Savage Man, Savage Beast (1975)
By: Julian on November 2, 2007  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
I Entertainment (Australia). All Region, PAL. 4:3. English DD 1.0. 88 minutes
The Movie
Cover Art
Directors: Antonio Climati & Mario Morra
Narrator: Alberto Moravia
Country: Italy
Antonio Climati is best known in the Italian exploitation world as a cinematographer, and his claim to fame was lensing the Mondo masterpieces of Gualtiero Jacopetti and Franco Prosperi – Mondo Cane, Africa Addio, Addio Zio Tom et al. However, in 1975, Climati teamed up with Mario Morra to direct the first of his own Mondo pictures, which would go on to be produced by Prosperi. The first of Climati and Morra's 'Savage' trilogy is Savage Man, Savage Beast, a viciously underrated Eurotrash opus that could be considered the last great Mondo film.

Initially coming off as the stuff too grisly to be included in National Geographic documentaries, Savage Man, Savage Beast is primarily concerned with how humans relate to animals, and how animals relate with each other. Aside from a few obligatory tribal ritual vignettes and a scene between mercenaries and tribesmen (the presence of which threatens to ruin the serious, unexploitative tone of the picture) the bulk of the film focuses on animals killing each other, humans slaughtering animals and, in a particularly disturbing scene (which may or may not be genuine), a lion devouring an overzealous tourist in the African savannah.

Climati and Morra, who script also bring focus to the stance of peaceful naturalist groups who, in squads of hundreds of young men and women, camp out with nature, even though they consume hundreds of kilograms of meat on a daily basis. The film also takes us through Western fox hunts, in an amusing segment where a female bitch in heightened stages of heat is used by environmentalists to deter the hunter's dogs from seeking out a fox. Judgment is also passed when we see a large Grizzly Bear fishing for salmon at the top of a waterfall, and the duo accuse the concept of being romanticised by many documentarians. It is this kind of hypocrisy that Climati and Morra try to bring to light, frequently pointing out that men are forced to justify killing animals with bizarre religious or cultural rites and the brutality of animals themselves is a topic glossed over by many other naturalists. This observation is certainly astute, however the fact that it is so blatantly expressed, and on such a frequent basis, acts to the film's detriment. The Mondo genre has not really been known for its subtlety, and Climati and Morra fail to add nuance to their narration. That said, this may also be down to a poor translation – Jacopetti was notoriously pissed-off that the voice over for Africa Addio was censored to avoid dubious and potentially damaging political sentiments, and this may have easily been the case here as well.

Some of the set pieces appear to serve only as fillers, and disturbing ones at that – the presence of cheetahs mercilessly bringing down desperate ostriches and the Aboriginals of Cape Melville spearing kangaroos are simply repetitions of concepts that are repeated ad nauseam throughout the picture. Some of the aforementioned vignettes of human-on-human conflict are just plain gratuitous, and ruin the raison d'etre of the film, which is ultimately to convey the impact of the 'savage man' upon an equally 'savage beast', and visa versa. However, such scenes have become a staple to the Mondo genre and, even though they are totally unnecessary, Climati and Morra can perhaps be forgiven for falling back on old habits, though it does make a critical filmgoer question why they are putting themselves through such grimy material. Despite this, the impact of the content is somewhat diminished by claims that many of the scenes were faked. While the film asserts it is totally authentic, it is unclear which of the set pieces are set up – both the lion and the castration scenes were allegedly staged. Regardless of whether or not scenes were inauthentic, Savage Man, Savage Beast remains a powerful documentary (and, in part, recreation) that is the antithesis of the utopian nature pics of the likes of David Attenborough and Steve Irwin.

Savage Man, Savage Beast also appears to be an incredibly hard film to source. This disc is from the cheap Australian label I Entertainment, and is mastered from the Australian Palace Explosive VHS tape distributed in the eighties. A copy of the film can be found in the Grindhouse Experience set in R1-land, and is the same version. However, this cut of the film is heavily truncated, most notably during the lion attack and a scene involving rebel soldiers and a tribesman. A Japanese DVD has also been released and, at 91 minutes, is the longest available version of the film, which supposedly clocked in at over a hundred minutes during its Italian theatrical run. These three DVDs are the only ones that I have been able to source and the I Entertainment disc is certainly the most accessible for the Aussie punter. However, Savage Man, Savage Beast's availability, or lack thereof, is a shame – this is definitely one of the best non-Jacopetti/Prosperi Mondo pictures ever filmed.
The film has been presented in the 4:3 ratio, and looks like… well, a VHS tape, with scratches and grain galore. However, beggars can't be choosers.
Ditto. Because this is has been mastered from a VHS tape, the audio is pretty appalling. It is presented in an English Dolby mono track and the sound is heavily muted. However, most of the dialogue is still audible.
Extra Features
Sweet FA. Actually, absolutely nothing. Oh, we get scene selection you say? And a menu screen? Cheers, fellas.
The Verdict
Savage Man, Savage Beast is the debut of two Mondo filmmakers who, while not as talented as the Jacopetti and Prosperi partnership, are definitely the next best thing. On face value, this may seem to be directly inspired by the likes of Africa Addio, but Climati and Morra's directorial debut is certainly a unique one and makes for an unsettling piece of cinema. It is a shame that this hasn't been released as widely as the Jacopetti and Prosperi films, and Savage Man, Savage Beast is a picture that you're likely to find on many top-exploitation movie lists. Savage Man, Savage Beast is well worth your time as a legitimate, thought-provoking documentary, but those who find the Discovery Channel docos slightly nauseating had best steer clear.
Movie Score
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