The Italian Mondo film was an exploitation documentary genre who’s main purpose was to depict taboo topics such death,sex and portrayals of foreign cultures using a mixture of staged & archive footage sensationally in order to shock audiences.
The origins of the Mondo documentary is generally traced to 1962’s Mondo Cane (A Dog’s World) after it was a commercial success, the mondo term was used in other lurid exploitable subjects by filmmakers.
The genre kept going through the rest of that decade then into the late 70s early 1980s when there was a resurgence of Mondo with proto found footage movie Ruggero Deodatos Cannibal Holocaust and the partly japanese funded John Alan Schwartz’s Faces of Death series.
In 1982 sees the release of Sheldon Renan & Oscar nominee Leonard Schrader’s (brother of writer/director Paul) The Killing of America focuses on the violent decline of the United States from the 60s political assassinations of JFK/MLK/RFK to the sex crime serial killers of the 70s and is rounded out by the murder of John Lennon in New York.
We are lead through the mayhem by Chuck Riley’s gravelly narration over the killings which comes from through the use of photographs alongside cctv,police, amateur footage and news broadcasts some of which is pretty graphic even by today’s standards.
It features interviews from a retired sergeant of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department and it’s County Coroner Thomas Noguchi who give their insights into the madness along with possible causes.
The documentary also shows several interviews with convicted killers such as Robert Kennedy assassin Sirhan Sirhan crying and talking about the events that lead him to commit the murder of the presidential candidate in 1968.
But the most bone chilling interview is with the highly intelligent co-ed killer Eric Kemper who after killing his grandparents at the age of 15 and would talk to his later victims decapitated heads thinking that it’s “not normal” to be doing that,ultimely Kemper is convicted of 8 murders one of which was his mother.
The Killing of America is a hard going provocative film it’s one of those that might necessitate a shower and some hard booze after watching even 34 years since its release.
On a filmmaking level it’s far more technically superior documentary to that of former video nasty Faces of Death. The Killing… its a well edited snapshot of the states at this point in the 20th century and would be the fore runner to the horrific online material that’s only a few clicks away.
The documentary is being released by Severin Films on a Blu Ray/DVD for the first time in the uk with lots of bonus material and the Japanese version known as Violence U.S.A.
Dir: Sheldon Renan, Leonard Schrader
Scr: Chieko Schrader, Leonard Schrader
Narration: Chuck Riley
Prd: Leonard Schrader, Mataichirô Yamamoto
Edit: Lee Percy
Music: W. Michael Lewis,Mark Lindsay
Run time: 90minutes
The Killing of America available on DVD and Blu Ray 24th of October 2016