To prepare for a recent presentation I gave for Death Party Philadelphia on the extraordinary life (and death) of Fakir Musafar, I cracked open my now thirty-plus year old copy of the seminal RE/SEARCH #12: Modern Primitives and re-read, for what was probably the first time in a few decades, what may be Vale and Juno’s most (body modification culture) nodally significant interview. Despite having been released over a decade after Fakir’s official ‘coming out’ at the 1977 Reno tattoo convention, Modern Primitives put Fakir, and his doctrine of body play, into chain bookstores, and more importantly, the hands of an audience who may have otherwise never found him.
Early on in the interview he mentions a film called Dangerous Journey and it’s influence on him (particularly relevant to his interest in Kavadi-bearing) :
F: Theaters used to regularly show travelogue movies. One that influenced me a lot was called Dangerous Journey. I’ve had people in New York, Hollywood, and at the Smithsonian Institute hunting archives and vaults for a print of the movie, but I think they’ve all been destroyed.
V: What was it about?
F: The daughter of Theodore Roosevelt and man named Armand Denis went on “The Denis/Roosevelt Expedition” just prior to WWII. They photographed the most bizarre practices in the world and put them all together in one movie. It was released in 1946. It was a shocker, believe me! It contained some of the best footage of African women getting scarification; women getting giraffe necks (who start at the age of 6 or 7); kavadi-bearing in India- it’s a fantastic film. 1
Lost films are sometimes not truly lost, so I set out to find a copy of Dangerous Journey (which was a precursor to the “Mondo Film” 2 genre to include in the presentation and was pleased as punch to discover that clips of it, bad quality though they are, are available on Youtube; the clip above even featuring a brief glimpse of Kavadi. Being able to see clips of a film that inspired Fakir, who inspired so many of us, was too good not to share.
The BFI seems to have a copy of the film, but it’s regionally locked; if you live in the UK you may be able to see it here: https://player.bfi.org.uk/free/film/watch-dangerous-journey-1944-online
- [Source: RE/Search #12: Modern Primitives, V. Vale and Andrea Juno. ©1989 Research Publications. https://www.researchpubs.com ↩
- A mondo film (from the Italian word for “world”) is an exploitation documentary film, sometimes resembling a pseudo–documentary and usually depicting sensational topics, scenes, or situations. Common traits of mondo films include portrayals of foreign cultures (which have drawn accusations of ethnocentrism or racism), an emphasis on taboo subjects (such as death and sex), and staged sequences presented as genuine documentary footage. Over time, the films placed increasing emphasis on footage of the dead and dying (both real and fake). The term shockumentary is also used to describe the genre. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mondo_film ↩