Monday, May 21, 2012

The Curious Case of Shocking Africa

In 2007, a mondo released by a certain 'Substance' label (more on them in just a little bit) cropped up on DVD under the title Shocking Africa. Based on the title alone, it was perhaps not unreasonable to think that this was the Castiglioni's Africa Dolce e Selvaggia (1982) finally seeing the light of day as a DVD release, considering that Shocking Africa is a well-known alternate English title for that film. Some further examination of the release's box cover should have risen some red flags, however.

First of all, the various online genre film communities are abuzz with murmurs of Substance (aka Jef Films aka Televista aka a plethora of other pseudonyms) being a bootleg label, releasing shoddy grey-market prints of niche titles as retail DVDs. However, since we do not know whether Substance actually has any legitimate claim to the particular title in question, we can neither validate nor disprove the rumors; having thus simply stated that plenty of allegations exist, we'll leave it at that.

A further tip-off that something is amiss with this release should have come from the fact that the various screenshots on the front/back cover of the release are clearly identifiable from other mondo features (most notable is perhaps the iconic pig-suckling scene from Mondo Cane).

Indeed then by the time the DVD is popped into the player, suspicions become confirmed when none of the scenes in this Shocking Africa match any of the reviews of the Castiglioni's homonymous title. In Killing for Culture, for instance, Kerekes and Slater note that "Shocking Africa is most notable for its truly hideous circumcision scenes, or rather, the sheer volume of its circumcision scenes" (1996, p. 105), which is also confirmed by IMDb reviewer el_topo13, "[n]o less than 3 dozen circumcisions done with a big knife on little kids". The number of circumcision scenes in Substance's Shocking Africa? Zero. Perhaps the circumcision scenes were just, erm, snipped from this particular cut? In that case, quite a few other scenes would have to have been snipped as well, as absolutely none of the scenes described by both reviewers (tooth filings, snake handling, and so on) appear in this release. And then there's the little matter of the credits. Not a single name on the Substance release matches anyone associated with the Castiglioni film (see Appendix 1 for full credit listings).

At this point it then becomes abundantly clear that the Substance release entitled Shocking Africa is most certainly not Africa Dolce e Selvaggia (aka The Last Savage Part Two: Shocking Africa). This in turn begs the obvious question of what exactly is it then? The answer, as always, lies neatly tucked away in the dusty video archives of mondo history.

In 1989 (seven years after the initial release of the Castiglioni's Shocking Africa), a small outfit under the name of Hurricane Pictures--having also released versions of Mondo Cane I/II as well as Africa Addio (the significance of these other releases will become apparent later on)--released an enticing-looking VHS that, lo and behold, also went by the title Shocking Africa. In comparing the Hurricane Pictures release to the Substance release, we found the two to be identical, down to even having the same VCR 'Play' artifacts embedded in the video when certain scenes were spliced into the compilation.

Indeed, note how Substance even uses some of the same exact phrasing as Hurricane on their back cover blurbs (emphasis added):


Witness the hideous and the bizarre. See actual shocking, primitive rituals which are still painfully practiced today! From the wilds of the hidden jungles to the teaming brutal cities, the dark and shadowey [sic] underbelly of the African continent is ripped open and exposed in all its naked savagery.


They don't call Africa the Dark Continent for nothing. This mind-numbing documentary takes us into forbidden territory where we witness primitive rituals, weird initiations, fertility rites, bizarre practices and graphic violence. From the wilds of the hidden jungles to the teaming brutal cities, the dark and shadowy underbelly of the African continent is ripped open and exposed in all its naked savagery. Prepare yourself to be mortified, sick and repulsed...but at the same time you won't be able to keep your eyes off the screen...prepare yourself for the shocking world of shocking Africa!

The only slight variation between the two releases is that the end of the Hurricane tape has a promo bumper for apparently another one of their planned releases--"coming November 1989...Maximum Security...a movie about beautiful young women in prision [sic]. Sex, violence & action!", which Substance cuts out.

