themselves mondo, although none are mondo documentaries. Later in the decade, this naming convention began to fall out of favour and fewer mondo films identified themselves as such in their titles.[7]

Filmmakers wanted to top each other in shock value to attract audiences. Cruelty to animals, accidents, tribal-initiation rites and surgeries are features of a typical mondo. Much of the action is staged, although the filmmakers may claim their goal is to document "reality". Subjects of mondo films include sex (Mondo Sex and Mondo Sexualis USA); celebrities (Mondo Elvis and Mondo Lugosi); youth culture (Mondo Teeno) and the gay subculture (Mondo Rocco).

Russ Meyer's film Mondo Topless was one of the few "documentaries" restricted to the old midnight movie circuit in the pre-VCR era; it explored strip clubs in 1960s San Francisco at a time when strip clubs were a novelty in the United States, restricted to centers of port-city decadence (such as San Francisco). Other examples of this genre include Mondo New York by Harvey Keith, Mondo di Notte by Gianni Proia and Mondo Balordo by Roberto Bianchi Montero.

The 1980s saw a resurgence of mondo movies focusing almost exclusively on (onscreen) death, instead of world cultures. The Faces of Death series is a notable example of this type of mondo (or "death") movie. The producers used fake footage (passed off as real), but some of the footage was legitimate (including scenes of autopsies, suicides and accidents).

The rare 1985 film Mondo Senza Veli (World without Veils or Mondo Fresh) was purported by viewers to feature at its end the brutal execution of a young Arab rapist by public rectal impalement. This episode was, however, believed to have been a staged execution by some viewers.

Mondo films in the 21st century feature gore, exemplified by the Faces of Gore and Traces of Death series. There is less fake footage, and many use news footage of accidents from East Asia.

A number of films have parodied the genre. Examples include Ricardo Fratelli's Mondo Ford; Mr. Mike's Mondo Video by Saturday Night Live's Michael O'Donoghue and Is There Sex After Death? by Jeanne and Alan Abel. Mondo Beyondo spoofed the films' approach to titling, but was a parody of satellite television.[10] The Italian cannibal film is arguably an offshoot of the mondo film.[8]


The original mondo film series was the Mondo Cane series by Gualtiero Jacopetti, Paolo Cavara, and Franco Prosperi. When this type of film proved successful, many imitators followed.

Jacopetti and Prosperi
TitleYearCountryDirector and screenplayMusicUncut run timeNotes
Mondo Cane1962 ItalyGualtiero Jacopetti
Paolo Cavara
Franco E. Prosperi
Riz Ortolani108 minutesR-rated run time 85 minutes
La donna nel mondo 1963ItalyFranco E. Prosperi
Paolo Cavara
Gualtiero Jacopetti
Riz Ortolani
Nino Oliviero
107 minutesaka Women of the World
Mondo Cane 2 1963 ItalyFranco E. Prosperi
Gualtiero Jacopetti
Nino Oliviero95 minutes R-rated run time 76 minutes; aka Mondo Pazzo
Africa Addio1966ItalyGualtiero Jacopetti
Franco Prosperi
Riz Ortolani139 minutesUnrated English version 128 minutes; R-rated version 80 minutes
Addio Zio Tom1971ItalyGualtiero Jacopetti
Franco Prosperi
Riz Ortolani136 minutes Unrated English version 123 minutes; aka Goodbye Uncle Tom

The pair's Mondo candido (1975) is not a "Mondo" film; the title was imposed on them by the studio, who wished to cash in on their earlier successes. The film is a retelling of Voltaire's novel, Candide.

In the late 1980s Stelvio Massi (aka Max Steele) made two spinoffs of the original Mondo Cane series, known as Mondo Cane 3 and Mondo Cane 4 on video.

Max Steele
TitleYearCountryDirector and cinematographyScreenplayUncut run timeNotes
Mondo Cane Oggi1986ItalyStelvio MassiStelvio Massi78 minutesaka Mondo Cane 3
Mondo Cane 2000, l'Incredibile 1988ItalyStelvio Massi G. Crisanti aka Mondo Cane 4

In 1969, brothers Angelo and Alfredo Castiglioni began to make a series of their own mondo films until the early 1980s. They made five films in all, tying Jacopetti and Prosperi as the most prolific mondo film producers. Each film examines brutal and bizarre behavior on the African continent. Their films are considered some of the most graphic Mondo films ever made.

