“This is a true story as reported by Jennifer O’Sullivan.” The hilarious, and patently false, opening blurb.
Produced the same year as Ruggero Deodato’s JUNGLE HOLOCAUST (a.k.a. The LAST CANNIBAL WORLD, 1977), the prolific Joe D’Amato decided to meld his successful Emanuelle films, starring his muse Laura Gemser, with the then-burgeoning, cannibal films. Of course, this was not going to be the last time D’Amato merged sex and horror into a potpourri of sleazy thrills; in 1980 he directed The EROTIC NIGHTS OF THE LIVING DEAD, a fusion of hardcore sex and zombie gore, and then, that very same year, he directed the notorious, but undisputedly awful PORNO HOLOCAUST, which was pretty much the nadir of both genres. Despite it’s innate stupidity, EMANUELLE AND THE LAST CANNIBALS (1977) still merits a looksee, especially for fans of either D’Amato’s Emanuelle films or the Italian Cannibal genre, so if you’re gonna check it out or need to own it in your collection, 88 Films’ handsome Blu-ray is easily the best option.
A patient at an NYC Psychiatric Hospital takes a nasty bite out of a nurse’s breast, which the hard-working Emanuelle (Laura Gemser) happens to snap a shot of with her conveniently hidden camera, housed inside a children’s doll. Later that night, Emanuelle sneaks into the woman’s room, who by the way, is confined to a straitjacket, and eases her tensions in a way that only Emanuelle could. Upon snapping a few more photos of the half-naked woman, she reports back to her editor, and after looking at the photos for quite some time, they finally notice a “strange tattoo above her pubic region.” Sensing a hot story (“The last cannibals! What a scoop!” Exclaims her overzealous editor.), Emanuelle is put in contact with Mark Lester (Gabriele Tinti), a curator at the Natural History Museum, who goes on to educate her about various cannibal rites across the globe via some scratchy B&W movies, also revealing that it’s the Toopinambas from the Amazon she is seeking. Of course, as per the usual standards of the genre, Emanuelle also jumps into bed with Mark as the film cross-cuts them rolling around in the sheets with their journey to the Amazon (“Amazonia is a land that lives by its own rules”).
Upon their arrival, they meet Wilkes (Geoffrey Copleston), who organizes their journey into the jungle to meet Father Morales, the only person who has had any contact with the elusive Toopinambas tribe. Also along for the ride are Wilkes’ daughter Isabelle (Monica Zanchi), who will be their guide for the trip, and Sister Angela (Anne Marie Clementi), one of the nuns working at Morales’ mission. During their trek, they also come across Donald and Maggie Mackenzie (Donal O’Brien and Susan Scott), a bickering couple whose deceitful and uncooperative nature is the least of the expedition’s problems when the cannibals strike.
Although modeled after JUNGLE HOLOCAUST, D’Amato’s rather juvenile exercise is a far-cry from Deodato’s hard-hitting and rather unpleasant jungle horror, which in actuality is more an Italian version of Cornel Wilde’s The NAKED PREY (1968). EMANUELLE AND THE LAST CANNIBALS, on the other hand, is more typical of earlier jungle adventures like William Witney’s JUNGLE GIRL (1944), a 15-part Republic serial, albeit with ’70s sex and gore, that D’Amato delivers at regular intervals throughout the film and which certainly keeps things from ever getting too dull. After appearing together in both EMANUELLE IN BANGKOK (1976) and the infamous EMANUELLE IN AMERICA (1977), both Gemser and Tinti go through their usual paces and manage to keep a straight face through all the silliness. In one of the film’s more blatant tip-offs to all those Italian ‘jungle girl’ adventures like Roberto Infascelli’s LUANA (1968) or Guido Malatesta’s SAMOA (1968) and TARZANA THE WILD GIRL (1969), D’Amato has our intrepid reporter getting it on with Isabelle (the rather insatiable Zanchi, who would go on to appear with Gemser in Giuseppe Vari’s sinful SISTER EMANUELLE  the very same year) as they casually wash each other’s more intimate areas in a jungle river while a chimpanzee inadvertently rummages through their clothes trying to smoke a cigarette. Nico Fidenco’s enthusiastic, easy-listening music definitely makes all the absurdity more digestible and is undoubtedly one of the best aspects of the entire film; incidentally, much of this music was later reused in the original European edit of Marino Girolami’s ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST (a.k.a. DR. BUTCHER M.D., 1980). Another definite bonus here is the casting of Donal(d) O’Brien, a frequent D’Amato collaborator, who adds a nasty edge to the almost playful and very naïve narrative. When asked why he’s trekking through the Amazon, he reveals he is a hunter and that (quote) “if my game happens to be a human being, I don’t mind.” Suffering from impotence, he also has to endure his wife’s infidelities with his local guide (Percy Hogan) amidst the jungle fauna.
Shot at Italian National Parks in and around Lazio, which doubled for the Amazon, none of the locations are all that convincing, but D’Amato still gives the film a handsome look – he was also the film’s DP – despite his limited budget. Many of the gore effects are also quite phoney looking, and highlight lots of rubbery latex along with one laughable optical effect; Sister Angela’s demise, however, is actually quite gruesome, and one of the strongest scenes in the film.
Available during the VHS boom on Twilight Video under its U.S. release title of TRAP THEM AND KILL THEM, this was released on DVD in 2003 courtesy of Shriek Show, which was a solid transfer (enhanced for 16x9) highlighted by fairly robust colours and solid detail for an SD release. This long out-of-print DVD included a generous stills gallery, a theatrical trailer and trailers for some of Shriek Show’s other titles. As part of their “Italian Collection” (this is number 13), 88 Films’ recent Region B Blu-ray is the first out of the gate to present the film in full HD, and although it won’t be used as demo material, the 1080p disc looks quite satisfactory and noticeably sharper than the Shriek Show release. The LPCM 2.0 Master Audio tracks also sound fine despite the wonky English dubbing, but unlike earlier releases, 88 Films also provides an Italian language track with optional English subtitles. The original theatrical trailer is the only extra related to the film, but the disc also includes trailers for some of 88 Films’ other product, including a very crisp-looking trailer for Deodato’s very politically incorrect poliziesco LIVE LIKE A COP, DIE LIKE A MAN (1976). A postcard insert with alternate art and a reversible sleeve round out the extras. Order EMANUELLE AND THE LAST CANNIBALS from DiabolikDVD here or from Amazon UK here. This was a honest review of an excellent Blu-ray as reported by Dennis Capicik.