Gow The Headhunter (Cannibal Island)(1931/1956)

I picked up the new Blu-ray double bill of The Most Dangerous Game (1932) and Gow The Headhunter (with commentary added in 1931), from Flicker Alley and the Blackhawk Films Collection (2012). This film is of interest to history buffs, fans of Merian C. Cooper and Ernest Schoedsack (who were cameramen on Gow), and exploitation genre gurus. If you like Cooper and Schoedsack’s Chang (1927), you’ll like Gow.

The documentary footage was financed by millionaire Edward A. Salisbury, who set sail in the 1920’s with crew on board The Gypsy, an 80-ton yacht equipped with a film-processing lab. The silent footage documents indigenous people from polynesia and melanesia, including Samoa, Fiji, New Hebrides, the Solomon Islands, and Papua New Guinea. Later, in 1931 the film was edited with added narration by crew member William Peck. By today’s sensibilities, Peck’s comments and narrative are decidedly racist. For instance, when commenting on consumption of human flesh by one of the indigenous tribes, he notes that the cannibal’s perception is a white man’s flesh is salty and odiferous. Peck goes on to further comment that each tribe has a unique musk.

Gow is not for all tastes, but it is an interesting time capsule offering some unique footage: tribal dances and dress; a tidal wave; hammock-making; the Fiji Kava ritual (which I was inducted into in 1988); slaughter of the pigs (PETA stay clear); and plenty of shirtless native girls. The film was re-issued as an exploitation film in 1956.

I briefly skimmed through The Most Dangerous Game. The print looks terrific on Blu-ray. I noticed some scratches, but could not tell if it was an improved print over the Criterion or laserdisc issues.


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