Goodbye Uncle Tom (4K UHD Review)

  • Reviewed by: Tim Salmons
  • Review Date: Jun 28, 2024
  • Format: 4K Ultra HD
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Goodbye Uncle Tom (4K UHD Review)


Gualtiero Jacopetti, Franco Prosperi

Release Date(s)

1971 (April 23, 2024)


Euro International Films (Blue Underground)
  • Film/Program Grade: N/A
  • Video Grade: A
  • Audio Grade: A
  • Extras Grade: A+

Goodbye Uncle Tom (4K UHD)

Buy it Here!


Goodbye Uncle Tom boldly asks the question “What if a European film crew went back in time and shot a documentary about the history of slavery, slapped an atypical Italian soundtrack on top of it, and saw it marketed as a piece of exploitation?”

Co-directed by Gualtiero Jacopetti and Franco Prosperi, who created a new genre of films with Mondo Cane a decade prior, Goodbye Uncle Tom is, without a doubt, one of the most controversial films ever made... perhaps even topping the list. It pushes every button, crosses every line, and breaks every taboo there is to break, fully intending to provoke its viewers with some of the most infuriating and disgusting depravity ever put on screen. In other words, you’re guaranteed to be repulsed or offended in one way or another by the time the credits roll.

In its closing titles, Goodbye Uncle Tom declares itself to be a documentary, and that the events that take place in the film actually happened. That’s certainly true since much of it was pulled directly from Antebellum texts and quotes taken directly from historical figures. We pay a visit to various individuals who speak directly to the camera, or rather to the Italian journalists who’ve come there to document them, and see the horrors of slavery without a filter. All of it is staged, of course, but because it’s competently shot with specific camera angles and careful composition, it somehow makes the content all the more vulgar. There are also times when the camera cuts loose for a bit of freestyle, getting up close and personal within the events as they take place. Moments of beauty are often spoiled by the depravation. One need look no further than a scene in which a group of slaves lead their master down the side of a stark white ravine carrying a red flag with a gorgeous blue sky in the distance. Subtle this image is not.

The majority of Goodbye Uncle Tom was shot in Haiti, which was under the tyrannical rule of François “Papa Doc” Duvalier at the time. However, the filmmakers were fully supported by the dictator and given full access to the country, as well as hundreds of local extras, and practically anything they could have asked for. Scenes taking place in modern day were shot throughout Florida, Mississippi, and Louisiana. The resulting footage is an unusual mix of cinéma vérité, docudrama, and narrative, picking and choosing when it wants to deviate from the others. The film was also made as a response to Jacopetti and Prosperi’s previous film Africa Addio, in which they were accused of racism upon release. For this film, their intentions were to show slavery for what it was, but because of the exploitation of the men, women, and children of Haiti in such a ghastly manner, it did nothing to change anyone’s minds about them.

One’s reaction to Goodbye Uncle Tom will also stem from what version they see first: the English export version carrying the title Uncle Tom (aka Farewell Uncle Tom), or the Italian Director’s Cut carrying the title Addio Zio Tom. They’re not entirely different experiences as they’re both quite incendiary, but they do have slightly different approaches. Addio Zio Tom presents the material in more of a comparative manner for emphasis and juxtaposition. There are moments when the film steps out of the past and into 1970s reality, even referencing Richard Nixon at one point, to show what’s come in the wake of slavery and what many people of color may be feeling in today’s society. Hint: it’s not positive. At the same time, it also shows that white people have so much more to learn. Seeing tourists march their way out of a modern-day Southern mansion loaded down with rebel flag-adorned souvenirs is disgusting enough, but seeing re-enactments of Civil War battles and driving away proudly waving those aforementioned flags afterwards is just as despicable. Of course, a lot of this behavior has gone away since 1971, but one would have to be stone-dead blind and stupid to think that there’s any kind of racial harmony in the United States today, whether it be on the surface or underneath.

Meanwhile, the Uncle Tom version of the film discards the majority of the modern day material for a more straightforward experience, spending all of its time in the past, until the very end. The content of each film is the same in a lot of ways, but very much different in presentation. Indeed, you could dedicate an entire article to the differences between the two versions, which are far too numerous to list here. For Uncle Tom, footage has been re-assembled, trimmed, and extended, with various dialogue changes and additions, as well as entirely new scenes. The difference in running times is about 13 minutes, with the Director’s Cut being the longest. Which version feels its length the most is entirely subjective, only because this isn’t a film that you necessarily want to see more of... making it through either version is a feat unto itself. But having seen them back-to-back, my own personal opinion is that the Uncle Tom version is less clunky. On the other hand, Addio Zio Tom has much more on its mind and its message is a bit heavier. One’s mileage will definitely vary on this.