Castiglioni Brothers
Africa Segreta1969ItalyAngelo Castiglioni
Alfredo Castiglioni
Angelo Francesco Lavagninoaka Secret Africa; uncut run time 103 min
Africa Ama1971ItalyAngelo Castiglioni
Alfredo Castiglioni
Angelo Francesco Lavagninoaka Africa Uncensored
Magia Nuda1975ItalyAngelo Castiglioni
Alfredo Castiglioni
Ciro Dammicco (credited as Zacar)aka Mondo Magic
Addio Ultimo Uomo1978ItalyAngelo Castiglioni
Alfredo Castiglioni
Franco Godiaka The Last Savage
Africa Dolce e Selvaggia1982ItalyAngelo Castiglioni
Alfredo Castiglioni
Franco Godiaka Shocking Africa

Antonio Climati, cinematographer to Prosperi and Jacopetti in many mondo films, joined Mario Morra in 1974 to produce their own string of mondo films, known as the Savage Trilogy. Prosperi also produced the films. Climati and Morra were known for staging scenes.

Savage Trilogy
TitleYearCountryDirector and ScreenplayMusicNotes
Ultime grida dalla savana1975ItalyAntonio Climati
Mario Morra
Carlo Savinaaka Savage Man Savage Beast; uncut run time 94 min
Savana violenta1976ItalyAntonio Climati
Mario Morra
Guido De Angelis
Maurizio De Angelis
aka This Violent World
Dolce e selvaggio1983ItalyAntonio Climati
Mario Morra
Daniele Patucchiaka Sweet and Savage

The 1978 Faces of Death popularized a Mondo style known as "death films", which depicted humans or animals dying in graphic ways.

John Alan Schwartz
The Faces of Death Series1978–1996John Alan SchwartzJohn Alan SchwartzSix parts
The Worst of Faces of Death1987John Alan SchwartzJohn Alan SchwartzCompilation of first three Faces of Death films
Faces of Death: Fact or Fiction?1999John Alan SchwartzJohn Alan Schwartz
James B. Schwartz
Documentary about Faces of Death

Uwe Schier bought the rights to the Mondo Cane and Faces of Death films and released his own entries in both series, consisting largely of footage lifted from other mondo films. Faces of Death 5 draws heavily on Death Scenes; Faces of Death 6 consists almost entirely of Days of Fury and Mondo Cane IV (not to be confused with Mondo Cane 2000, l'Incredibile, Schier's Mondo Cane IV is in fact the fifth film in the series) lifts from other films (including Death Scenes and Death Faces IV).[11] In 1993, Hurricane Pictures edited a mix of scenes featured in Addio ultimo uomo and Shocking Africa, labeling it the "fifth chapter" of the saga (Teil V in German).

Uwe Schier
Mondo Cane IV1992Germany
Mondo Cane teil V1993Germanyaka Mondo Cane 5; producers Uwe Schier and Gian Carlo Rossi
Faces of Death 51995Germany
Faces of Death 61996Germany

Several imitators followed the Faces of Death series; many used (or were composed entirely of) footage from other mondo films.

