Late Italian film maker Aristide Massaccesi's aka Joe D'Amato's filmography consists of films from many different genres. He made some horror films that have become cult classics like the thoroughly sick Beyond the Darkness (1979) or the legendary cannibal tale Anthropophagous the Beast (1980) and its gory sequel Rosso sangue aka Absurd (1981). He also made a huge amount of soft and hard core porno and many combinations of these genres and others, too, like sword and sandals, comedy, action, scifi and so on. He is best known for his horror and sex films, as well as some of the sickest and most mean spirited images and ideas ever put on silver screen, most notably his Emanuelle in America (1976) that includes plenty of perverse sex, orgies and the repulsive fake "snuff" scenes that look painfully real but are in fact - and fortunately - staged by the Italian effects maestro Giannetto de Rossi. He made a lot of the Emanuelle cash ins, and Emanuelle e gli ultimi cannibali aka Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals (1977) is among the most noteworthy ones as it combines the elements of the Italian cannibal genre and throws some severe sleaze to the already delicious (as an exploitation fan's point of view) soup, and what's most important, it is not too slow and boring to sit through like some of the horror exploitation films of the seventies.
Laura Gemser, the Indonesian born black beauty and D'Amato regular, plays Emanuelle, a journalist that starts to investigate a strange thing that happens in the city hospital. A girl that has been saved from the Amazon bites off a piece of her nurse's breast and eats it like a cannibal. Soon Emanuelle learns about the cannibals that are living in the Amazon and also decides to go there with professor Mark Lester (Gabriele Tinti) and some other people to investigate and make the news sensation of her lifetime. But things don't go as they wish. They soon find themselves trapped inside the jungle while gory cannibalistic murders start to take place and their group looses more and more men and women. The alternative US title for the film, Trap Them and Kill Them, depicts quite well the spirit of the film once "the things get going."
The film is honest and pure exploitation with huge amounts of sex and sleaze in it. The long and steamy sex and masturbation scenes are almost hard core level but still they obviously didn't want to make this so strong as I don't think the veteran Italian horror/exploitation producer Fabrizio de Angelis would have been interested in that kind of stuff as he was the co-producer in this film. The film has many close ups of people's sensitive areas and the funny thing is how all the female characters seem to sleep with their "parts" bare and not covered or clothed at all. Naturally this is a good excuse for D'Amato to show more and more these images of female nudity. Also, these people seem to make love and please each other everywhere and with everyone, no matter if they're married, in love, in mental hospital or in danger to get killed, they just need to make love all the time! This film is on the same sleaze level with Michele Massimo Tarantini's severely insane Brazilian/Italian exploitation romp Nudo e selvaggio aka Massacre in Dinosaur Valley (1985) as that film has perhaps even dirtier and more selfish characters than in D'Amato's film!
The other exploitation element here is of course the gore, which is quite strong. The scenes of cannibalistic carnage include many impalements with spears, some graphic gut munching and such misogynistic mutilation scenes that would make those not familiar with the genre cringe in amazement and repulsion. The gore scenes are as nasty as can be expected by a late seventies Italian production like this and so nothing is left to imagination. Still one "gore scene" stands out as one of the worst of all time. It includes a man being forced in half with a sharp string but the result is SO laughably badly staged it is even more unrealistic than if we'd see the hand that throws the fake blood on the screen! I would have expected something more imaginative from these makers, now it is just plain dull and very unconvincing to say the least.
The soundtrack by D'Amato regular (for many of his porn flicks as well as the composer of Mario Girolami's cheesy gore film Zombie Holocaust (1979) ) Nico Fidenco is very interesting especially during the cannibal attacks as it consists of some very low and menacing sounds and "breaths" on the soundtrack. These are genuinely creepy scenes and add nicely to the atmosphere of the film, in fact they are probably the only cinematically noteworthy elements that can be found in this piece of exploitation. Speaking of positive elements of the film, the way how Gemser's character has "grown up" by the end and learnt about the morality of her (real life) work is very nice as it really tells something about the director and other makers involved in the film as they didn't want the end result, inside the film, look immoral and selfish even though the character(s) at first might be and were so. Still the film is very far from the important social commentary and global subject matters of Ruggero Deodato's masterpiece Cannibal Holocaust (1979).
Cinematography by the director himself is nothing special and tries to be "inventive" during the love scenes as camera twists and flies over the two pieces of flesh that make love to each other. Of course it is nice to see something unconventional in the camerawork but still they don't manage to convince in this film too much and seem to be just gratuitous. The scenes at the jungle vary from bright daylight to dark but I think it is because the trees and vegetation don't allow the sunlight to shine to the ground, so it cannot be considered as a mistake by the film crew by shooting other bits at daytime and other at night and then editing them into one scene as is the case sometimes with these films!
Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals is a pretty noteworthy piece of its genre and in the filmography of its maker as it is so clear what kind of a man D'Amato was in the field of cinema. As he has told himself, "I'm a businessman, and not an artist" and that comes perfectly clear by watching his films that rarely are anything more than just cash ins and money makers. 6/10