Movie Review: Goodbye Uncle Tom (1971) – Blue Underground 4K

April 27, 2024

Written by DanXIII

Daniel XIII; the result of an arcane ritual involving a King Diamond album, a box of Count Chocula, and a copy of Swank magazine, is a screenwriter, director, producer, actor, artist, and reviewer of fright flicks…Who hates ya baby?

Goodbye Uncle Tom, the subject of today’s revoltin’ review, is brought to us by the demented documentarians Gualtiero Jacopetti and Franco Prosperi… the men behind legendary Italian doc Mondo Cane, who just so happened to have faced accusations of racisim after 1966’s Africa Addio (which detailed the continent’s decolonization).

What did the duo do to set the record straight? Make a Mondo documentary all about slavery in America… I’m sure absolutely nothing will go wrong here…

In a move as baffling as it is jaw-dropping, Jacopetti and Prosperi seemingly travel back in time and arrive on a Southern Plantation via helicopter after we hear a little history lesson on race relations in the U.S. (and a piece on hippies because it gets more naked bodies on screen)… don’t worry, it gets weirder, more wrong, and absolutely unhinged…

Once there they are treated to a fancy dinner in their honor, during which we see (and hear) historical figures espouse their feelings on slavery in comments both horrible but historically accurate. This is followed by sequences detailing what life was like for a slave, from ship to stinking shore, all to stomach churning effect.

After that, the film showcases a modern (by early ‘70s standards that is) Black man who dreams of acting out the slave revolt featured in William Styron’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Confessions of Nat Turner… this is pure exploitation film sensibilities interwoven with an historical event and is every bit as surreal and shocking as the rest of the film.

Along with all of that, the film is often filled with dark, satirical humor (leveled at the film’s white characters) and isn’t afraid to shatter the fourth wall (as a sequence involving a pile of bodies getting up and dusting themselves off after a take is left in the picture).

On the plus side, the film is lavishly realized with historical dress and hundreds of extras, and the cinematography by Claudio Cirillo, Antonio Climati, and Benito Frattari is sensational… and special mention to Composer Riz Ortolani’s (Cannibal Holocaust, House on the Edge of the Park) pulsating score that often sounds upbeat no matter how nasty things on screen play out… it’s a dichotomy that makes the material as bizarre as it is unpleasant (and the score is included in this release on a separate CD).

While we are talking bonus content, this four disc, 4K release from Blue Underground boasts not only a gorgeous transfer that reveals every detail of beauty and brutality the film can muster, but contains four discs worth of material!

Disc One contains the 123-minute Goodbye Uncle Tom, the U.S. Cut of the film which eliminates the original Italian version’s (which I used for the above sinister synopsis) modern prologue, making the films end segment even more jarring.

As for special features we get the film’s trailer.

Disc Two contains that aforementioned, 136 minute Italian Cut, Addio Zio Tom by name, and the film’s theatrical trailer.

Disc Three contains extra material including two feature-length documentaries: The Importance of Shocking, and The Godfathers of Mondo, which examine the fascinating life of Jacopetti, and Prosperi and Jacopetti’s careers in the Mondo genre, respectively.

Additionally we get an interview segment featuring Jacopetti, Prosperi, and Ortolani, a large collection of 8MM behind-the scenes footage with accompanying narration by Giampaolo Lomi (which offers an amazing glimpse into the film’s production), and a duo of academic interviews; one with Author/Academic Mark Goodall discussing the Mondo genre, and the other featuring Professor Matthew J. Smith which examines the film with an eye on actual history as well as why the production filming in Haiti was problematic… I have to add, the Professor is no fan of the film which offers a beautiful contrast to the other bonus material present.

Disc Four contains the previously mentioned score by The Riz!

As for packaging we get a slipcover, reversible sleeve, and a booklet containing an essay about the picture from critic Dan Madigan.

Mixing sensationalism and satire into a shocking glance back to America’s darkest time, Goodbye Uncle Tom is outrageous, at times wrong headed, and sadly still relevant.

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