Faces of Death imitators
Banned from Television1998Joe Francis APM MusicThree parts; released in the US by Mantra Films. Banned in the UK by the BBFC
The Traces of Death Series1993–2000Damon FoxDamon Fox Five parts
The Faces of Gore Series1999–2000Todd TjerslandTodd Tjersland Three parts
The Best of Faces of Gore2000Todd TjerslandTodd Tjersland Compilation video
Other films
Mondo Nudo1963ItalyFrancesco De FeoGian Carlo Fusco
Giuseppe Marotta
Teo Usuelliaka Naked World
Il Pelo nel Mondo1964ItalyAntonio Margheriti
Marco Vicario
Antonio Margheriti
Marco Vicario
Bruno Nicolai
Nino Oliviero
aka Go Go Go World and Weird, Wicked World
Kwaheri: Vanishing Africa1964USThor L. Brooks
Byron Chudnow
Michael VittesByron Ross
I Malamondo1964ItalyPaolo CavaraGuido Castaldo
Paolo Cavara
Ugo Gregoretti
Francesco Torti
Ennio Morricone
Le Schiave Esistono Ancora1964ItalyMaleno Malenotti
Roberto Malenotti
Folco Quilici
Baccio Bandini
Gianfranco Calderoni
Roberto Malenotti
Teo Usuelliaka Slave Trade in the World Today
Ecco1964ItalyGianni ProiaR.W CresseRiz Ortolaniaka This Shocking World
Mondo Balordo1964ItalyRoberto Bianchi MonteroGuido Castaldo
Francesco Torti
Coriolano Gori
Nino Rosso
I Tabu1964ItalyRomolo MarcelliniUgo Guerra aka Taboos of the World
L'amore primitivo1964ItalyLuigi ScattiniMassimo Pupillo
Luigi Scattini
Lallo Goriaka Primitive Love
Mondo Topless1966USRuss Meyer The Aladdins
Mondo Freudo1966USLee Frost Rodney Lee Bermingham
The Duvals
Chuck Morgan
Bill Wild
Mondo Bizarro1966USLee FrostLee FrostLawrence Von Lattman
Macabro1966ItalyRomolo MarcelliniGiancarlo Del Re
Our Incredible World1966UKEdward Stewart Abraham aka The Mystery and the Pleasure
Mondo Hollywood1967USRobert Carl CohenRobert Carl CohenMike Curb
Sweden: Heaven and Hell1968ItalyLuigi ScattiniLuigi ScattiniPiero Umiliani
L'altra faccia del peccato1969ItalyMarcello AvalloneGiacinto Ciaccio
Massimo D'Avak
Peppino De Lucaaka The Queer, the Erotic
Mille peccati... nessuna virtù1969ItalySergio MartinoSergio MartinoPeppino De Lucaaka Mondo Sex
Inghilterra nuda1969ItalyVittorio De SistiPino De Martino
Ettore Mattia
Piero Piccioniaka Naked England
America così nuda, così violenta1970ItalySergio MartinoLuciano MartinoBruno Nicolaiaka Naked and Violent
Shocking Asia1974West GermanyRolf OlsenRolf Olsen
Ingeborg Stein Steinbach
Erwin Halletz Uncut run time 94 min.
Notti Porno nel Mondo1977ItalyBruno MatteiBruno MatteiGianni Marchettiaka Mondo Erotica
This Is America1977USRomano VanderbesRomano VanderbesEmmanuel Vardiaka Crazy Ridiculous American People (UK), Jabberwalk
Brutes and Savages1978USArthur DavisJenny CravenRiz Ortolani
Mr. Mike's Mondo Video1979USMichael O'DonoghueMitch GlazerPaul Shaffer
This Is America Part 21980USRomano VanderbesBill MillingEmmanuel Vardi
Days of Fury1980USFred WarshofskyFred Warshofsky aka Doomsday
Cannibal Holocaust1980ItalyRuggero DeodatoGianfranco ClericiRiz Ortolani
Des Morts1981 Jean-Pol Ferbus
Dominique Garny
Thierry Zéno
Jean-Pol Ferbus
Dominique Garny
Thierry Zéno
Alain Pierreaka Of the Dead; uncut run time 105 min.
The Killing of America1982USSheldon Renan
Leonard Schrader
Chieko Schrader
Leonard Schrader
W. Michael Lewis
Mark Lindsay
aka Violence U.S.A. in Japan; uncut run time 90 min.
Shocking Asia II: The Last Taboos1985West GermanyRolf OlsenRolf OlsenErwin Halletz
Mondo New York1988USHarvey KeithHarvey Keith
David Silver
Luis Perico OrtizUncut run time 83 min.
Mondo Ford2001USScott Calonico
Ricardo Fratelli
Scott Calonico
Ricardo Fratelli
Uncut run time 7 min.
Murder Collection V.12009USFred VogelDon Moore
Fred Vogel
Shelby Vogel
Jerami Cruise
Mondo Sexxxx: The Terry Kobrah Story2011USLogan Myers
Mondo Delirium2011ItalyFlavio SciolèFlavio Sciolè Uncut run time 170 min.
Made in Italy2012ItalyJephta
Mondomanila2012 Philippines Khavn
Most Disturbed Person On Planet Earth2013 United States Thomas Extreme Cinemagore

See also


  1. Kerekes & Slater, p. 108.
  2. Mondo New York (1988) The New York Times,
  3. Kerekes & Slater, p. 102.
  4. Mondo Cane (1962) The New York Times
  5. Revisiting a Cinematic Smackdown, and Other Avant-Garde Pleasures The New York Times, October 1, 2009
  6. Mondo Cane Variety Reviews, December 31, 1961
  7. 1 2 Kerekes & Slater, p. 107.
  8. 1 2 Kerekes & Slater, p. 109.
  9. Kerekes & Slater, p. 315.
  10. Kerekes & Slater, p. 155.
  11. Kerekes & Slater, pp. 156-158.


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