Jungle Holocaust (1977)

Congratulations, Mr. Deodato, you’ve done it again for the first time. As weird as that sounds, it’s true. Though Umberto Lenzi technically started the cannibal genre with the classic The Man from the Deep River, it was Deodato with Last Cannibal World that kicked the genre in the ass and really got it going, and unlike most films that share this genre, this is actually a good, legitimate movie. The influence this movie had on the genre is easy to see in subsequent films, which borrow heavily from events in the movie (most notably Lenzi’s Eaten Alive and the awful Primitif). Too often are very heavy movies considered horrible and a waste of time simply because of the content. People ignore what factors go into a good movie. Good acting, good plot, good dialog, all are present in Last Cannibal World. It’s great capture and escape adventure movie, not just obscure and violent trash. Deodato made a select few films that are his masterpieces, and however exploitative and violent they may be, they come together as thrilling and disturbing cinema hits. Last Cannibal World is one of them.

Mr. Rob Harper is in his group flying to Borneo (or somewhere in that region) with his good friend, Rolf, and his pilot and girlfriend, Charlie and Swan. The plane breaks down and they fix it, but have to stay the night because it gets too dark. Well, Swan disappears in the night, and Charlie gets a spike ball looking for her the next morning. Rob and Rolf are lost, and they soon separate in a raft accident. That’s when Rob is captured by the cannibal tribe. De-clothing ensues, and Rob is, lets say, “mistreated” over the next few days. It’s the beautiful cannibal Pulan, played by Me Me Lai (with implants and all) that gives Rob the chance to escape, even though he treats her like a low animal (except for when he decides she’s worth have intercourse with). Be warned, the mysogyny is high in this film, as many cannibal movies are. If that upsets you, you’d better find a cut version. Despite this rape, Me Me realizes Rob’s in charge, and actually helps and cares for Rob. Rob finds an old friend in the jungle, but the cannibals are coming back for them. Pulan is killed and eaten as a traitor in an incredibly well done montage going back and forth from Rob to the cannibals. Will he make it back to his plane and escape on time?

This movie is far better than what one may expect because of the heavy content. Yes, the violence and gore is extreme, but all elements present make it a good adventure movie. The plot is superb, and the dialog isn’t bad at all, which is usually the problem with such films. There are actually plot twists as well, which is rare for the cannibal genre. Characters you forget about come back to support the film. Any gore monger would be satisfied and then some with this movie. The blood and guts are in enormous quantities, with organs and all intact and close-up. However, there’s some rather disturbing images, also, which can make even the hardest gore lovers cringe, particularly the graphic birthing scene. The way the natives kill and then eat people is incredibly brutal, as they rip the rib cage in half and use it as the cooking medium. Massimo Foschi does a great job of portraying the character Robert. He shows sublimely that even though we’re on his side and think the natives are the savage bad guys, we ignore the fact that eventually the hate and mal-treatment shown towards him shapes Rob into a savage himself, showing no regard to morals or ethics. This is best shown when Me Me Lai tries to escape, so Rob punishes her by raping her. All of these morals are almost exactly mirrored in Cannibal Holocaust, but in a far more brutal and disturbing way. Of course, however, there are the issues with the animal killings, as six or so are killed on stage, so an uncut version isn’t for the animal activist or weak constitutions. Most of these killings are not plot elements, and are mostly unnecessary. The biggest problem I have with it is that the alligator they kill stays alive for most of the time, making the scene almost as disturbing as Cannibal Holocaust’s “turtle scene.”

A few qualms are present, however. The aforementioned animal killings can seem out of line, though some help for the plot. One hilariously unnecessary scene is Rob messing with the little cannibal kids, who moments before were peeing on his head. I’ve never had use for such scenes, which seems a lot like comic relief for a brutally intense film. Overall, however, it’s a better than average cannibal film, and I’ll even go to such lengths as saying it was outstanding. Last Cannibal World isn’t a cheesy laugh-fest like most other cannibal movies are, and it’s definitely for the better. This is one of Deodato’s best work, surpassed only by the incredible and incredibly visceral Cannibal Holocaust. If you enjoyed any other cannibal films even slightly, then this is the next movie for you to see. It is outdone in Italian exploitation only by Cannibal Holocaust and Cannibal Ferox, and was the first great hit for the cannibal genre.