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Mondo Candido

The director of Drive picks his top three exploitation films

Nicolas Winding Refn has amassed a collection of rare posters for films that don’t shy away from controversy

There’s a reason why you’ve most likely missed out on these films. They were seen by just tens of the most adventurous cinemagoers upon release. Near impossible to find, only those with an aching desire to sit through the strangest or most experimental features during the hellraising heyday of 60s and 70s exploitation cinema would hunt them down.

Director Nicolas Winding Refn is making it his mission to bring the shock to a whole new audience with his new tome, The Act of Seeing. Slyly sandwiched between two thick covers are the salvaged posters (or one-sheets, as they’re called) of films like The Astounding She MonsterTorture Me, Kiss Me, and Is The Father Black Enough?

Such a (un)healthy obsession with exploitation flicks has led the superintendent of shock’n’awe to mine for the most obscure and hilariously blatant in the genre. He’s only made a dent, but the Danish enfant terrible scoured his catalogue to tell us which ones made their mark.


Night Tide, directed by Curtis Harrington, was the only poster that I put both versions of in the book. This was his debut and it was Dennis Hopper’s first starring role, and it was just a magnificent film. It’s a very beautiful poetic fairytale in Los Angeles about a man who falls in love with a mermaid. Don’t think Tom Hanks. It’s the anti-Splash. It's just really great. His career had been very difficult, a lot of failures. So in a way I just wanted to acknowledge that. I found him very under-appreciated. Queen of Blood is one of the great SF cult films, and it was directed by Harrington. It’s about someone who goes to outer space and finds somebody that drinks blood. A very flamboyant, fascinating creature. This fabulous woman. He would tell stories – you could sense there was a bitterness and sadness. He wrote an autobiography before he died, which is very sad, about how everything just goes wrong.”


“Goodbye Uncle Tom, which is also in the book, is one of the great, kind of, Mondo-films that people have more read about than seen. It’s Jacopetti and Prosperi who are the two directors, who kind of created this whole Mondocani sub-genre in the 60s. They are very under-appreciated filmmakers, who became more and more insane with their approach, this kind of pseudo-documentary approach to things, mixing reality with documentary. They'd gone to Africa and done a movie about Africa called Africa Addio (Africa Blood and Guts in English), which is like a 3 hour extravaganza. Then they wanted to do a film about the re-enactement of slavery. It’s a very, very disturbing film; in a way it’s a very offensive film, but it’s also a very interesting document of a certain time. And the music by Riz Ortolani, which is a composer who did the music of all their films, I'm a big admirer of. Actually the theme song from this, “O My Love, was a song that I used in Drive. When I was finishing the script, I knew exactly where that song would go in the film. It’s where he chases Nina, near the end, when he's putting on his mask. Nobody knows unless I tell them. Or unless you’ve seen the film, which very few people have. It was hard to get. It was hard to get for many years. And then it was released now on Blu-ray, so now it's more accessible. This one is still very – I mean, you would never make a film like this these days. It’s too extreme in many ways.”


“I became very interested in religion-based propaganda films. Some of them, especially from the 60s and early 70s, are very interesting, very experimental in a way. You’ve never seen anything like itI love finding things that are as obscure as you could possibly get, and seeing what’s there before it becomes commercialised – then you're on to the next thing, and the next thing. If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do? was just the most mind-boggling religious propaganda film. It’s about an incoming invasion of America. It’s very interesting. You’re going to have to see it. It’s about a preacher who tells a story at a sermon, about what would happen. It absolutely tries to convert you, it’s very clear. That’s what’s so interesting about it. It’s a very historical document of a certain time. That I find interesting. It’s very much about discovering your ‘inner selves’ but using very exploitation-orientated, sensationalised images and mechanisms. It’s all very Hollywood Bablyon-ish.”

Nicolas Winding Refn: The Act of Seeing is published by FAB Press and is available for pre-order now