See! A man used as a human yo-yo. See! Said man having his penis fondled by cannibals. See! A hostess from Sale of the Century being raped and eaten. See! The insinuation that primitive tribe = savage. See! The film that probably led to the most unpleasant film of all time, Cannibal Ferox.
Ruggero Deodato is, perhaps, best known for his epic Cannibal Holocaust. While it had its reprehensible sequences, Holocaust was an atypically intelligent exploitation film. The ‘lost footage’ conceit influenced films such as The Last Broadcast, The Blair Witch Project and, more recently, the Paranormal Activity franchise. Superficially, Holocaust was a thoroughly unpleasant tale of a bunch of amoral journalists who venture into the Amazon basin and murder and exploit their way through a tribe of Stone Age-type cannibals. Of course, things end badly, with most of the group being brutalized and/or eaten. The interesting part of the film was, however, the concept of a film-within-a-film. The group’s footage was presented as the result of an expedition to find out what happened to them. The reels of film were discovered in a cannibal camp, and the fate of the protagonists was revealed through the raw film. While lacking the internet-based marketing techniques of The Blair Witch Project, Holocaust gave a reasonably authentic-looking cinema-verite style feel to the atrocities.
Imagine a film, however, which had a similar plot but which dispensed of such stylistic niceties and presented its tale of torture and anthropopaghy in a far more straight-forwards manner. The film you are thinking of is Last Cannibal World, or Jungle Holocaust (a title that is definitely not a cash-in on Cannibal Holocaust’s subsequent success/notoriety). The plot? Blah blah, oil man flies over rainforest. Blah blah, Ill-conceived landing in the middle of cannibal country. Blah blah, not a good time to go on the magic mushrooms. Blah blah, stupid woman who wanders off alone eaten by savages. Blah blah, comedy black guy impaled on surely-too-complex-for-this-lot booby trap. So far, so mediocre. things really get going when oil man Robert (Massimo Foschi) is captured by the Iron Maiden roadie style coifurred natives. Saying that, some go for the black centre-parting Marylin Manson job.
The natives quickly strip Robert down to his black nylon briefs and play with his cock for a bit. Enter stage left the lovely Me Me Lai. With superhuman self-control, Robert avoids an embarrassing erection at the sight of Ms Lai’s semi-naked appearance, and the natives proceed to indulge in a little Stone-Age style bungee jumping torture. For little good reason, a crocodile is skinned alive, rival savages are subjected to death-by-ants and hornbills flap around. Reading all that, you would be excused for thinking that Jungle Holocaust was nothing more than a tired re-tread of the Grandaddy of all cannibal films, Umberto Lenzi’s Il paese del sesso selvaggio (Deep River Savages). The plot is, admittedly, very similar, as are the gruelling real-life animal killing scenes. However, Jungle Holocaust betrays a certain cinematic style, especially in the subterranean cavern scenes. the massed, hooting natives invoke an almost baroque imagery, not dissimilar to a third world version of Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will, with added penises.
Yes, the penises. Not content to expose Foschi’s manhood to the world, Deodato generously supplies us with the sight of a whole tribe of natives going commando. The ladies too show all, with National Geographic-style pendulous breast on display. Before continuing with the nastiness, we must return to the lovely Me Me Lai. Despite having a name that could be the inspiration for a whole host of bad jokes, the Burmese Laura Gemser started off starring with future Grandpa in my Pocket star James Bolam in Crucible of Terror. She rapidly climbed the ladder, being eaten a few times in trash like this, before smiling in front of tumble driers and canteens of cutlery in Sale of the Century. bizarrely, her last film was directed by Lars von Trier. While she is obviously well scrubbed and at least six hundred times more telegenic than the rest of the primitives, she gives it her all here, before being brutally raped in what is definitely an overreaction on Robert’s part before being unconvincingly disemboweled and eaten (not by Robert this time).
Yeah, you’d better look pensive bitch. Guess what’s gonna happen now!
Before you can say “I am not an animal!, Robert has milked a cobra and used its venom to kill a native with a poisoned spear and ill-advisedly eating thee victim’s liver. I’m not a toxicology expert, but if I’d just killed a man with deadly cobra venom, I wouldn’t fancy eating bits of him. I know theoretically its safe, but come on… Despite itself, Jungle Holocaust is an enjoyable watch. it may not be the groundbreaker that was Cannibal Holocaust, but its solidly made, has a few arresting scenes, including a gigantic Anaconda swallowing a monitor lizard and the constant toplessness of Me Me Lai. Did I mention Me Me Lai? I didn’t? Well….