‘Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals’ (1977) review

29 Sep

Everyone knows that I hated Emmanuelle. Instead of falling for the French eroticism, I found the film to be one long, overblown account of a young girl who was clearly too emotionally immature to be having sex in the first place, let alone trying to find companionship the hard way by falling for women who didn’t care for her in a foreign country. Despite hating it, the film has always stuck in the back of mind. It spawned a plethora of sequels and spin-offs and I’ve often wondered whether I’d find more success watching one of those instead… Enter Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals (Emanuelle E Gli Ultimi Cannibali, 1977). Directed by Joe D’Amato, famous for Anthropophagous: The Beast (1980) and Absurd (1981) which both became associated in the UK with the ‘video nasties’ debate, Last Cannibals was his fifth entry into the Emmanuelle canon.

The film follows Emanuelle (Laura Gemser), an undercover journalist, who is initially working at a mental hospital. There she finds a young girl who appears to have been raised by an Amazonian cannibal tribe, the influences of which a Nurse feels when the girl bites off her right breast (‘She’s a real savage!’). After finding that the girl has been tattooed with the mark of a cannibal tribe thought to have been long extinct, Emanuelle entices an anthropologist to travel with her to the Amazon to find out what’s really going on. And then the fun begins!

Stupidly, I thought the film would be heavier on the gore and lighter on the sex due to its title and I was quickly proven wrong. It is, at the end of the day, an Emmanuelle film and as an Italian sexploitation picture it doesn’t fail in throwing in as much sex as it can. So we get Emanuelle and her boyfriend (who leave a comfortable car to do it on a rocky beach, where is the logic?), Emanuelle and the anthropologist, Aryan nymph Monica Zanchi masturbating (Gemser’s co-star from Sister Emanuelle/Sour Emanuelle), Emanuelle getting touchy-feely with Zanchi (interrupted by best mood-killing line ever, ‘Oh look, an ape!’), Zanchi masturbating, Nieves Navarro masturbating over her black male servant before having sex with him whilst her jaded husband looks on… You get the idea. Whilst not entirely much more erotic than the original Emmanuelle, D’Amato does manage to make it all feel slightly sexier. Whether or not that feeling is due to the cast being more attractive than Jaeckin’s or because some of the cast were already veterans or had starred in previous films in the same vein is debatable. I do believe that part of it is the casting of Laura Gemser who is simply gorgeous and photographs beautifully against the city shots at the start of the film and the outdoor shots during the second half (Italy stood in for the Amazon).

Despite all the sex, the film is also a cannibal picture at heart. Early in the film D’Amato throws in ‘real’ captured footage of an African cannibal tribe featuring a nice beheading and a castration. Whilst in the Amazon, the ante is upped with disemboweled bodies and cut off heads on sticks. The expedition gets disrupted when the cannibal tribe they are looking for don’t take too kindly to their intrusion, instead taking half the women off to be ritually sacrificed and killing or eating the others. There are some nice effects that still stand up fairly well considering the film was exploitation fare made in the 1970s, especially a scene in which a man is cut in half which looks particularly good even now.

Essentially part softcore fare, part cannibal exploitation flick, Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals is overall an enjoyable film. Full of sex, gore, some beautiful women and some generally bad scenes (but then again, which good exploitation film doesn’t have one or two dodgy scenes?!), Last Cannibals gets a thumbs up from myself. Somewhat hard to compare overall to the original Emmanuelle as it’s not simply a softcore porno, the film has given me faith that some entries into Emmanuelle canon might just be worth it…

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