Monday, 25 January 2010

Massacre in Dinosaur Valley (1985)

A Vietnam vet deals with a bloodsucking parasite
(he also burns some leeches)

This film was directed by Michele Massimo Tarantini, here credited under his Anglocised pseudonym Michael E. Lemick, and although it's also known as Cannibal Ferox 2, it has little to do with the grisly cannibal cycle of the 70s and 80s. Sure, it has cannibals in it, but it's more of a fun jungle adventure flick and more interested in entertaining you rather than rubbing your nose in human misery. More Indiana Jones, less Cannibal Holocaust. That's not to say it isn't full of gore, sex, misogyny and outright stupidity, but at least you won't be put in the awkward position of explaining to your friends why you are watching animals being mutilated in gratuitous close-up.

The film begins with a paleontology professor and his hot daughter rolling into a small Brazillian town in search of something called the "Valley of the Dinosaurs". As they take in a cockfight in the hotel bar, a French pilot agrees to make a brief stopover there, despite the fact that it's forbidden, cursed and swarming with cannibals. Overhearing their conversation is Kevin Hall, a freelance paleontologist played by the great Michael Sopkiw (2019: After the Fall of New York, Blastfighter). He manages to snag a seat on the flight by chatting up the professor (who is so impressed at his paleontological knowledge that he overlooks the fact that he snuck into their hotel room and peeked at his daughter's goods while she was in the shower) and buying the pilot a case of booze.

Unfortunately the pilot must have opened a few bottles early, because as they are flying over Dinosaur Valley he starts ranting about a curse and the plane crashes for no discernable reason. As a crappy model plane is dragged into some shrubs by visible wires, the passengers, which also include a photographer and his two hot models, plus a Vietnam vet and his shrewish wife, thrash about like they are on the bridge of the Enterprise. The pilot, the professor and a fashion model eat it the crash, but luckily the model had already showed her tatas a couple of times and had an explicit sex scene so at least she fulfilled her obligations to the viewing public before shuffling off her mortal coil.

The Vietnam vet immediately takes charge of the group, convinced that his three tours in 'Nam have adequately prepared him for a face-off with some lousy cannibals. He manages to deal with some giant leeches (which apparently also double as a nutritious snack), but wen the photographer gets his leg eaten to the bone by pirahnas he goes Travis Bickle and runs him through with his machete so he won't give away their position. Kevin isn't happy out this (the vet's wife's outfit presents more of an eye-searing target than the photographer ever could) and gets into a fistfight. Despite the fact that Kevin carries around a shotgun and a bandolier full of shells at all times, he gets his ass beat and tossed over a waterfall.

Kevin survives, of course, but while he faces down the laziest crocodile ever, the rest of the group are separated and attacked by cannibals. The Vietnam vet leaves his wife drowning in a pool of quicksand (when Kevin had him at gunpoint earlier she was excitedly chanting "Kill him!" so you can't really blame him) but the cannibals pelt him with arrows and blowdarts. Most of them are clearly just glued to his jacket, but they still do the trick. As a poshumous insult the cannibal chief cuts out his heart and eats it, although from the looks of his physique he should probably be cutting down on red meat. Meanwhile the two girls are captured and taken back to the cannibal village, where they are stripped naked and made to wear jungle thongs.

Thus attired, they are taken to a sacrificial altar to meet a witch doctor, who is wearing a triceratops skull and matching dollar-store Halloween glove. Kevin is there too, hiding behind some boulders, and although the witch doctor is busy draining blood from one of the girls, Kevin still takes the time to craft a hand grenade from his shotgun shells as a distraction. Not really necessary since his shotgun makes short work of the cannibals all by itself (especially since it's capable of firing twenty shots without reloading) and soon the girls are bouncing and jiggling their way to the getaway canoe.

After they escape a trap down-river and deal with the cannibals once and for all, you may be looking at your watch in confusion as there is still a half-hour to go. Well, hold onto your hats, we are only getting started. While making sexytimes with the professor's daughter, Kevin finds a whole mess of fossilised dinosaur footprints. They aren't fossils, they are clearly just footprints pressed into the sand, but since he keeps all his precious dinosaur bones rattling around in a big wooden crate, I have to take his paleontology credentials with a grain of salt. I hope you don't have your heart set on a dinosaur attack, because instead they run into a big fat slaver who takes them all prisoner.

His name is China (pronounciation switches between Chy-na and Chee-na from scene to scene) and he has put a bunch of locals in a chain gang to work in his mine, so he can't let our heroes go or they'll call the cops. He ties Kevin up in a pig pen and puts the girls at the mercy of a sadistic lesbian henchman for a bit of women-in-prison action. Once the lesbian slaver has had her fun with the fashion model she tells her to make a run for it so that China can gun her down for his own amusement. He is, as Kevin puts it, a "fat, smelly, evil bastard". He also selects the professor's daughter as his personal concubine, so while Kevin is being gnawed on by pigs during the night, she's busy fighting off a sweaty hog of her own.

Kevin manages to escape during the night, and when China's men head off into the jungle to search for him the next morning, he returns to camp for a spear-versus-six-shooter showdown. Kevin turns the tide by tossing a rattlesnake at China, and although he could have easily taken a few steps away from the snake and shot Kevin, he foolishly decides to use his last bullet to blow it's head off, leaving himself open for a spear in the gut. Kevin frees the slaves (who get gunned down by China's men moments later) but leaves the girl, who has just been raped, suspended in a bamboo cage to get shot at until she apologises for yelling at him and he pushes plunger to blow up them up. Haha, what a joker! Then they steal a helicopter and fly into the sunset, Kevin making a terrible joke about their violently swaying Brazillian helicopter having "in-built rhythm".

I don't know, I really enjoyed this film. Production values are very poor and the dubbing is even worse than usual, but it's very high on entertainment value and it piles on the sleaze. It's pretty funny because although we are supposed to be disgusted by the way certain characters shamelessly leer over the girls, the camera ogles their naughty bits far more lavaciously than anyone else in the film. Those expecting your typical Italian cannibal gut-muncher might be disappointed as there is comparatively little gore, PETA-enraging animal violence or beards. Indeed, the cannibal stuff is dispensed with rather quickly to make more room for topless jungle adventuring. As a result it's only as morally bankrupt as most other Italian exploitation films, meaning a marginally sane person might derive some enjoyment from it. Recommended.

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