In truth, there’s no good way to summarize Goodbye Uncle Tom without going into extreme detail about it. It’s a vile film from top to bottom, showing the ugliness of what white people did to black people in a stark and honest manner. It’s compelling, but do the ends justify the means? Perhaps not since the film was a commercial bomb and was critically derided by those who saw it, standing today as not much more than a cult film. And those going into it expecting something entertaining will be horrified beyond belief. It’s that unpleasant. In short, Goodbye Uncle Tom is one of those films that stays with you forever, and you may not be pleased with that.

Goodbye Uncle Tom was shot on 35mm film by cinematographers Claudio Cirillo, Antonio Climati, and Benito Frattari using Arriflex cameras; finished photochemically on 2-perf Techniscope film; and presented in the aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Blue Underground presents both the English export version and the Italian Director’s Cut of the film on separate triple-layered Ultra HD BD-100 discs, both sourced from a new 4K 16-Bit scan of the original camera negative, and graded for High Dynamic Range in HDR10 and Dolby Vision. Each version features its own native language for its opening and closing titles, all of which have been digitally re-created.

It’s difficult to describe a film this grotesque as beautiful, but it is. There’s a solid photochemical grain structure throughout with only minor variances along the way, and bitrates that climb frequently between 80 and 100Mbps, obviously dipping during scenes with less visual data to work with. The only real visual flaws are inherent to the duped 16mm footage used a couple of times in the Director’s Cut. Mild speckling and occasional damage along the edge of the negative is visible, but it’s a drop in the bucket in comparison to the rest of the presentation. The gorgeous colors, enriched fully by the HDR passes, allow for bold hues in the various environments and on clothing, and especially for flesh tones of all shades. Deep blacks and perfect contrast are maintained, and the overall picture is stable. Indeed, both presentations are superlative.

Audio for the English export version is presented in English mono DTS-HD Master Audio with optional subtitles in English SDH and Spanish, while the audio for the Italian Director’s Cut is presented in Italian mono DTS-HD Master Audio with optional subtitles in English and English SDH. Because each version was created with the participation of the filmmakers, the dubbing is consistently good on both versions, so it’s really a matter of taste as to which you might prefer. Both tracks are clean with good support for dialogue and Riz Ortolani’s lush score. A small thump in the Italian audio can be heard at the 47:06 mark, but both tracks are otherwise free of any major deficiencies.

The 4K UHD release of Goodbye Uncle Tom is presented in a 4-Disc Limited Edition set, featuring two 2160p UHDs, a 1080p Blu-ray of extras, and a CD soundtrack. The discs are housed in a clear Amaray case with double-sided artwork, featuring Blue Underground’s traditional home video artwork for the film on the front, and the Italian poster artwork on the rear, showcasing the title Addio Zio Tom. Also included is a 20-page insert booklet containing the excellent essay A Case for Goodbye Uncle Tom by Dan Madigan, a soundtrack track listing, and chapter selections for both versions of the film. Everything is housed in an embossed slipcover featuring the same Blue Underground artwork. The following extras (and tracks) are included on each disc:


  • English Trailer (4K w/HDR – 3:29)


  • Italian Trailer (4K w/HDR – 5:00)


  • The Importance of Shocking: Gualtiero Jacopetti (HD and Upscaled SD – 93:59)
  • The Godfathers of Mondo (Upscaled SD – 99:16)
  • Goodbye Cruel Mondo (Upscaled SD – 20:01)
  • Behind-the-Scenes 8mm Footage with Commentary by Giampaolo Lomi (HD – 49:51)
  • Mondo Mercenaries: Author and Academic Mark Goodall on Shocking Subjugations (HD – 27:15)
  • Abjection Under Authoritarianism: Professor Matthew J. Smith on the Haitian Creation of Goodbye Uncle Tom (HD – 19:47)
  • Posters (HD – 14 in all)
  • Advertising Materials (HD – 19 in all)
  • Japanese Souvenir Program (HD – 24 in all)
  • Lobby Cards (HD – 55 in all)
  • Stills (HD – 34 in all)
  • Video & Soundtrack (HD – 19 in all)
  • Giampaolo Lomi’s Behind-the-Scenes Photos (HD – 53 in all)


