(A.k.a. WHITE SLAVE;CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST 2; CAPTIVE WOMEN 7 - WHITE SLAVE; FOREST SLAVE; SCHIAVE BIANCHE: IL SESSO LA VIOLENZA)
"The producers wish to thank the Criminal Court of Ciudad Rodaz for allowing them to consult the records of the trial depicted here".
So begins this sordid tale. We first meet demure Catherine (Elvire Audray) in a courtroom, standing trial for a clutch of bloody murders. She's called to the witness stand and asked to give her account of what happened. Cue the flashbacks ...
As Catherine's voiceover explains, she was brought up by her well-to-do parents in Ciudad Rodaz, in Venezuela. She was shipped off to London at any early age to attend boarding school, but had always pined for home. So, having finished her studies, she finally decided to fly back home - arriving there on the eve of her eighteenth birthday.
On her actual birthday, Catherine's father David invites her out for a sail down the Amazon river on his boat. Mother is also on board, while Catherine's poverty-stricken aunty and uncle follow on a lesser vessel. Alas, a short spell into the journey and David's boat is ambushed by members of a local cannibal tribe known as Guaimira Indians. They shoot blow darts containing paralysing curare at the parents, and proceed to decapitate them. Catherine is hit by one dart in the arm, rendering her helpless: she can neither help her parents, nor make her escape. Luckily, one tribe member - the severely-fringed Umukai (Will Gonzales) takes a shine to Catherine and decides to suck the debilitating curare out of her arm. As these non-cannibalistic murderers flee the bloody scene, Umukai takes Catherine with them.
The Guaimiras haven't made it too far through the jungle when they're attacked by a rival tribe - the cannibalistic Tamuri Indians. Fear not, Umukai defends Catherine by choking her would-be assassin on a clump of grass (no, really) and then hacking his head off.
And then, crisis averted, it's off to the Guaimiras' mud-hut village they go. Umukai wastes no time in introducing Catherine to the village chief Rumuani, who insists that she is stripped naked, smeared in oil to rid her of her "white" smell, and suggests that she be sold to the tribe's highest bidder as a slave. Initially she's sold to a bit of a cad.
Following a rape by her new master and a subsequently thwarted escape attempt, Catherine is captured and dragged back to the tribe's village. A painful ritual follows in which her womanhood is attained by way of a huge bamboo dildo being forced inside her.
When Umukai defends Catherine for a second time, he's invited to enter into a duel with her new owner. He wins, and consequently life in the village improves for Catherine because he dotes on her.
But life isn't all about amusing the tribe's kids with your flute-playing skills. No, we still have that present-day court case to contend with. Catherine is on trial accused of murder, remember? Why, could it be that there was more to her parents' slayings than initially met the eye?!
AMAZONIA arrived late in the day when it comes to the Italian cannibal cycle, something that was kick-started in the mid-70s with the likes of MAN FROM DEEP RIVER and JUNGLE HOLOCAUST, and reached its zenith at the turn of the decade with CANNIBAL FEROX and CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST. Released in 1985, AMAZONIA - along with the same year's CUT AND RUN - felt like something of an afterthought.
But, despite its clumsy dubbing and patently lousy acting, disregarding its "TV movie of the week" script and clunky pacing, director Mario Gariazzo's film remains a guilty pleasure.
Audray is an appealing leading lady. She exudes spirit, while possessing a face that's always riveting to watch - her expressions are subtle enough to mean something each time her face changes. She's also in the buff for the majority of her screen time, so there is that too.
Handsomely photographed - something I've only just recognised about this film, thanks to this newly remastered presentation - AMAZONIA is also notable for being a relatively bloodless entry in the cannibal sub-genre. Sure, there are a few decapitations (gorehounds don't exactly starve here), but there's also a conspicuous lack of cannibalism in evidence. Like, none whatsoever. There are, however, a couple of moments where unsimulated animal-on-animal violence features, National Geographic-style.
What you do get is an odd mix of jungle adventure, romance, courtroom drama and revenge mystery. There's nothing else quite like it.
