Goodbye Uncle Tom/Review
From The Grindhouse Cinema Database
123 Min. Uncut English Version: If one film ever literally showed what hell on earth would look/feel like, Jacopetti & Prosperi's super mondo extravaganza Goodbye Uncle Tom would be that film. It goes above and beyond anything Ive ever seen in terms of mistreatment of human beings on screen. As I watched this, all the other offensive cult films Ive ever seen suddenly fell by the wayside. I had heard about the movie from different people but when I pressed play on the DVD I wasnt ready for what unfolded in front of my eyes. The movie is an extreme shockumentary about slavery in the 1800s, shot with a feverishly perverse eye. It could be seen as a cinematic Dante's Inferno as it moves from one stage of slavery to another, from the actual transport ships to showing the house slaves that the owners basically raped and had children with. When the slaves are first captured and thrown onto the ships, the white traders talk about them as if they are cattle. The putrid stench of the slaves makes the men sick as they hold cloths over their faces. In one outrageous scene, the workers break a slaves teeth and forcefeed him vile looking mush as blood and food runs down his body. An incredibly stomach churning film scene if there ever was one. After the slaves are brought to America they are put through some very harsh, inhumane delousing treatments. They are washed and bathed in disinfectant to get rid of any lice on their bodies, then they are shaven clean.
The amount of extras used in this movie is pretty phenomenal. It amazed me at how many people took part in recreating the way slaves were mistreated. It makes you wonder what the hell they were thinking to be a part of this movie. Was it for arts sake? Were they duped into it? I felt like Alex De Large in A Clockwork Orange while watching slave women being raped by crude, drooling hillbillies. The mass feeding scene made my stomach flip as the slaves are eating from a trough. One woman wants her baby to eat so she basically throws the child into the gruel and pushes food into its mouth.
As much as this movie will no doubt offend there are moments when you can see that what the directors were showing actually wasnt that far off from what happened during the height of slavery. The purely over the top exploitation cinema quality may cloud that fact, but its definitely based on truth. What can one get out of a film like Goodbye Uncle Tom? I think what I came away with after watching the movie was I realized simply how horrific slavery was (not that I really needed to see it shown in an extremely graphic way). I was simply astounded at what these filmmakers put on film as well. As much as the movie sickened and shocked me, the fact it was made in such an outrageous, unflinching way also impressed me as a film fan. The cinematography is gorgeous and the set pieces are very well done, even though many of them are so base and horrid. The score by Riz Ortolani, is much like his work in Cannibal Holocaust, a beautifully lush, majestic overture that counteracts and somehow manages to add an odd tongue in cheek aspect to the depraved atrocities that are shown throughout the film.
If you ever attempt to watch Goodbye Uncle Tom, I guarantee you will never be able to forget it.
Peter Roberts is the co-founder/editor-in-chief of the Grindhouse Cinema Database (GCDb) and contributor to the GCDb's sister site Furious Cinema. A Massachusetts native, he is an avid film fan that has been immersed in the world of entertainment and pop culture his entire life. He is currently majoring in Communications and Interactive Media Design.