Newsreels used to be a way of presenting news that was otherwise only heard on the radio or read in the newspapers. But it wasn’t long before the oddities of the world were also brought into theaters, the all too common history of sensationalism winning out over substance. While these short news features were a way to warm up the audience before the feature attraction, Mondo Cane is the first of these slightly blue voyeuristic vignettes I know of to arrive as a feature length film. Mondo Cane was the first to string together a collective of odd known and unknown cultural rites for the purpose of shock and social commentary. The depths of grief reflecting the deep love Americans feel towards pets was parlayed against dogs being used by different cultures as a meat source. Stereotypes were brazenly reinforced to a level of absurdity so that the audience fights back with the rational thought of the absurdity of stereotypes. The awful dubbing and odd selections of music* to go with the scenes are orchestrated to poke a stick at many societies’ conventions. Mondo Cane set the template for a series of exploitation documentaries. These in turn inspired others to craft their own documentaries in the same style. Sex, death, gluttony, and fanaticism have all been explored and have become a standard recipe used in reality television shows and Internet videos. Mondo Cane came out the year I was born and a lifetime of exposure has numbed me a bit to the movie’s original source material.
*The score, "More (Theme from Mondo Cane)," was nominated for an Oscar.