Initially distributed by 88 Films on DVD as part of their budget Grindhouse range, the company now tackle AMAZONIA in HD for its maiden UK blu-ray release. This new release forms number 42 of the company's "The Italian Collection" range.
The new 2K transfer has been struck from the film's original camera negative and is housed on this region-free disc as a decently-sized MPEG4-AVC file. Boasting full 1080p HD resolution, this new 16x9 presentation respects the film's original 1.85:1 ratio.
The opening titles sequence still looks a little soft and murky, but once we reach the courtroom and the start of the film proper, things swiftly improve and it becomes immediately apparent what a huge visual upgrade this is over all previous home video releases. Images are occasionally soft, which is not unusual of a low-budget exploitation flick from 1985, but by-and-large this is sharp, vibrant and incredibly detailed. Natural grain keeps events authentically filmic-looking; blacks are strong throughout. Some of the stock footage (aerial shots; animals preying on each other) varies in quality, of course; but you'd expect that ... wouldn't you?
It's important to note too that, at 90 minutes and 15 seconds in length, this is the full uncut version of the film.
Lossless mono audio is made available to us in choices of English or Italian. My understanding the film was shot in both languages so perhaps neither provides the definitive way to view the film (they both look ropily dubbed, in an entertaining fashion). The English track is the less echoey of the two, providing a clean and consistent playback. The Italian variant is solid too, albeit there were a couple of instances where, bizarrely, you could hear the English track quietly playing underneath the Italian over-dub. Well-written and easily readable subtitles are provided for the Italian track.
The disc opens to a static main menu page. There is no scene selection menu but the film can be traversed through via your remote handset by way of 8 chapters.
Now, on to the bonus features ...
First up, most substantially, is an excellent new 51-minute documentary entitled "The Last Supper". This serves as a great companion piece to the previous "Eaten Alive! The Rise and Fall of the Italian Cannibal Film", and celebrates the final days of exploitation cinema's most ignoble sub-genre (or does Nazisploitation win that one, perhaps?!).
This documentary begins with a brief recap of how the genre became popularised in the mid-70s and early 80s, and then discusses matters such as the various unofficial sequels to CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST (unscrupulous retitlings of lesser films), the successful rebranding of CANNIBAL FEROX as MAKE THEM DIE SLOWLY for a US theatrical run, the way THE GREEN INFERNO attempted to subvert the genre's tropes ... and, of course, AMAZONIA. The latter gets a lot of attention during the mid-section of this documentary. An attractive, well-edited and consistently engaging affair, "The Last Supper" contains contributions from the likes of Mikel Koven, Eduardo Sanchez, John Martin and Ruggero Deodato. Perhaps of most interest to fans is the inclusion of a self-effacing Michael Sopkiw, who turns to offer his light-hearted view on his starring role in one of the other films under discussion here, MASSACRE IN DINOSAUR VALLEY. The documentary is presented in HD.
A new 14-minute interview with cinematographer Federico Del Zoppo is another welcome addition to this disc. The prolific lensman talks us through his prolific career, remarking without arrogance that he's been fortunate to work with a host of famous names: this guy has worked on films by Pier Paolo Pasolini (PIGSTY), Luchino Visconti (LUDWIG) and George P Cosmatos (LEVIATHAN) to name but three. Of course, he's also worked on a healthy amount of more outright genre fare too: Ciro Ippolito's ALIEN 2: ON EARTH, Lucio Fulci's CONQUEST, Aldo Lado's HUMANOID etc. He describes his work on Ippolito's film as "great fun", and shares a funny anecdote about working with Burt Lancaster. Del Zoppo has an affable, laidback demeanour and seems gifted with a strong memory. There's an irritating intermittent noise in the background during this interview (I wasn't sure whether his chair was creaking each time he moved?) but don't let that put you off: it's still an enjoyable watch.
This release also comes with the customary double-sided cover artwork, the reverse of which is the more salacious of the two options (nor does it have a numbered spine - I know the numbers nark some of you).
The first run, available exclusively from 88 Films' site, also comes with a colour 4-page booklet containing liner notes on the elusive and presumed-dead lead Audray, and what is possibly the most arresting slipcase packaging 88 Films have so far produced.
A quality release for a guilty pleasure.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by 88 Films|