Seeing as the Substance DVD is thus the same exact copy of the film as the Hurricane VHS released 18 years earlier, our question then transforms into asking what exactly this Hurricane release is.

The US Copyright Office Catalog lists the copyright claimant for the Hurricane Pictures Shocking Africa as one 'Gabor Szabo' (refer to Appendix 2 for the complete entry) and comically lists the basis of the copyright claim as "new matter: 'entire production, all cinematography & narration'". The source of the humor is that there is not a millisecond of 'new matter' in this Shocking Africa, as the entire production is clobbered together from existing mondos.

Specifically, the Hurricane/Substance Shocking Africa is composed exclusively of scenes from English-dubbed versions of Mondo Cane (aka A Dog's Life) (1962), Mondo Cane 2 (aka Mondo Pazzo) (1963), Slave Trade in the World Today (aka Le Schiave Esistono Ancora) (1964), and Africa Addio (aka Africa Blood and Guts) (1966) (a full scene-by-scene attribution appears in Appendix 3). Note that, as mentioned above, seeing as how Hurricane Pictures has released at least three of these four mondos, it would then not be unreasonable to speculate that they could have simply used their own releases of these films to slap together this mondo mashup and release it under the pretense of being a new mondo film.

Ironically, there's not a single scene from the Castiglioni's Shocking Africa in the Hurricane/Substance Shocking Africa (or at least none found in the Viprodis release of the Castiglioni film that we viewed). Nor are there any scenes from the versions of Mondo Magic (aka Magia nuda aka Naked Magic aka Shocking Cannibals) (1975), another mondo by the Castiglioni brothers, that we viewed in this compilation either (neither in the Substance nor the Hurricane release), Mark Goodall's claims to the contrary in his mondo text Sweet and Savage: The World Through the Shockumentary Film Lens (2005, p. 133) notwithstanding:

Scenes from the film [Magia nuda] have appeared in underground 'compilation videos', in particular the evocative shots of the Mundawi tribe's war dance and cattle rituals (see Amok Assault Video and Guliano Rossi and Luigi Vizzi's shameless mondo hack-compilation Shocking Africa for example) and so the film still has a tangible presence as a mondo paradigm.

We viewed three different versions of Mondo Magic--the heavily cut US Intermedia/Woodhaven release, the longer Italian De Laurentiis Ricordi release, and an English-dubbed bootleg copy of what's likely either the Magnum or Edde Entertainment release--to triple-check to see if perhaps Goodall was referring to a particular version of the film, but none of the prints had any scenes that were used in the Hurricane/Substance Shocking Africa. Thus either Goodall viewed a different version of either film(s), or either he or we are mistaken (though in case of the latter, we would kindly ask Goodall, or anyone else, to provide exact runtime and version listings to show precisely where the alleged scenes from Magia nuda occur in Shocking Africa). 

And there you have it. The Substance release of Shocking Africa is simply a VHS-to-DVD transfer of the Hurricane release, which is in turn a shoddy hack job made from existent mondos. To add shit to piss, as it were, the mook(s) at Hurricane couldn't even manage the arduous task of selecting scenes that actually matched their Shocking Africa title, as they gyrate from not only Africa but also showing people situated everywhere from the Middle East to Papua New Guinea.

There are, of course, still plenty of unanswered questions left over, like who exactly was behind Hurricane Pictures--the copyright claimant 'Gabor Szabo', or is that just another pseudonym, much like Vizzi and Rossi almost certainly are? And what exactly is Substance's connection to Hurricane--just a tape they stumbled on and rereleased, or something more? If anyone has any answers, do feel free to comment...

Appendix 1: Production Credits for the Hurricane/Substance and Viprodis Versions of Shocking Africa.


