Thursday, 25 August 2016

Emmanuel and the Last Cannibals

Released in 1977 and directed by the notorious Joe D'Amato (Aristide Massaccesi) this is an attempt to mix the bloody cannibal sub-genre with, inappropriately enough, erotica.  Typically a group of westerners head out to the jungle (the Amazon in this case) in search of what is believed to be the sole remaining tribe of true cannibals in the world.  The team is headed up by hot reporter Emmanuel, who demonstrates her hungry need to report on anything in the prologue when she is revealed to have spent time in prison in order to uncover abuse and corruption.  Once hooked up with a famed academic anthropologist and a small team of helpers (including a nun!) they head off for an adventure where most of them won't survive, and those that do will be changed forever.

Surprisingly for a cannibal film this one features minimal violence towards animals, therefore it is somewhat more bearable even though it might not be classed as up there with the 'best'.  There is of course some fairly nasty violence and gore, often of a sexual nature, that I'm surprised was left intact for the 88 Films release.  On top of that, there's a lot of nudity and sex which should please fans of Laura Gemser.  If women aren't fingering themselves they're fingering each other, or enticing men to mate with them.  Lurid material then but at least it helps prevent boredom.  The adventure aspect is, as with many of these films, the factor that makes or breaks the storyline itself, and this one summits with a grand escape from the island by the survivors after a hellish journey that claims almost everyone.
There is an underlying ineptitude to this production that's exemplified by the English language audio track (some great lines for your amusement), which can be overlooked by viewers wishing to immerse themselves in such a sleazy but periodically fun (and gruesome) adventure.  Interestingly the film reminds me in a number of ways of 1980's Zombi Holocaust, feeling very much like the same sort of territory.  In fact both films also share some of the same (beautiful) music (composer Nico Fidenco was involved in both) and happen to have been screenplayed by Romano Scandariato.  Gianfranco Couyoumdjian also produced both films, and Dr Butcher himself, Donald O'Brien, appears in both in nefarious roles.  A lot of coincidences then, it's no wonder they feel like they're both taking place on the same island at times.

As mentioned, surprisingly 88 Films have got this film through apparently without any cuts for a UK Blu-ray release.  It runs around 92 minutes, longer than the previous British cinema release and its subsequent video counterparts, albeit a few seconds shorter than the old Shriek Show DVD (I understand none of the gore is affected).  It looks pretty good for what it is, in widescreen and with a choice between Italian or English language audio (unfortunately you have to choose between them on the main menu rather than being able to switch in film, but at least the option is there).  English subtitles are available while extras are limited to trailers, alternate credits, a postcard (in the pack) and reversible cover.

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