Release Date(s)1930 (January 5, 2021)
Studio(s)Congo Pictures (Kino Classics/Something Weird Video)
- Film/Program Grade: F
- Video Grade: C+
- Audio Grade: C-
- Extras Grade: A-
Produced in a pre-code era, Ingagi is a relic of its era. Strung together using scenes from other films and newly-produced footage to create a loose narrative, it was released during the transitional period from silent to sound films. Essentially narrated with repetitive music without relying on natural audio or dialogue, it acts as a documentary but is ultimately a fabrication. It showcases “African natives” and the hunting and killing of various animals, spewing full-on racist jokes, notions, and points-of-view. Financially successful at the time of its release, it was also sued into obscurity not long after its release. A curiosity of sorts, as well as a historical artifact (there’s little reason to view it otherwise), the squeamish and easily offended need not apply.
The film portrays an expedition of a group of hunters and cameramen, lead by “Sir Hubert Winstead,” who make their way through the open plains and jungles of “Africa” in search of exotic animals and sights unseen by white eyes. During their trek, the narrator (“Winstead”) speaks at length about their “adventures.” We see a variety of animals, including lions, hyenas, ostriches, rhinos, and elephants, but these men attempt to film, capture, and even shoot and kill these poor creatures. Their destination is a phony village that worships a large gorilla called Ingagi, which ritualistically absconds with the village’s barren women to mate with them and make them fertile. The narrator even insinuates that any human-like offspring are from this activity.
If it wasn’t blatantly obvious before, Ingagi’s racist streak is most definitely clear by now.
Ingagi comes not just to Blu-ray, but to home video for the very first time from Kino Classics and Something Weird Video as Volume 8 of the Forbidden Fruit: The Golden Age of the Exploitation Picture line of titles. The presentation is taken primarily from a 4K restoration of materials held by the Library of Congress. Though this is a film that has rarely if ever been seen outside of a theater, its transfer is optimal, but with a caveat. Due to the age of the materials used, the presentation is loaded with scratches, speckling, staining, instability, camera flashes, cracked frames, and spliced edges. According to the accompanying featurette about the film’s restoration, there was so much damage baked in due to the stock footage that a somewhat “hands off” approach was utilized outside of a color grade. That said, it’s a very natural and precise presentation with healthy levels of grain. Most of the film was given a reddish tint to signify daytime, while nighttime scenes are simply black and white. Blacks are often crushed, particularly in the stock footage. Despite its deficiencies, the overall aesthetic is appropriate.
The audio is presented in English 2.0 mono LPCM with optional subtitles in English SDH. It too suffers from age-related wear and tear, including obvious hiss, distortion, and crackle. Various sound elements were also apparently used to piece it together as the audio can sometimes be uneven in volume. Overall clarity is excellent, but the material itself is imperfect.
The following extras are also included, all in HD:
- Audio Commentary with Kelly Robinson
- Audio Commentary with Bret Wood
- About the Restoration (4:26)
- Marihuana Trailer (2:54)
- Mom and Dad Trailer (1:08)
- Narcotic Trailer (2:32)
- Test Tube Babies Trailer (3:20)
Writer and film historian Kelly Robinson speaks at length about the portrayal of apes in film, particularly from this time period, and how the filmmakers used them in Ingagi. Author Bret Wood, knowledgeable of exploitation films, speaks at length about the producers of the film, how adept people were at spotting the film for what it was at the time, and the consequences of its release. The About the Restoration featurette shows side-by-side comparisons of two different prints of the film which were analyzed before final selection. Color grading comparisons are also provided. Bret Wood returns to inform us of this process, noting that some of the film’s narration could not be found, but since the original script survives, the subtitles recreate those missing pieces. All four trailers are from fresh HD scans.
Essentially a perverted version of Traveltalks (that is if James Fitzpatrick had been a blatant liar and racist), Ingagi is as tasteless as it is fascinating. It’s no wonder that the people who made it didn’t get away with it, and that the film eventually faded into almost nonexistence. That might have been fine, but having it available to be seen, particularly in such remarkable quality, reminds us of and educates us on the boundaries that filmmakers can and will cross, regardless of taste, good sense, or moral fiber. This is not one that I can recommend, but if your curiosity has gotten the best of you, this Blu-ray release, equipped with two excellent audio commentaries for further context, is certainly worth your time.
- Tim Salmons