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“The tribe we are to locate are indeed cannibals – tie up their victims, rip open their bellies, tear out their insides, and eat it.” Joe D'Amato – otherwise known as Aristide Massaccesi – the director of such grotesque delights as Anthropophagous (1980), is unlikely to go down in the annals of cinema history as a master filmmaker with a deeply considered artistic vision. His work may skew towards slap dash schlock, but he got the job done and knew to never play coy: if his audiences wanted devoured innards and boobies flopping about everywhere then that's exactly what he was going to give them – and this is undoubtedly the case with Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals...
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“She bit a chunk out of the nurse's breast and ate it – just like a cannibal. Fantastic! This could be a great scoop!” Emanuelle (Laura Gemser, Women's Prison Massacre) is an undercover reporter who is determined to expose the most shocking stories regardless of the risk to her person. The film kicks off in a mental ward where, as Emanuelle secretly photographs the unattended patients, a screaming nurse stumbles half-naked down a hallway with a chunk of her flesh missing. A young white woman (who, it transpires, was being sexually abused by the nurse) has flipped out and had to be restrained. Naturally, Emanuelle sneaks in to her room to interview her … in a most peculiar manner. She hoists up the savage patient's gown – observes a strange tattoo – and tries to get her talking with a bit of *ahem* digital stimulation! The boob biter won't talk, having been found on the banks of a South American river, so Emanuelle steals a snapshot of the half-naked savage and sods off back to her Editor with a story to pursue. How's that for journalistic integrity?!
“Well, you are provoking me, young lady, but I will only answer you after having shown you some very interesting material.” It turns out that the savage woman had been raised by cannibals, or some such nonsense, and so Emanuelle's newspaper jumps at the chance to fund an expedition – after the shortest bout of cold feet you've ever seen committed to film. Guided by Professor Mark Lester (Gabrielle Tinti), they meet up with some of his friends who live and work in the Amazon with a Christian Mission. After a quick 'first night in the Amazon' bunk up – with coquettish Bible thumper Isabelle (Monica Zanchi) having a good old perv through the door crack – Emanuelle and Professor Lester head off with Isabelle and Sister Angela (Annamaria Clementi) into the wilds of the green inferno.
“I came here to hunt and if my game happens to be a human being I don't mind.” On their journey to discover the whereabouts of the cannibal tribe (who have supposedly been extinct for half a century, if you'll believe the government) they encounter deadly snakes, booby traps, and a chimp with a nicotine habit. No, seriously. During the fifth T&A scene in 30 minutes, a chimpanzee trundles out of the jungle, plops down by the water, pinches a cigarette from a backpack and sparks up while it watches Emanuelle and Isabelle wash each other in a lagoon! Suffice it to say, the film's a bit out there. And that's all without mentioning Donald McKenzie (Donald O'Brien, Zombie Holocaust aka Doctor Butcher M.D.) – an impotent hunter with a thing for voyeurism – and his wife Maggie (a decidedly underused Nieves Navarro, aka Susan Scott, Death Walks On High Heels), who has the hots for their shirtless helper Salvadore (Percy Hogan).
“You can't possibly think that I've been waiting for you all my life – I'm a free woman and I behave as such.” Trekking deeper into the jungle, inevitably things go arse over tit, and the group gradually dwindles as they become appetisers for the 'annual feast of fertility' – a load of mumbo jumbo and 'ritualistic' cobblers, dreamed up by D'Amato and his co-writer Romano Scandariato, that involves some rather unsavoury courses. You wouldn't like what was for dessert, and so how on earth will they get out of this pickle? Oh dear!
“Amazonia is a land that lives according to its own rules.” In case you were in any doubt, this is an Italian exploitation movie, and boy does it make that abundantly clear. The opening twenty minutes take place in, where else, New York City before we ship off for South America. Acting as his own cinematographer, D'Amato's brazen smash 'n' grab camera operation works wonders in grabbing as many tourist spots and iconic Manhattan sights as possible. You can almost sense the crew's nerves about (most likely) not having any permits as curious Manhattan natives slow their pace to look at the camera. You can imagine D'Amato smuggling a small camera into public buildings under his coat before scampering away with a sly grin – especially after shooting the scene in which Emanuelle ruts with her boyfriend down by the manky water with the Brooklyn Bridge as a backdrop. And what self-respecting exploitationer would be complete without plenty of tits and gore? From the opening scene in the hospital the grubby vibe is efficiently established. Scenes chock-full with norks, arses, and 70s bush are machine-gunned at the viewer while, every now and then, a severed head on a spike pops up or a mile of intestines get un-spooled from a rubbery torso.
“Emanuelle, you're crazy. Really, really crazy!” To be fair, Italian exploitation films have never been best known for inconspicuous dubbing into other languages, but this film takes the proverbial biscuit with a cheeky nonchalance. Poorly synchronised at best, it soon becomes a drinking game to spot the awkward mid-sentence pauses whenever the actors, for example, talk while eating (an early scene at a New York eatery is hilarious in this regard). Indeed, rather than rewrite the English script to match the rhythm of the actor's lips, those who were tasked with dubbing simply stop saying whatever they're saying whenever the actors' lips cease moving, only to continue as if nothing had happened when their gobs start flapping again.
“It was a quiet night, but now those savages will start to move.” If you're familiar with some of D'Amato's work, you'll know that subtlety was not one of his strong suits, and if you're familiar with the cannibal sub-genre, you'll also know that cultural sensitivity was rarely high on the agenda. In-keeping with that, this flesh-munching tribe are cast under a fairly racist light – although the tribe is so utterly generic, and only seen in full swing towards the end of the film, that the wider umbrella of 'dimly xenophobic' is perhaps more fitting. It comes down to the simple fear of 'unknown others' that was born from the fantastical tales, told many decades prior, by first world adventurers trying to flog a book to the gullible masses. D'Amato's film also scores few points for its bare bones story – which almost entirely forgets about the titular character during its plodding second act – as dodgy writing showers down blunt, utilitarian dialogue in which the topic of conversation skips from one viewpoint to the next at split-second notice. It's hard to tell if Emanuelle & Co's displays of questionable ethics throughout is a result of thoughtless writing, or an incisive and self-aware jab at modern society as it was then – either is entirely plausible.
“Don't despair, maybe they weren't all killed.” 88 Films' DVD is presented in 1.85:1 with mono audio – in your choice of dubbed English language, or Italian with English subtitles. Extras are particularly sparse: an original trailer, Italian opening & closing credits (exactly the same, just with Italian text), an 88 Films trailer reel, and reversible sleeve art. Picture quality is generally good, but is a bit variable at times – it's a new and pretty clean transfer, but not what you'd call a stellar visual experience.
“She's a real savage.” Not for the easily offended, Joe D'Amato's casually xenophobic film is a clash of sweaty softcore porno and mean-spirited splatter horror, and as such Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals doesn't quite know what it wants to be. Both the smut and the grue are dispensed without much titillation or shock – the jump scares are poorly executed and the sexy bits are marched out as if from a factory where the motto is 'quantity not quality'. Despite the copious amount of bared flesh and fumbling about – like an unseen hot dog being slapped against a vaguely referenced doughnut – D'Amato's film lacks the rich themes, shocking intensity, bold style, and even academic importance of Ruggero Deodato's Cannibal Holocaust, which was released three years later and went on to become the ultimate entry in the cannibal movie cycle. In 1978, D'Amato would tread a similar path with Love Goddess of the Cannibals, but while that film had better pacing, it didn't deliver on the flesh-eating aspect of the title … Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals, however, does at least do what it says on the tin (albeit quite haphazardly).