Groovy & Wild Films from Around the World

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Welcome to the Jungle

I’m constantly amazed at the quality and consistency of Blue Underground’s Franco output on affordably-priced DVDs. I’m so looking forward to next month’s release of one of the Miranda-Franco collaborations I’ve yet to see – Eugenie De Sade. But in the meantime, BU has treated us fans to a slightly oddball Franco flick. (I realize “slightly oddball” could be taken as a completely redundant understatement in reference to Franco’s catalogue raisonnĂ©, but bear with me here…)
Cannibals, a 1980 film where Franco delves into the typically-Italian horror sub-genre of jungle survival in the face of man-eating headhunting tribes, is not so much the in-your-face gorefest one would expect when seeing the names “Franco” and “Cannibals” on the same DVD box, instead, this is a surprisingly restrained and quick-paced search & rescue adventure half-baked with a lot of cheese, where a university professor leads an expedition (with the help of his lover played by Franco’s wife Lina Romay) into Cannibal territory to save his daughter who was kidnapped by the tribe several years ago and is now hailed as their White Goddess. Only problem is that when he finds her, she doesn’t want to go back with him. There are just enough charming exploitation elements to keep things interesting and the finale does boast some amusing and well-executed gore set pieces. Sabrina Siani, the actress paying the white goddess, doesn’t say much and is at times charmingly awkward, but is actually very magnetic in her role; and the whole affair, overall, comes of as a satisfactory and more-than-amusing entry in this bizarre sub-genre.
I was surprised to see that another and far more recent movie by Hollywood filmmaker Jonathan Hensleigh (The Punisher, Die Hard 3) takes the Cannibal Holocaust idea and brings it kicking and screaming into the digital age. Welcome to the Jungle (or “Cannibals”, as it’s known internationally) is an extremely well-written adventure suspensor that is, in my opinion, miles beyond what The Blair Witch Project was trying to do ten years ago. (Shit, I’m getting old). Don’t be surprised if the sight of any flesh-eating jungle tribes eludes you for the first fifty-five minutes, but clocking in at just under 80, Hensleigh’s film is extremely well-paced and the characters are impressively rounded and amiable, even when they’re at each other’s throats. Of course, the finale pulls out all the stops and there are some damned impressive effects on display.
And if jungle adventure’s your game, then I might also suggest Werner Herzog’s Rescue Dawn, an eye-popping story of courage, survival, and a prison break in the middle of the enemy’s jungle.
Till next time, with Eugenie