The Italian post-apocalypse genre gets a snazzy modern update in director Alessandro Celli’s ambitious Mondocane (Dogworld). In the near future, a contamination outbreak causes the Italian steel mill town of Taranto to be walled off with barbed wire. A generation later, the area is a poisoned junkyard ruled by two street gangs, the Ants and the Afrikans. The gangs are mostly made up of small children with loaded guns being ordered around by adults. The contaminated are not allowed to leave, but also no one from outside New Taranto is allowed in, including the police. The only ones allowed through are the vans that grab kids off the street to sterilize them.
Pietro (Dennis Protopapa) is a 13-year-old orphan nicknamed Mondocane for the crime he committed during his initiation to get into the Ants. The leader of the gang, Hothead (Alessandro Borghi), accepts his application, but Mondocane wants his fellow orphan Pisciasotto (Guiliano Soprano) to be in as well. Hothead declines as Pisciasotto is an epileptic, so Mondocane walks.
“…barely escape, not knowing the horrors that await them once they are found by the Ants.”
Meanwhile, in New Taranto, policewoman Katia (Barbara Ronchi) investigates the crime scene Mondocane left behind. She seeks the input of Sabrina (Ludovica Nasti), a young orphan whose school is really a sweatshop. Then Pisciasotto convinces Mondocane to try to find the gang’s secret stronghold, the Anthill, in order to try joining again, but the Afrikans ambush him. Then everyone gets creamed by a sterilization squad. The boys barely escape, not knowing the horrors that await them once they are found by the Ants.
Despite revolutionizing the western and horror genres, Italy never stood a chance with its post-atomic pictures that Mondocane is paying homage to. This is because they were paraphrased remakes (a term Tarantino has used to describe rip-offs) of The Road Warrior, a movie of such mastery they couldn’t come close. No matter how outrageous the Italians got, it was overshadowed by how instantly inferior they were to the source material. So throughout the 1980s, we got a parade of wasteland warriors in bad costumes driving cheap-looking battle vehicles around in circles in gravel pits.
When the best film of the Italian post-nuke genre, Rats: Notte Di Terrore, is directed by the notoriously awful Bruno Mattei, you know you have a problem. That is why Celli’s film surprised me so much that I spit hot Lavazza all down the front of my Lucio Fulci t-shirt. The script, which Celli co-wrote with Antonio Leotti, takes the Italian post-apocalypse action tropes and plants them in the middle of an arty drama. The tension is wrapped in the emotional bonds of the neglected instead of flaming arrows into the sides of spiked kill-mobiles.
"…the finest Italian post-apocalypse movie ever made."