|Directed by Joe D'Amato|
Starring Laura Gemser and Gabriele Tinti
(A "highlight reel" appears after the review.)
Review: Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals holds a special place in my (ahem) heart as it was my introduction to the wild world of Black Emanuelle. After that initial exposure, via a heavily-edited print on Showtime, those familiar with the film will be able to imagine my absolute shock when I finally saw it uncut a couple of years later. The film is a grim, grimy and grisly experience with nearly equal parts sweaty sex and ghastly splatter.
Last Cannibals was Laura Gemser's fifth and Joe D'Amato's fourth excursion into the swingin' series, which by 1977 was on the wane and in search of a new direction. In many ways this is a transitional work for D'Amato. He began his directorial career with spaghetti westerns and sexy Decameron-style pictures before making a smooth segue into nudie travelogues and full-on sleaze epics. Post-Cannibals D'Amato would spend a few years balls-deep in gorefests such as Anthropophagus and Absurd. Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals was the turning point - though it was more of a complete 180 turn than a seamless transition. In fact, the directorial turning point happens smack-dab in the middle of the film! Midway through Last Cannibals' 90-minute running time it abruptly stops being a sex film and switches to chunky blood-n-guts horror. Muff diving gives way to gut munching and Gabriele Tinti's hairy Italian buttocks are replaced with the entrails of the supporting cast.
|How much snake can one woman take?|
As the characters are dispatched one-by-one, the tension grows and the gore amps up exponentially. Some of the gore doesn't quite work, but it's so nasty in its execution it still manages to be stomach-turning. Sloppy effects are rare though, as much of what we see looks uncomfortably real. Without giving too much away, the "head on a stick" gave me nightmares the first time I saw it...and I'm not one who scares easily. You won't see it coming either. There are some genuine shocks to be had in this picture.
|Call my agent!|
Even more impressive is Susan Scott, star of many a giallo thriller, playing O'Brien's sensual and sex-starved wife. Scott's career path has always baffled me. She is not only a great beauty (who defies stereotypes about women "of a certain age") she is very fine actress. Oddly, she often took roles that were not only exploitative but bordered on demeaning. Fortunately she plays a strong woman not to be trifled with in Last Cannibals. Her performance is the best one in the film, eschewing the occasional thespian ennui of her cast mates with vibrancy and verisimilitude.
Speaking of looking great naked, Laura Gemser and real-life husband Gabriele Tinti are the stars of the piece and their onscreen chemistry is as good as ever. When they are the only two on screen there is an electricity that is a joy to watch. When the story shifts away from their lovemaking they both seem bored with the project. Who could blame them? Gemser has always admitted freely that she got into films simply to see the world rather than from a desire to perform and Gabriele Tinti was a serious actor who sojourned into exploitation fare mainly to be close to wife Gemser.
We've covered the horror aspect, but how does this fare as a sex film? The sex scenes between Gemser and Tinti have genuine heat and they are shot beautifully. Their scenes are highly erotic and very arousing. The sole sex scene between Susan Scott and Percy Hogan also generates heat, but in a more Earthy, animal way. Gemser and Tinti are making love, Scott and Hogan are fucking, if you see what I mean.
|Swept off her feet.|
If that scene was clumsy, the rest are just plain icky. An early scene where Emanuelle tries to gain the trust of a demented mental patient by, basically, molesting her is more than a little uncomfortable, particularly as I doubt D'Amato would understand why the situation is so repugnant. There is also a gang rape scene towards the end of the film that is supposed to be horrific, but comes off as hilarious because it is so ineptly staged and shot.
Don't let the tepid sex scenes and hilarious dubbing scare you off. D'Amato was clearly focusing his attentions on the horror aspect and he does this exceedingly well. I've seen a number of his horror films and this is one of the very few that had any sort of effect on me. This is a grimy little gore flick that shows where D'Amato's storytelling talents really were. The pacing is a little off, but if you remember that this is a first foray into the genre it is really quite impressive. And let's not forget the Marlboro-smoking ape! Highly recommended!