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Jungle Holocaust (Ultimo mondo cannibale)

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Posted 27th April 2009 at 10:56 AM by Philleh

Ruggero Deodato, along with Sergio Martino, are both anomalies in the Italian exploitation stable of directors. They stick to genre films and follow the rules as gospel: Gore, T&A and cheese are requirements that are not to be omitted from any of their movies. Where they differ from the likes of Umberto Lenzi or Bruno Mattei (R.I.P) is that they bring a level of intelligence that you would expect to find in Argento’s, Soavi’s of even Fulci’s best works. Anyone who has seen Deodato’s Cannibal Holocaust or his excellent erotic-thriller Waves of Lust will know how well he can execute thought-provoking exploitation (those who’ve seen his unintentionally comical Dial Help will understandably disagree!).

With Jungle Holocaust (Ultimo mondo cannibale) however, it was his first entry into the Italian Cannibal cycle that dominated the late seventies. It’s a mixed bag that he would later obliterate with his genre defining Cannibal Holocaust a mere two years later.

Starting off with two wealthy men, Robert (Massimo Foschi - Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion) and Ralph (Ivan Rassimov –Emanuelle Around the World), on their way into the thickest rain forest known to man, they run into some unexpected drama when their plane crashes in the middle of nowhere. Deciding to stay in the plane instead of venturing out (bravo!), hoping that a rescue team will find them so they can get the hell out of there. If only it was that simple! It isn’t too long after the crash that the natives find what that loud bang was, finding the downed plane (with an effective little peek-a-boo scare!) and the two men flee for their lives.

While making their escape they get separated at a river. We are led to believe Ralph has been killed by the harsh conditions while the natives take Robert hostage: who strip him down and tie him to a spit. Throwing him down into a pit where he must fend for himself for, what could be described as, food against a bloody big bird! As time passes, and with more torment laid upon him, he learns to adapt to his genitals being played with and becomes a wiser man: his beard growing strong, as proof of his wisdom. He soon catches the eye of the only good looking native girl, Pulan (played by the impressively fake breasted Me Me Lai – Eaten Alive), who helps him escape from the bloodthirsty cave dwellers thanks to him raping her and making her ‘his’ (!?).

Once they have made a break for it, they run into Ralph, who isn’t dead after all and they seem to forget all about poor Pulan as she gets taken back by the natives and severely punished (read: eaten) for betraying the community. It’s now a race against time for the men to get to the crash site in hopes of getting picked up, but will the natives pick them off before they can get to safety? You’ll already know the answer to this question at the start of the film, thanks to a bogus “This is based on a true story… yadda yadda” message that indicates how this story got back to the states!

Jungle Holocaust is a pretty nifty addition to the Cannibal cycle, it’s a classier effort than most and even attempts a story! Not much of one, granted, but the thought was there. Something that caught me off guard was a note from the director at the start of the film, which stated he is against the animal cruelty and that the producer inserted them. That’s very noble of him, but why the hell did he go and chop up some more animals for Cannibal Holocaust? Luckily what animal cruelty that there is, is mostly animal versus animal with only one sickening scene with a crocodile getting chopped up by the natives.

Another big plus for Jungle… is its scope photography which, along with Mountain of the Cannibal God, gives it that extra pinch of professionalism that helps suck you into the picture and oddly legitimises the whole dirty thing. Massimo Foschi also deserves credit for his role here; he really does get put through the ringer throughout the movie. A scene where he is hoisted up into the air by the natives and dropped rapidly is pretty intense and his hysterical, maniacal laughter that washes over him once they have repeatedly raised and dropped him is well realised on his part. Everyone else is pretty much clichéd and run-of-the-mill stock characters. Even the usually reliable Ivan Rassimov fails to overly impress.

The film does suffer from some terrible dubbing, but luckily, once the men are split up the dialogue becomes minimal and the only dialogue, until their reunion, is that of what Robert is thinking; some of which comes unexpectedly and is pretty damn humorous. Of course I could always pick on the films plot holes along with the misogynistic tones, but I won’t as the films all the better for it! It’s so wrong it’s funny, as is the case with the claims of xenophobia: Rich white western man tormented by uneducated eastern natives. It’s a known staple of the sub-genre and it’s to be expected.

The DVD release from Media Blasters is a tidy package on the whole. Featuring interviews with Foschi (who hasn’t changed a bit!), Rassimov (before his death in 2003) and features some great behind the scenes pics, also included is a show reel of promotional material. You also get a trailer and talent bio for Rugger Deodato. The winning feature though, is an audio commentary from Deodato. He is clearly very proud of this movie and feels like it paved the way for his career after it. It’s insightful and constantly entertaining: although it is in Italian with English subtitles so it can take some getting used to. But it’s worth your time.

Directed by:
Ruggero Deodato

Cast:
Massimo Foschi
Ivan Rassimov
Me Me Lai

Recommendations: Cannibal Holocaust & Mountain of the Cannibal God
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  1. Old Comment
    Pete's Avatar
    Nice review ( again! ). Foschi definitely desrves credit for his performance, especially letting natives play with his winky. I was always suprised the bbfc left in most of the animal stuff in this one.
    Comment with Quote permalink
    Posted 27th April 2009 at 11:08 AM by Pete Pete is offline
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