Thursday, 11 February 2010

Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals (1977)

Emanuelle doing what she does best.

It's time to dive back into the sordid world of Italian cannibal films, this time a Joe D'Amato-helmed helping of sleaze with the gorgeous Laura Gemser playing the world's pre-eminent Emmanuelle knock-off; note the single 'm' in the name, a dead giveaway. I think I've talked about the Emmanuelle films already, but briefly they were a series of French erotic films that spawned an army of knock-offs, the most popular being D'Amato's Black Emanuelle series starring Laura Gemser. Since then pretty much every film starring Laura Gemser has been retitled and touted as a Black Emanuelle film, but smut obsessives should note that this film is a completely official entry in the series, making it a legitimate part of Emanuelle continuity.

By this stage in the series Emanuelle had fucked her way through Africa (Black Emanuelle), New York (Black Emanuelle 2), Bangkok (Emanuelle in Bangkok) and everywhere else (Emanuelle Around the World) so unless they were planning to go into space (the Emmanuelle space race was eventually won with the 1994 made-for-cable series Emmanuelle in Space) they were running out of locations to shoot their softcore porn. Therefore D'Amato had the bright idea of combining Emanuelle's usual brand of titillation with the jungle cannibal genre. I don't know why he thought it was a good idea, but D'Amato experimented a lot with combinations of gore and porn. Guy was kind of messed up.

Like most cannibal films, Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals begins in New York. Emanuelle is, as usual, an undercover reporter, this time getting the big scoop on a sadistic lesbian nurse working at a crooked mental institution. She poses as a patient and wanders around snapping photos with a camera concealed inside a baby doll. Just as you think it's going to turn into a women-in-prison film, the evil nurse rushes out of a patient's room with a bite-sized chunk missing from her boobs. Apparently she'd been molesting patients, and as Emanuelle remarks to editor later, "It seems she was asking for it. Her homosexual tendencies were well known." Pretty judgemental for someone whose main investigative technique involves sneaking into the titty-chomping patient's room at night and masturbating her into compliance. Emanuelle uses her hidden camera to snap a few photos of the woman's junk while she's there, because she's classy like that.

When she's back at the office she discovers that the photos also show a tribal tattoo "above her pubic region" (they say this about five times), the symbol of a supposedly extinct cannibal tribe, so she heads to the Museum of Natural History to meet with a cannibal expert named Professor Lestor (Gabriele Tinti) and hopefully arrange an expedition to the Amazon. Over dinner he promises to take her back to his place to show her a complete documentation on cannibalism, adding that he has "some very interesting films on the subject". Sure, buddy, I've heard that one before. Sure enough, after romancing her with some home movies of genital mutilation and ritual cannibalism the two of them hop into bed together.

Emanuelle isn't the type to get tied down to some tweedy academic, even if he is played by Gemser's real-life husband. As she herself says "I am a free woman and I will act as such", which basically means that she will fuck anything, anytime, anywhere. She also has a boyfriend apparently, but I guess he's not that important to her since he only appears in one scene. She tells him about her dangerous Amazonian expedition and he reacts as if she were going to a three-day conference in the next town over. She says goodbye by boning him in broad daylight under a filthy boardwalk but almost immediately afterwards she's sitting in a taxi daydreaming about screwing the Professor in a hotel room. I guess it's a fine line between a liberated woman and nymphomaniac.

After arriving in the Amazon they meet up with the Professor's local contact, a fat guy who provides them with some native guides and a nun named Sister Angela who will lead them to a remote jungle mission. Apparently the priest who runs the mission will have the lowdown on any local cannibal tribes. Also coming along is the fat guy's beautiful daughter Isabella. It's her job to scream, get caught in traps and generally act like a complete ninny. Her saving grace is that she finds an excuse to strip off every ten minutes, most notably in a scene where Emanuelle and Isabella bathe eachother in the river and are rudely interrupted by a monkey that smokes all their Marlboros.

