Gualtiero Jacopetti, Filmmaker Behind First 'Mondo' Movies, Dies at 92

The Italian director and screenwriter was part of the team that triggered the "shockumentary" craze.

Gualtiero Jacopetti, the Italian director and screenwriter behind the Italian mondo “shockumentaries” of the early 1960s that influenced and inspired filmmakers for years to come, died Wednesday in Rome, according to news reports. He was 92.

With Paolo Cavara and Franco Prosperi, Jacopetti originated the mondo (Italian for "world") film — perverse psuedo-docuementaries that depicted sensational scenes and situations with an emphasis on death, sex and cruelty.

In 1962, Jacopetti got it started by co-writing and co-directing Mondo Cane (A Dog’s World), which consisted of a series of travelogue vignettes that looked at cultural practices around the world. Some of the more shocking scenes included tribal animal slayings, German drug addicts and the killing of a man at a bullfight. The movie's theme song, "More," was nominated for an Oscar.

The film, which the Time magazine review said was “calculated to raise eyebrows,” played the 15th Cannes Film Festival and became an international box-office success. It spawned sequels and inspired similar exploitation documentaries, many of them with “mondo” in their titles (think Mondo Sex, Mondo Elvis and Russ Meyer’s Mondo Topless). 

Jacopetti’s resume also include La Donna del Mondo (1963), Mondo Pazzo (1963), Mondo Candido (1975), Witchdoctor in Tails (1966), Africa Addio (1966) and Goodbye Uncle Tom (1971), which he also co-wrote. In the latter, two documentary filmmakers go back in time to the pre-Civil War American South to film the slave trade.

Jacopetti will be buried in Rome next to English actress Belinda Lee, who was his girlfriend when, at age 26, she was injured in a 1961 car accident outside Los Angeles in which the director was injured.