And the madness continues. Intercut with all of this is
modern footage, much of it seemingly stock. There’s a New Orleans jazz
funeral that’s probably a Mondo Cane outtake and that is overlaid with
almost completely non-related narration. There’s a scene from a rally
during comedian Dick Gregory’s run for president in 1968, and it
includes a bit of narration that I feel like sums up the filmmaker’s
race war feelings in a delightful nutshell: ‘What makes this candidate
for the White House exceptional is that his political program does not
include cutting the throats of all white Americans. Perhaps this is why
he wasn’t very successful.’

It’s hard to pick out one
scene in Addio Zio Tom that is the most offensive, but if pressed I may
go with the Fellini-esque sequence where a black dwarf huckster takes
the camera on a tour of a black whorehouse. By now we’re used to the
degredation of women in the film, so when Too Short’s great grandfather
tears their tops off, we’re not moved. But a scene where young boys are
painted silver by a grotesquely caricatured gay man goes beyond the
pale. The camera lingers on the painted penises of these kids and you
have to wonder who applied that paint. What was it like on set that
day? Can the FBI raid my house for owning this? In comparison to this
abject nastiness the next scene, a re-enactment of the story of a New
Orleans woman who sexually abused and murdered her slaves, comes across
as totally tame.

As Addio Zio Tom hits the two hour mark (!),
the whole thing feels like a bad fever dream. But the true delirium is
just about to happen. Jacopetti and Prosperi have spent 120 minutes
sending their mixed messages about race, but now they make their
ultimate statement – it’s again the modern day and a black man with an
Afro dressed like a minister is on a Miami beach, trying to read
William Styron’s The Confessions of Nat Turner. We see his mind’s eye
imaginings of the slave-in-revolt’s murders of white families, and he
imagines axe murdering the annoying white people on the beach around
him. The whole movie reaches a bizarre climax here, as the blood soaked killings are played in loving detail, including a baby being beaten to
death against a wall. There’s no judgment here – the filmmakers are
more or less siding with the idea that these honkies should be iced.
These Italians know how to make a movie, and these scenes are flat out
intoxicating. Watching Black Panther types take axes to white families
(with that Ortolani music on the soundtrack!) never felt so good.

The film’s final moment makes sure things go out on an insane bang. The
Styron-reading black radical sits in the sand and a young white boy’s
beach ball bounces to him. The black minister holds the ball in his
hands and stares at the boy, his grip tightening. The ball explodes and
he grins… and freeze frame and credits. It’s incredible!

As the credits roll you can’t help but be dazed. What the fuck did you
just watch? Was that a movie that hates black people and wants to do
nothing more than humiliate them, or was it a movie that wants to
incite a black revolution? I think it’s both – these filmmakers were
sleazy exploitationers, and they knew that they could appeal to the
urban black grindhouse patrons with the race war bullshit and the
southern white drive in people with the constant demeaning of blacks.
And both audiences were pretty interested in seeing rape, tits and
violence, so it was win/win all around. In many ways the schizophrenic
nature of Addio Zio Tom is its greatest triumph – it’s a movie that is
what you make of it. Of course it’s still a deeply evil piece of work,
whatever you make of it, but this is a film calculated to appeal to –
and deeply offend – audiences both white and black.

It will be hard to top Addio Zio Tom in the CHUDsploitation column for
the simple fact that it’s one of the few exploitation films that
retains just as much power today as it had when it was released (it
probably has even more, as the uncut version, with all the race war
stuff, was only recently available in America). Part of the movie’s
power comes from the quality of the filmmaking, which has kept it from
aging as badly as its slapdash grindhouse brethren, but much of it
comes from the sheer extreme aspects of Jacopetti and Prosperi’s
vision. I keep mentioning the fact that it took them three years to
make this movie because I am astounded at their commitment to this
sickness. Most exploitation films would be quickies, shot in a minimal
number of days and tossed onto the circuit as soon as possible so as to
begin making money right away. Three years qualifies any movie as a
passion project, and what does it say about the souls of men whose
passion project is a diseased piece of trash like Addio Zio Tom? The
best exploitation films carry the marks of the men who made them, their
kinks and quirks and obsessions. After this movie the duo would go on
to make one more movie together, the pornographic S&M epic Mondo
, apparently a take on Candide (I’ve never had the opportunity
to see this film, so I’m just reporting what I’ve read); between the
dehumanizing cruelty of Addio Zio Tom and the graphic S&M scenes of
Mondo Candido, I think we can guess what Jacopetti and Prosperi’s
foibles and kinks were.

In Mondo Cane and Africa Addio, Jacopetti and Prosperi had tried to
expose the worst of humanity for our shock and pleasure. The amazing
thing about Addio Zio Tom is that when they ran out of real world ways
to do it, they began to just manufacture it themselves. This film is
among the most morally horrible things a human being has ever created,
a true landmark in the annals of depravity, a work that outshines de
Sade’s 120 Days of Sodom in terms of sickness if only because these
inhuman Italians used not just pen and paper to express their debased
fantasies but the very flesh of real people. I dare even the most
cynical person to watch Addio Zio Tom and not find new reasons to hate