Friday, 15 January 2010

America così nuda, così violenta / Naked and Violent

You can be forgiven for confusing this 1970 film with its 1969 predecessor A Thousand sins... no Virtues.

For both are the products of the same team, headed by director Sergio Martino and his producer brother Luciano, and present mondo exposes of the western world at the time.

Indeed, one faux occult ritual sequence was sufficiently similar to make me check whether I had in fact seen the film before, before a check of the archives – revealed that the earlier film had been set in Sweden whereas this one is located, as its Italian title indicates, in the USA.

Besides the occult, other common themes include the sexual and social revolutions of the 1970s, with plenty in the way of sex, drugs, the counter-culture and so on.

There's also a similar mixture of found footage – here of Woodstock and anti-Vietnam demos – reconstructions / inventions – the occult ritual is tastefully suggested to be linked to the Manson Family's alleged practices – and highly dubious vox pop interviews with Easy Rider-styled bikers, redneck racists, black panthers and other representative / stereotypical American figures of the time.

The most interesting topic is the Native American occupation of Alcatraz. Citing a clause in 19th century legislation, activists took control of the island as a territory abandoned by the US. Unfortunately it's also worthy of a documentary in its own right, rather than being a two minute segment here.

One aspect in which the film differs from its predecessor – albeit perhaps down to different edits being extant for different markets – is that other familiar mondo staple of animal cruelty and death. What A Thousand... lacked Naked and Violent provides, via the sacrificing of a chicken in the occult ritual, whose blood is at least seemingly used, and a group of men shooting live rabbit targets strung up on a washing line, apparently not for food but solely as cheap target practice.

The whole is tied together by the usual voice-off commentary along juxtaposition of extremes and opposites – wealth and poverty, black and white, modernity and tradition etc. - alongside the use of scene-setting music, on this occasion courtesy of Bruno Nicolai.

In the end the biggest difference for me between the two films was in how I acquired them: A Thousand Sins... an AVI download from a VHS source, Naked and Violent the recent DVD from Mya Commmunications.

Unfortunately the free download and the paid for DVD are almost identical as far as image quality is concerned; if anything the DVD is worse, with some noticeable jump cuts between one scene or segment and another.

Examples of the print damage

Maybe no better source print was available. But if so there's nothing to indicate this, unlike those releases which at least tell you at the start that this is the case or that some material has been interpolated in from an inferior source or has proven impossible to locate. Nor are there any extras.

All in all, it's the kind of treatment that can only discourage the fan from shelling out their cash. Indeed, we might even venture that in making the film available with English subtitles, the release has a self-defeating aspect: If the increased sales from providing subtitles are greater than the cost of their production, then aren't there just going to be more dissatisfied customers than otherwise? What makes it even odder is that these subtitles have clearly been produced, not being burned in to source print and being removable for those comfortable with the Italian audio. So it is not as if the release was just about taking something that already existed and transferring it across to DVD.

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