The 1962 documentary Mondo Cane is a remarkable work in many ways – a cynical, extraordinary look at the more eccentric, shocking and unknown aspects in global culture at a time when the world was much larger and less explored place than it is today. Banned in Britain, the film spawned the Mondo Movie ‘shockumentary’ genre, with countless sequels, spin-offs and imitators over the decades. The better-known Faces of Death series is the direct descendent of this film.
One of the most remarkable moments in Mondo Cane is the footage of The Vattienti of Nocera Terinese – a religious sect in a small Italian town who, each Holy Week, carry out bizarre self-flagellating rituals as part of a religious procession, scourging their legs with a ‘cardo’ impregnanted with glass.
Today, there is plenty of photographic and video material recording this bloody ritual. The Mondo Cane footage remains the most powerful and haunting, however.