Emanuelle & The Last Cannibals (1977)

"Emanulle E Gli Ultimi Cannibali"

Alternate title(s): Emanuelle's Amazon Adventure; Trap Them & Kill Them

Directed by Joe D'Amato (Aristide Massaccesi)

Produced by Gianfranco Couyoumdjian

Written by Aristide Massaccesi & Romano Scandarianto

Music by Nico Fidenco

Starring Laura Gemser (Emanuelle), Gabriele Tinti (Mark Lester), Susan Scott [Nieves Navarro] (Maggie), Donald O'Brien (Donald Mackenzie), Percy Hogan (Salvadore), Monica Zanchi (Isabelle), Anna-Marie Clementi (Sister Angela), Al Yamanouchi (Guide)

Emanuelle & The Last Cannibals (1977)

On undercover assignment in a psychiatric hospital, posing as a patient to investigate the establishment's living conditions, journalist Emanuelle uncovers a most uncharacteristic patient under strict confinement. When a nurse staggers into the main body of the ward, stripped of a breast, Emanuelle's inquisitive urges are piqued and she discovers a heavily restrained 'feral' Caucasian girl, purportedly raised by cannibals in the wilds of the Amazon. Intrigued by the case, she is sent on assignment into the jungle, via anthropologist Mark Lester, who has made something of a name for himself in the studies of anthropophagi. Falling for the professor, the journey promises to be one that will not only satisfy her curiosity, but also her unfettered libido. Once within the South American wilderness, the humidity of the environment invokes sexual fire amidst her travelling party, as well as within her. Under the guidance of experienced explorers Donald and Maggie Mackenzie, and accompanied by missionary's daughter Isabelle, with token religious support in the form of Catholic nun Sister Angela, Emanuelle begins an adventure that will uncover the truth about modern cannibalism and ultimately prove a disastrously fatal exercise for most involved.

On the back of the widespread international success of Just Jaeckin's exquisite rendition of Emmanuelle Arsan's best-selling novel, "Emmanuelle" (1974), world audiences warmed to the fact that pornography suddenly had gained a 'respectable' face. Even though Gerard Damiano's "Deep Throat" (1972) had made the crossover from grindhouse to mainstream, hardcore was still much less accessible for the average cinemagoer than its softcore cousin. Jaeckin's film changed all that, and what had been exclusively the territory of the raincoat brigade was now palatable for couples and film critics alike. With the Western genre flagging, and giallos failing to make much of a dent outside of the drive-in circuit, the Italian film industry needed a new money-spinner. Jaeckin's film arrived at exactly the right time, and it wasn't long before director Aldaberto Albertini cast Indonesian model Laura Gemser in the first film of what would go on to become a financially lucrative series. Having received a throwaway part in Francis Giacobetti's sequel to Jaeckin's original, "Emmanuelle L'Anti-vierge" (1975), Gemser made her Italian debut in "Emanuelle Nera" (Black Emanuelle) the same year. The film was a tremendous international success and Gemser became a softcore star in her own right (although 'Emmanuelle' was changed to 'Emanuelle' to circumvent copyright infringement). Right, with the history lesson out the way, let's have a look at the seventh film in the series, Joe D'Amato's "Emanuelle & The Last Cannibals" (1977).

Purporting to be based upon "a true story" (as were many of the cannibal cycle in a bogus attempt to add verisimilitude to their patently fictional roots), D'Amato's film is an unusual amalgam of both the soft-porn cycle that was in full swing upon its release, and the burgeoning cannibal sub-genre that was still in its infancy. "Last Cannibals" had only been preceded by Lenzi's "Man from Deep River" (1972) and Deodato's "Last Cannibal World" (1974) when it made its debut. The production falls into two clear-cut halves, commencing as a soft-porn opus with obligatory exotic vistas, before shifting gears into its descent into its "third world cannibal" promise in the last half-hour. Does it actually work? Surprisingly, yes it does. From the outset, the viewer is made immediately aware that this an Emanuelle film like no other, splashing the aforementioned mutilated breast and cannibalism on-screen scant minutes into its running time, then following up with some phony 'documentary' footage of an African tribal ritual (which'll bring tears to most male viewers eyes). Interspersed amidst the various gory highlights are more than enough couplings and decorative nudity to keep even the most ardent of grindhouse fan smiling from ear to ear.

D'Amato doubles as cinematographer, imbuing the production with some luscious photography along the way, even hinting at what was to come in the twilight years of his career with some rather explicit female masturbation sequences (of which, Navarro's is obviously not simulated & Gemser's scene with the first-act's cannibal-girl is kind of bizarre under the circumstances). Cry-baby reviewers of the resurgent cannibal sub-genre (in light of the numerous DVD releases the cycle has seen of recent) will be more than pleased to learn that the film breaks tradition by featuring absolutely NO animal mutilation footage, as the graphic carnage is reserved for the (predominantly female) cast members. Herein makeup artist Fabrizio Sforza excels, delivering decapitations, castrations, disembowelments, and a particularly shocking scene where one hapless victim is split from clitoris to sternum! And let's not forget the painfully extended sequence where a nipple is slowly hacked away from a breast. Does anyone need reminding that this one predates Lenzi's return to the sub-genre by a good three years?

If that's not enough, the whole thing's capped off with a catchy pseudo-disco score by Nico Fidenco, and Gemser spends more than enough screen-time traipsing around in the buff to keep many an exploitation fan's flag flying at half-mast…if you get my drift. If you require proof that good old Joe was once a competent filmmaker, before he took on the mantle of the Jess Franco of Roma, look no further than this delightful (and disgusting) slice of Euro-drive-in fare. It's sexy, gory, filled with pre-silicone era screen stars (ie: REAL women) and as an added bonus, a whimsical trip down memory lane (or should that be 'mammary' lane?).

Italian Shock comes up trumps again with a pretty decent print of a film that's rapidly approaching thirty years of age. Letterboxed per the mentioned specifications (ie: original theatrical aspect), the print is relatively free of damage and in rather good shape. There is a noticeable amount of film grain present, but I suspect that this may have been due in part to the production being shot on 16mm then blown up to 35mm for theatrical engagements. Plus, the effect gives that pseudo-documentary feel to the image, which may have been Joe's original intention. Colours etc are good, and best of all the print is totally uncut! Audio is presented in the film's English language variant, and is a clear, clean preservation of the original monaural mix. Nice. Extras wise, Italian Shock pack the disc to gills again with the Complete Music Soundtrack, which is just over half an hour of swank disco-groove. There's also the original Theatrical trailer (that gives away just about everything! I miss those days…), an animated Stills Gallery of publicity photos & lobby cards, as well as animated bios/filmographies for Joe D'Amato & Laura Gemser. As an added treat, the Gemser file also includes a nifty slideshow of the lovely Indonesian lass. Overall? Another boffo disc from the company that is fast becoming one of my favourite Netherlands distributors!

Review by Mike Thomason

Released by Italian Shock DVD Entertainment
DVD format: DVD-5 (PAL Region 2)
Running time - 90m (packaging lists 85m)
Ratio - Widescreen 1.85
Audio - English Dolby digital (optional Dutch subtitles)
Extras :
Complete musical soundtrack; Theatrical trailer; Stills gallery; Star & Director biographies/filmographies; 4pp-insert booklet (x 2)

© 2001, Icon In Black Media