Director – Joe D’Amato
Cast – Laura Gemser, Gabriele Tinti, Nieves Navarro, Donald O’Brien, Percy Hogan, Mónica Zanchi, Annamaria Clementi, Geoffrey Copleston, Dirce Funari
Release Year – 1977
Reviewed by John of the Dead
Anyone who knows of Italy’s sleazy as hell “Emanuelle” films knows that these are some of the sleaziest out there, and when you throw cannibals into the mix you combine two elements that I love, and have my devout attention. Directed by the infamous sleaze hound Joe D’Amato, and the level of sleaze at its utmost possibility, Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals is a film sure to please those who how to appreciate these films, which most likely says something very wrong about the content of your character. Welcome home my brothers and sisters.
Famed journalist Emanuelle goes undercover at a local mental hospital to expose their crimes against humanity, and in the process comes across a young woman who was apparently raised by a tribe of cannibals said to be extinct for decades. She acquires the help of cannibal expert Mark Lester, an experienced professor, to join her on a trip to the Amazonian jungles in search of this possibly now existent tribe, a story that would sell very well. Upon arriving at the jungle they join up with a few companions they meet along the way, and Emanuelle learns not only that the “extinct” tribe has resurfaced, that her and her companions are not on the welcome list.
Boy was this film a surprise to me. I had always heard of the “Emanuelle” films, but had no clue what to really expect. I figured there would be plenty of gore, mutilation of genitals, rape, and lots of nudity, but I was not expecting to be given a borderline porno from writer/director Joe D’Amato.
I first came across Joe D’Amato when I purchased his 1980 cannibal/slasher classic, Anthropophagus, and due to my immense enjoyment of the that film I have looked forward to viewer the rest of D’Amato’s repertoire. His direction in this film is the same grainy cheeze we were given in Anthropophagus, except this time we get lots of absolutely needless yet awesomely bad sex scenes adorning the film. His camerawork is awesome, and the film’s musical score sets a fun mood that makes for a perfect “popcorn” flick on a late night with some of your buddies. The cannibal action is good, although it does take quite a while before it kicks in, but that has more to do with story than direction. We get some good gore scenes and some well-executed kills, and despite the film taking a long while before the carnage kicks in the pacing is well-managed, a testament to D’Amato’s great direction.
Story-wise is where these cannibal films usually carry their faults, and while I found this story to be an enjoyable one it was a bittersweet one in the end. I loved that so many needless sex scenes were thrown in, not for my sexual enjoyment, but just for the opportunity to chuckle at the well-executed nonsense going on before me. If you know me then you know that I love cannibal films, and comes due to these cannibal films usually taking place in a jungle environment, which provides lots of places to hide and always brings in a nowhere-to-run atmosphere as well. The idea of locating a tribe that has been thought to be extinct interested me a lot because of the surprising nature of such a claim, and the mystery surrounding it. It’s a simple idea, but it works for me and helped in keeping my attention throughout the film. Sadly, despite all this good cheeze I was a bit disappointed that we were given so little cannibal action/horror in the film. For a film that runs 85 minutes we should have been given the action at around the 45-50 minute point at the very latest, but instead it took nearly 70 minutes until the cannibal carnage kicked in. That is absolutely unacceptable, and it is what kept this film from being an entirely awesome watch. We were given some really fun and cheezy moments to chew on until the “goods” showed up at the end, but when a film spends 82%(70/85) of its time giving us what is NOT horror I cannot forgive it, and it kept this film from being an incredible watch due to the immense potential Joe D’Amato has.
Overall, this is a fun and extremely sleazy film from one of horror’s sleaziest that brings on a very strong sexual element mixed in with…cannibals. If you enjoy the usual cannibal films then Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals should do the job for you, just expect a lot more sex than cannibal action.