Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals / Emanuelle’s Amazon Adventure / Trap Them and Kill Them / Emanuelle e gli Ultimi Cannibali (1977) -**
I can only stomach so much of the “classics.” Of the last 25 movies I’ve reviewed, seventeen were made before 1960, and a staggering eleven were made before 1950. With all the Draculas and Mummies and Doctors Jekyll I’ve been consuming lately, I’m almost beginning to fear that I’m becoming respectable! Well I know the antidote to that, yessir! It’s time for something sleazy, something disgusting, something depraved. It’s time for something bracingly grotesque to wash away the aftertaste of all that class. It’s time for Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals.
God bless Joe D’Amato. After taking control of Italy’s even more sordid answer to the French Emmanuelle and its offspring with the second film of the series, he has unflinchingly demonstrated in movie after movie that softcore porn can be just as filthy and devoid of redeeming social value as the hardcore variety. But though he would return to his usual formula soon enough, after Emanuelle in America, D’Amato took it upon himself to stretch his wings a bit, and see if he couldn’t do something really daring with the third sequel to Black Emanuelle. What Joe came up with was an astonishing attempt to fuse softcore porn with horror’s cannibal subgenre, which was still in its infancy in 1977. The indefatigable Jesus Franco would try much the same trick with his White Cannibal Queen some years later, but D’Amato not only got there first, he did so even before the great cannibal movie boom that began with the 1979 release of Cannibal Holocaust established the genre as one of Italy’s most lucrative modes of exploitation filmmaking. Seen in that light, it’s a pity that Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals proves to be such a lackluster example of both the genres in which it tries to operate.
Emanuelle (the one and only Laura Gemser) seems to have tired rather quickly of life on the island to which she retreated at the end of Emanuelle in America. For that matter, she seems to have tired rather quickly of the boyfriend with which she made that retreat. Understandable-- the man was pretty tiresome. Now she’s back in New York, with a new boyfriend for her to screw between scenes designed to advance the “plot,” and reinstated in her old job at the newspaper. (And this time around, it’s a little clearer what the precise nature of her role there is.) Her current assignment has her posing as a patient in a mental hospital to expose the mistreatment of the inmates at the hands of a sadistic lesbian nurse. (You know, I wonder if D’Amato’s ever seen Shock Corridor...) Because this is an Emanuelle movie, her technique for interrogating the crazies naturally involves sneaking into their rooms in the middle of the night and masturbating the needed information out of them. One night, when she tries this trick on a young woman who attacked the evil nurse-- biting a good-sized chunk out of the nurse’s left breast when she tried to have her way with her-- Emanuelle notices that the reticent urban cannibal has a strange tattoo on her belly, just above the upper margin of her pubic hair. Emanuelle snaps a picture of the tattoo (making sure to get the girl’s genitals in the shot-- she’s a serious journalist, you know), and then goes about securing her own release from the asylum. When she shows her photos to her editor, the man makes much of the tattoo, apparently believing it to be just the tip of a big iceberg of news. When Emanuelle learns the tattoo represents the tribal emblem of a supposedly extinct stone-age people from the Amazon, it starts looking like the editor’s instincts are right on the money.
So Emanuelle pays a visit to Dr. Mark Lester (Gabrielle Tinti, with whom Gemser would again cross paths in Black Velvet and Women’s Prison Massacre), a prominent anthropologist and an expert on Amazonian savages. Lester tells Emanuelle that the tribe whose symbol the asylum inmate had tattooed on her belly were among the world’s last practicing cannibals, but that by all accounts, they died out decades ago. Emanuelle passes on to Lester her editor’s offer to pay him to lead an expedition to this “vanished” tribe’s homeland, and then takes him to bed for what will be only the first of many such interludes.
