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MONDO CANDIDO (1974).

During the golden age of the grindhouse, Gualtiero Jacopetti and Franco Prosperi were always gloriously pushing the envelope of exploitation, with classics like MONDO CANE and FAREWELL UNCLE TOM. Well, this is their most outlandish cinematic confection -- a sexual-psychedelic comic-variation on Voltaire's CANDIDE, that transcends time and logic. Basic coherency might be at a minimum, but it's never boring! Set in some nebulous medieval time, Christopher Brown stars as Candido, a free spirit who lives in a Baron's fabulous castle and prances about like Richard Simmons with a hamster up his ass. Taught that this is "the best of all possible worlds," Candido's gleeful routine is shattered when the Baron spots him face down in his chaste daughter Cunegonda's crotch and banishes the lad from his castle. Suddenly, poor Candido is thrust into a cruel (and often anachronistic) land. He's "recruited" into an army that trains its soldiers to use their bare heads as battering rams, only to be slaughtered by modern troops with machine guns and flame throwers. He's later captured by the Inquisition, which turns into a tapestry of masked muscle-bound torturers, naked women led into a giant meat grinder, electric guitars, and a black dude being lynched by the KKK. It's like Ken Russell's THE DEVILS meets LAUGH-IN. Meanwhile, Candido pines for sweet Cunegonda, never realizing that she's now a happy slut who keeps four men satisfied, after she was captured by "demons" on motorcycles! Yow! During its most clearly insane moment, Candido boards a ship to the New World (along with Marilyn Monroe and Al Capone?), and ends up in modern-day Manhattan! On the streets of NYC he meets his old mentor Pangloss, who's now directing TV commercials, while Cunegonda makes headlines with her orgasmic concerts. Eventually, he even heads to Ireland and Jerusalem -- as once-naive Candido finally sees this shitty world for what it really is... Never prone to subtlety, the directors fill every frame with surreal twists, slapstick, sexuality, and repellent images. It's certainly not a happy, upbeat narrative, but they overflow it with dazzling sequences, plus a carnival-on-peyote atmosphere. The production is also surprisingly sumptuous, with excessive costumes, sets and props, dizzying photography by Giuseppe Ruzzolini (TEORAMA, BURN!), and a wild score by Riz Ortolani. A jaw-dropping tapestry of politics, bloodshed, fantasy, desire, death, and the human condition, it's an impossible-to-categorize, absurdist masterpiece from the demented genius of Jacopetti and Prosperi.

© 2001 by Steven Puchalski.