Over at the Proceedings of the Athanasius Kircher Society, a clip was posted from the 1960s "shock-umentary" Mondo Cane (meaning "World of Dogs"). The film was a collection of all kinds of examples of bizarre human behavior from around the world. In this scene the Melanesian custom of wife fattening is shown. The narration (in spanish in the clip) says:
We are at Tabar, the largest island of the Bismarck Archipelago, where, by tradition, the most beautiful women of the tribe are locked up in strong cages similar to those we've seen in Strasbourg to fatten geese and they get filled with tapioca until they reach at least 120 kilos. Then, they will be offered as wives to the village's dictator, Utame Alunda, famous all over the islands for his physical power and his odd personality. The fattening process goes from 3 to 6 months, meanwhile, Utame Alunda didn't remain idle. These are some of his most recent children, that he loves to show to the foreigners in this dance, as a proof of his virility. This is his last spouse: eight children and one hundred thirty kilos. This is his favorite wife. Ten children and 150 kilos. And this is the great chief Alunda: 27 children and 34 kilos.
There's been some discussion over at the Athanasius Kircher Society about whether this is real. As far as I can tell, it is. The maker of Mondo Cane was accused of staging footage, and taking customs wildly out of context, but most of the material was true. After all, there's no shortage of bizarre human behaviors in the world. And, as far as I know, Melanesian culture did, in the past, include the custom of wife fattening. The BBC has an article about wife-fattening in current day Mauritania. Different part of the world, but same idea. Warning: the clip shows some bare-breasted island women, in case that's a problem for anyone at work or elsewhere. Nothing you wouldn't see on the National Geographic channel, however.