May 7, 2017

Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals (1977)

Declared too gory for softcore fans and too dull for gorehounds, this entry in the Black Emanuelle series has seemingly no target audience.  Capitalizing on the new cannibal film craze (started by Ruggero Deodato's Jungle Holocaust), director Joe D'Amato decided to ride the gravy train with all the same elements of the cannibal movie, but with more sex.  Sounds like a winning combination to me - let's see if it delivers...

What was the deal with  horror soundtracks in the 1970s? The opening title music sounds like an Osmond-ABBA hybrid... not the sort of song I'd have chosen for a gritty cannibal film.  But this is par for the course for seventies grindhouse flicks, which were often paired with wildly inappropriate soundtracks.

"She tore off her breast and ate it."  I think that's Joe D'Amato in a cameo.
The movie certainly starts off with a bang.  A girl in a mental institution bites off the boob of a nurse. It seems this girl was found in the Amazon, raised by cannibals.

Emanuelle (Laura Gemser) is a nympho/journalist posing as one of the patients in the mental ward. She pays a visit to the cannibal girl.

Cindy Leadbetter, the actress playing the cannibal girl, was the Italian Playmate of the Month the year after this film was released.

She was born in Los Angeles, so I'm not sure how she became an Italian model/actress. This is her first film; her last would be The Adventures of Hercules II in 1985.  According to her centerfold info, her favorite singer is Mick Jagger, and favorite book is The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde.

Emanuelle snaps a picture of the cannibal girl with a camera hidden in her doll and takes it to her publisher.  He's smitten by the story and tells Emanuelle to proceed with the investigation.

Emanuelle meets with an expert on cannibal tribes, Professor Mark Lester.  Dr. Lester is played by Gabriele Tinti who was actually Laura Gemser's husband (until his death in 1991).

Emanuelle and Dr. Lester develop a fondness for each other (i.e. they screw each other's brains out) and book a trip to the Amazon.  Check out the high tech computers at the airport.

Arriving in the jungle, they meet with a Mr. Wilkes who organizes their expedition. Emanuelle and Dr. Lester will have two companions on their journey:

The first is Isabelle Wilkes, the daughter of Mr. Wilkes, who Dr. Lester has known since she was a child.

Isabelle is played by  Mónica Zanchi who was no stranger to sexploitation films (including other Emanuelle movies).

Monica's mother was Swiss (she was born in Bern) and her father was Italian. In an interview about filming Last Cannibals, Monica said: "I got really angry during the shooting because the costume designers hated me - you just can't imagine how much! They would do anything not to give me a proper wardrobe: I chose a costume and they gave me another one."

Annamaria Clementi plays Sister Angela, who will be accompanying them up the river to join her mission.

Like Mónica Zanchi, this is also Annamaria's first film. She would appear in several nudie magazines and Italian exploitation films following this role.

Welcome to the Jungle.  The whole gang heads downriver: the anthropologist (Dr. Lester), the explorer's daughter (Isabelle), the journalist (Emanuelle) and the nun (Sister Angela).

Emanuelle and Isabelle skinny dip while a chimpanzee looks on, smoking Marlboro Reds. (Yes, I know - chimps live in Africa, not South America.  I'm willing to look past it.)

Emanuelle is attacked by a snake, but is rescued in the nick of time by the Mackenzies.  Who are the Mackenzies, you ask?  Husband and wife gingers who are here to hunt wild game.

Donald Mackenzie is played by Donald O'Brien, who was in a lot of b-movies back in the day. Maggie Mackenizie is played by Nieves Navarro.  You may remember her as Barbara, Edwige Fenech's sister in All the Colors of the Dark (1973).

They learn from the Mackenzies that Sister Angela's mission group has been slaughtered by cannibals.  The question: do they go on, or abort the mission?

Well, that answers that questions.  They group's boat has been stolen.  Now they'll have to walk through the icky jungle.

I can think of nothing worse than trudging through the humid, bug-infested, rain forest.  You can tell the actors aren't exactly having the time of their lives either.

Isabelle falls in quicksand, then is nearly raped by that horny ginger, Donald Mackenzie.  But the first fatality is Sister Angela.  She makes the horrible mistake to look for a secluded spot to use the bathroom... and is attacked by cannibals.  They tie her to a tree and just start eating. Unfortunately for gorehounds, it's so dark you can barely see anything.

The Mackenzies find the site of a plane crash and discover a loot of diamonds.  But their celebration is shortlived as Maggie is abducted by the natives and Donald is stabbed.

Emanuelle and Dr. Lester, Laura and Gabriele... they make a good couple, don't they?  I just wanted to say that.

They all decide to rescue Maggie.  Emanuelle and Dr. Lester head from the west, and Donald and Isabelle head from the east.  (Always a good idea to split up in horror movies, right?)

This is where the film finally picks up some steam and goes all-in.  Maggie is tied up and disemboweled in front of Donald, who is subsequently torn in half.

Meanwhile, Emanuelle and Dr. Lester sit back behind the foliage and enjoy the horror show.  You almost expect  them to break out a box of popcorn.

The cannibals drug and disrobe Isabelle, then take turns "fertilizing the virgin".   This scene must have been a bit weird for Mónica Zanchi, to lie butt naked in front of a circle of jungle natives.

Emanuelle and Dr. Lester have watched their fellow travelers die long enough.  They finally decide to help out.  Emanuelle paints a symbol on her stomach to make the cannibals think she is a water god (?) and Dr. Lester gets his weapons loaded.

Two questions: (1) Dr. Lester - you had a firearm this whole time? Why didn't you do anything when Maggie and Donald were getting massacred? (2) And, Emanuelle - water god? Really?

After taking turns impregnating Isabelle, the cannibals hoist her up to be carried to the water's edge for sacrifice.

Director D'Amato ensures the audience gets a good long look at the nude Mónica Zanchi as she's carried to and fro, hither and yon.

Emanuelle and Dr. Lester are nearby in a raft at the ready.  Plan A: Water god imitation, Plan B: Fill the natives full of buckshot.

Just as the head head-hunter is about to plunge his spear into Isabelle, Emanuelle swims up bearing the mark of the water god...

The natives step aside and allow her to take Isabelle into the river.  It takes a minute, but the realization dawns on the cannibals that they've been duped.  But it's too late - Dr. Lester, Emanuelle and Isabelle are motoring to safety.


The final report: Not so great.  I mean, you have to sit through an hour of fairly routine blah before reaching the last twenty minutes of sick, sleazy mayhem.  Granted, those last twenty minutes are spectacular - but whether they make up for a lackluster hour is debatable.

Given that D'Amato was no stranger to making both hardcore and softcore smut, it is a little surprising he held back on the sexual content.  With uninhibited gals like Annamaria Clementi and Nieves Navarro, it's a shame they weren't given much space to do what they do best - selling the sizzle.

BUT - there are some cool shots of NYC in the sleazy seventies.  Plus Gemser and her real-life hubby Tinti, are good together.  Mónica Zanchi deserves credit too for allowing herself to be stripped naked and manhandled and gang-raped by jungle natives for the last eighth of the movie.  She purportedly runs an antique shop in Italy these days... I wonder if she ever thinks about this movie.  I'm going to go out on a limb and guess she tries not to.

[see list of Emmanuelle Movies]