I dare say you, too, might think seriously about going looking for Amazonian cannibals if you thought there might be sex with Laura Gemser in it for you. Lester signs on, and in no time, he and Emanuelle are in South America at the jungle villa of an old colleague of Lester’s (Geoffrey Copleston, from The Pumaman and Dr. Jekyll Likes Them Hot). The man believes himself too old to go stomping about in the jungle himself, but he sends Lester and Emanuelle off in the company of his daughter Isabel (Monica Zanchi, of Sister Emanuelle and The Erotic Dreams of Cleopatra) and an attractive young nun (Annamaria Clementi, from The Night Nurse and The Pleasure Shop on 7th Avenue). (Before you ask, no, even Joe D’Amato isn’t such a slimeball as to have Emanuelle corrupt a nun, though that was what sprang immediately to my mind too.) This bunch heads off up the river hoping to meet up with a missionary called Father Morales, stopping every ten minutes or so for Emanuelle to fuck either Lester or Isabel. Along the way, there’s an incredibly bizarre scene in which the two girls diddle each other in a pond while a goddamn chimpanzee watches from the shore, stealing and smoking their fucking cigarettes!!!! This sort of thing goes on for a while, and then the expedition runs across another group of adventurers. Donald MacKenzie (Donald O’Brien, from Dr. Butcher, M.D. and Warriors of the Year 2072) has come to the Amazon to hunt, and he has brought his wife Maggie (Nieves Navarro, another Black Velvet alum, who also appeared in the delightfully titled So Naked, So Dead) and handyman Salvador (Percy Hogan, from Passion Plantation and War in Space) along with him. Or at any rate, he says he’s come to hunt. As we shall later see, his real aim is to find the wreckage of a plane that went down in the jungle carrying a fortune in diamonds from a nearby mine. Maggie shares his interest in the diamonds, but she’s also along for the ride because of all the opportunities that traveling with Salvador presents for indulging her weakness for big black cock while Donald isn’t paying attention. The MacKenzies have bad news for Lester and company-- Father Morales is missing, his mission is wrecked, and all of the nuns who helped him run it have been massacred by the supposedly extinct cannibals. No one takes this terribly well, but it doesn’t keep anyone out of anybody else’s pants, either.
After what seems like hours of watching the combined crew trudging and fucking, fucking and trudging their way across the Amazon basin, a few sorry-ass cannibals show up and make off with Lester’s boat and most of the party’s supplies. Then they come back a bit later, and make off with the nun. Having found a suitably secluded spot in the jungle, they tie her, naked, to a tree, and then cut off her nipples, gut her, and eat her. Nice guys, those cannibals. Then Donald and Maggie find their downed airplane with its cargo of diamonds, but it does them little good, because the cannibals soon return and kidnap Maggie. Lester’s plan for saving her proves to be one of the most miserable, slack-assed excuses for a rescue attempt ever committed to film, in that it not only fails to achieve its objective, but also manages to get Salvador killed and Donald and Isabel captured by the cannibals as the icing on the failure cake. Emanuelle’s screwy plan is rather better, for at least it gets Isabel out of trouble, even if it comes too late to do the MacKenzies any good. What’s Emanuelle’s bright idea, you ask? She strips down and has Lester paint the tribe’s emblem on her belly, right where the asylum girl had it tattooed. Then she snorkels over to the site of Isabel’s impending sacrifice to the river goddess using a hollow reed, and saves Isabel’s ass by impersonating the deity to which she was supposed to be sacrificed! The two girls then swim as fast as their limbs can carry them back to Lester, who is waiting for them in the inflatable motor-raft he salvaged from the wrecked airplane. All three then high-tail it down the river, with Emanuelle shooting the pursuing cannibals out of their canoes all the way to the closing credits.
D’Amato really should have thought a little harder about this one. A movie that tries to combine porn with gut-munching ought to be a film not to be missed, but the problem here is that the two genres are insufficiently meshed. Rather than make a movie that was simultaneously a cannibal flick and a softcore porno, D’Amato made a softcore porno that turns into a cannibal gut-muncher after the first hour. This complete change of character at the two-thirds mark is about the least imaginative and least satisfying way to attack the problem, and is far beneath what D’Amato is capable of. And Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals is further compromised by the fact that neither its porno component nor its horror component is particularly good. The porn phase is overly repetitive, and mostly lacks the situational lunacy that made Emanuelle in America such compelling viewing. For the first half-hour, it’s pretty amusing that the sex scenes intrude upon the plot with such mechanical regularity that you could almost set your watch by them, but even that gets old eventually. Then later on, the horror phase of the film is undone by the entirely excessive amount of time that D’Amato devotes to aimless trudging through the rainforest. The cannibal attacks are pleasingly grisly when at last they arrive, but they are too few and too far between to have much effect, especially considering how little time is left to the film by that point. Still, I must admire D’Amato for even thinking of this movie, even if he fumbles the execution at almost every turn.