As they head downriver Emanuelle sees some stock footage of some crocodiles and exclaims "Look alligators!" I guess she's a reporter, not a zoologist, but her lack of jungle experience leads to her getting all tangled up in a ten foot python. Luckily she's rescued by a hunter, Donald Mackenzie (Donald O'Brien, Zombie Holocaust) and boy does he like hunting. As he says to Emanuelle, "Hunting. Hunting is my life. I've sacrificed a lot for my cravings... for hunting." Donald is so obsessed with the hunt that he neglects his hot wife Maggie (Nieves Navarro), who is forced to finger herself while watching one of their servants, Salvadore (Percy Hogan), polish his rifle. In fact she's so smitten with him that she leads him into the jungle to give his rifle a spit-polishing of her own. When Donald confronts her she angrily calls him "an imponent", but later he gets into a fistfight with the Professor for fondling Isabella's ass while she is sleeping, since apparently everyone in the jungle sleeps without any pants on.

Despite Donald's hunting skills he fails to notice a group of cannibals approaching their camp with their Evil Dead Cannibal Vision, and the natives steal their boats and eviscerate one of their servants. They are forced to gather up their supplies and march on, contending with the usual jungle dangers including quicksand, poisonous snakes and bamboo traps. After Sister Margaret gets captured, nipple-sliced and disembowelled, Donald and Maggie separate from the group and reveal their true motives; they are looking for a crashed plane containing several bags of uncut diamonds. This has no bearing on anything else in the film, but the diamonds distract them long enough for the cannibals to spear Donald and kidnap Maggie.

Eventually the group find their way to the cannibals' camp, where the entire village is circling around Maggie, who is trapped in a bamboo cage in the middle of a clearing. After snapping a few photos Emanuelle remarks "There! That cage! Maggie!", demonstrating the observational skills that made her one of New York's top investigative journalists. As far as I can tell, their rescue mission involves sending three people into a village full of armed cannibals, so it goes tits up almost immediately. Salvadore is killed, Donald and Isabella are captured and Emanuelle and the Professor are forced to look on from a distance as Maggie is disembowelled, Donald is somehow bisected by a piece of rope and Isabella is drugged and gangraped in preparation for a sacrifice to the River Goddess.

Although they just sit there and look on impassively for a while, eventually Emanuelle formulates a plan to rescue Isabella. Like every other plan she has ever had, it involves stripping bare-ass naked. Painting herself up with the tribe's symbol, she manages to pass herself off as a River Goddess long enough to snatch Isabella and swim back to the boat. I can't really fault the natives for mistaking a naked, glistening Laura Gemser to be the result of divine intervention. As the trio paddle away, Emanuelle has a big old sob about how everyone has died in her pursuit of the big scoop. Maybe the next time you'll have a plan beyond wandering aimlessly around the cannibal-infested jungle like a bunch of boobs.

I know it's nothing knew for a D'Amato film to be poorly made, but this is a pretty slipshod effort. This film doesn't even attempt to make sense, continuity is all over the place and it switches between day and night several times in the same scene. Dubbing is awful even by the standards of Italian schlock, full of awkward pauses like "We know that you are quite... an authority on the subject... and that you carried out... some expeditions among the most ferocious tribes... of the Amazon." Emanuelle's editor changes accents and even voice actors several times within the same scene. It's not D'Amato's most incompetent film by any means, but that's faint praise.

I guess this film works okay as a delivery vehicle for softcore smut, but as a cannibal film it's a failure. The gore (by Italian special effects maestro Fabrizio DeAngelis) is confined to the final twenty minutes of the film and until you get to that you'll have to suffer through half a dozen softcore sex scenes, all scored by a piece of disco cheese that croons "I'm your queen, you're my king" over and over until you wish you were dead. On the plus side, no animals were harmed in this film, unless the cigarette-smoking chimp contracted lung cancer. It's not a great cannibal film but to be fair it came out pretty early in the cycle. If nothing else D'Amato must be acknowledged for being on the cutting edge of grubby Italian sleaze.

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