  1. Oh My Love (2:50)
  2. Maple (2:22)
  3. Mister Ling (1:47)
  4. Rito di Mezzanotte (2:34)
  5. Mamie (1:09)
  6. Sosta Nel Lago (3:32)
  7. Addio Zio Tom (2:34)
  8. Il Mercato Degli Schiavi (3:25)
  9. La Fiera Delle Meravigilie (2:47)
  10. Oh My Love (Solo Orchestra) (2:48)
  11. Fort Bastille (3:08)
  12. Cadets’ Waltz (2:58)
  13. Miami (2:38)
  14. Oh My Love (Solo Orchestra #2) (1:44)
  15. Miami (#2) (1:23)
  16. On My Love (Solo Orchestra #3) (1:20)
  17. Miami (#3) (1:24)
  18. Addio Zio Tom (#2) (1:07)
  19. La Fiera Delle Meravigilie (#2) (2:27)
  20. Il Mercato Degli Schiavi (#2) (2:07)
  21. ...La Fiera Delle Meravigilie (#3) (4:08)
  22. Miami (#4) (1:36)
  23. Il Mercato Degli Schiavi (#3) (1:10)

The main extras consist of two feature-length documentaries. Andrea Bettinetti’s 2009 documentary The Importance of Shocking: Gualtiero Jacopetti (aka L’importanza di essere scomodo: Gualtiero Jacopetti) features interviews with Jacopetti himself, director Franco Prosperi, friend of the director Giovanni Pignatelli, the director’s daughter Christine, composer Riz Ortolani, production manager Giampaolo Lomi, producer Marina Cicogna, ex-girlfriend Kathryn Toll, actress Ursula Andress, director Folco Quilici, director and film critic Jean Douchet, film critic and screenwriter Callisto Cosulich, journalist and screenwriter Claudio Quarantotto, and journalist Olghina di Robilant. David Gregory’s 2003 documentary The Godfathers of Mondo features interviews with Jacopetti and Prosperi, film historians David Flint and Dr. Jeffrey Sconce, cinematographer Benito Frattari, composer Riz Ortolani, author David Kerekes, and production manager Giampaolo Lomi. Both documentaries feature footage from the director’s filmography, as well as behind-the-scenes and news footage. They highlight the careers of each man (though The Importance of Shocking is focused more on Jacopetti), talk about the history of mondo films, and discuss the short partnership between Jacopetti and Prosperi.

Goodbye Cruel Mondo features more interviews with Jacopetti, Prosperi, and Ortolani, utilizing footage from The Godfathers of Mondo. The Behind-the-Scenes 8mm Footage is silent, but offers audio commentary with the film’s production manager Giampaolo Lomi. Mondo Mercenaries presents an interview with Mark Goodall, author of Sweet & Savage: The World Through the Mondo Film Lens, who gives a candid overview of the various mondo films from around the world, while also reiterating much of the same information from the documentaries. Abjection Under Authoritarianism features an interview with Matthew J. Smith, professor and director for the “Centre for the Study of the Legacies of British Slavery” at University College London. He examines and discusses the film, finding it “revolting” and “exploitative,” but also offers viewpoints on the Haitian people and how they were used and abused in order to make this film. It’s a fascinating alternative view of the film and the circumstances under which it was made. Next is a total of 218 stills featuring images of posters, programs, newspapers clippings, lobby cards, color and black-and-white behind-the-scenes photos, and home video and soundtrack covers. The trailers included here have been digitally re-created using footage from the new scan. Last is a CD soundtrack containing 23 tracks of Riz Ortolani’s score.

I’ll be fully honest and say that this is one of the toughest films I’ve ever had to sit through. It’s impossible to recommend, nor would I defend it. It’s truly for the adventurous filmgoer who can stomach just about anything and view its content objectively. That said, Blue Underground’s 4K treatment of Goodbye Uncle Tom is amazing. Both versions of the film are presented in the best possible quality with a truly encompsassing extras package. No matter which side of the fence you fall on after viewing the film, it is, in this viewer’s opinion, one of the most offensive and most transgressive films ever made.

- Tim Salmons

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