A Vizzi and Rossi Production
Executive Producer Gabby Marrisho
Produced by Giancarlo Rossi
Directed by Guliano Rossi
Written by Luigi Vizzi
Associate Producer Sandy Meyers
Production Manager Ted Edwards


Difilm presents
A film by Angelo and Alfredo Castiglioni
Written by Guglielmo Guariglia ['Director of The Institute of Ethnology Milan']
Film Editor Luisa Baruffini
Music by Franco Godi
Production Manager Pier Paolo Di Fonzo
Sound Recordist Rodolfo Mecacci
Speaker Ken Belton
Re-Recording Engineer Alberto Cavalli
Narration by Guglielmo Guariglia
Directed by Angelo and Alfredo Castiglioni
Special Effects Alberto Cavalli
Gaffer Giovanni Ilacqua
Key Grip Duero Reale
Sound Recording Audiocentro
Orchestration by Gianni Zilioli and Oscar Rocchi
The theme son [sic] is sung by The Bertas
Color by Luciano Vittori s.p.a.
A Cast S.R.L. Production - Italy

Appendix 2: US Copyright Office Catalog Entry for the Hurricane Pictures Version of Shocking Africa.

Type of Work: Motion Picture
Registration Number / Date: PA0000441167 / 1989-10-30
Title: Shocking Africa / a Vizzi and Rossi production ; directed by Guliano Rossi.
Description: 1 videocassette (VHS) : sd., col. ; 1/2 in.
Copyright Claimant: Gabor Szabo
Date of Creation: 1989
Date of Publication: 1989-10-10
Authorship on Application: Hurricane Pictures, employer for hire.
Basis of Claim: New Matter: "entire production, all cinematography & narration."
Names: Rossi, Guliano, Szabo, Gabor, Vizzi and Rossi, Hurricane Pictures

Appendix 3: Original Source Attribution for All Scenes in the Hurricane/Substance Shocking Africa.

Format: Scene Number. Start Time (Hours:Minutes:Seconds)-End Time (Hours:Minutes:Seconds) Scene Title(s) - Scene Source [Scene Duration (Minutes:Seconds)]

Nota bene: Timings may not be precise (assume a +/- two-second deviation at best).


MC - Mondo Cane
MC2 - Mondo Cane 2
ST - Slave Trade in the World Today
AA - Africa Addio

  1. 00:00:00-00:00:16 Opening credits - N/A [00:16]
  2. 00:00:16-00:03:46 Crippled Slave Children - MC2/ST [Nota bene: Both MC2/ST include this scene. Since MC2 came out a year earlier, it would appear that ST--or at least the Intermedia/Woodhaven release of ST--then copied it from there, though it's anyone's guess as to which of these two titles Hurricane then got the scene from in turn.] [03:30]
  3. 00:03:46-00:09:34 Pig Suckling / Pig Feast - MC [05:48]
  4. 00:09:35-00:16:22 Giant Crabs/Market in Human Beings/'Slaving Party'/The 'Greek' - ST [06:47]
  5. 00:16:23-00:20:39 Manhunting / The Fattening of Chief Alunda's Wives - MC [04:16]
  6. 00:20:39-00:26:23 Manhood Ritual / Rain Dance / Flagellation - ST [05:44]
  7. 00:26:23-00:31:42 Crocodile Diet / Cattle Grooming / Newspaper Distribution in A New Guinean Village - MC2 [05:19]
  8. 00:31:42-00:42:04 Desert Slave Caravan / Government Official Slavery Interview / Slave Purchase Setup / Slavery Deal in a Nightclub / Nighttime Slave Cargo - ST [10:22]
  9. 00:42:04-00:50:29 The Last Caveman / Church Attendance / A Cargo Cult - MC [08:25]
  10. 00:50:29-01:05:40 Various Harems / The Trial of Courage / Wedding Ceremony / Fist Fights - ST [15:11]
  11. 01:05:41-01:09:25 Dar es Salaam Race Riots / Legion of Decency Underpants Distribution - AA [03:44]
  12. 01:09:25-01:09:59 Closing Credits - N/A [00:34]

Total runtime (excluding opening/closing credits): 01:09:09
Total runtime, by film:
ST:    00:38:04 (55.05%)
MC:   00:18:29 (26.73%)
MC2: 00:08:49 (12.75%)
AA:   00:03:44 (5.40%)

1 comment:

  1. I made the mistake of buying the Hurricane VHS release a few years ago. Boy, was I bummed when I put the tape in.