A film that every hard-core horror nut will no doubt know of, primarily because (a) it helped usher in the briefly popular Italian cannibal cycle of the late 70s/early 80s, and (b) it was directed by Aristide Massaccesi (working here under his most common pseudonym, Joe D'Amato). But is EMANUELLE AND THE LAST CANNIBALS really that notorious...?

In this addition to the BLACK EMANUELLE series (an Italian cash-in on the success of the wildly popular EMMANUELLE films), Laura Gemser stars as the titular character. Here, she is a journalist who we first meet while working undercover at an asylum.

Upon meeting with her editor, she shows him photographs she's taken of a female inmate (Dirce Funari) who'd been found in the Amazon jungle - and who had taken a bite out of a nurse's breast while in care. The editor recognises a tattoo above the lady's bush as being of Aztec origin, and sends Emanuelle to colleague Nelson who confirms that the tattoo is the marking of the cannibalistic Tupinamba tribe. "They're completely extinct now", he insists.

Still, Emanuelle's editor senses a great story here. He points her in the direction of "eminent anthropologist" and history museum director Mark (Gabriele Tinti), who he hopes will join her on a trip to the Amazon in search of evidence of "the last cannibals".

Mark is initially sceptical but eventually agrees to join Emanuelle on her expedition into the jungle, if only because he can't believe the Tupinamba tribe still thrives. And so, the pair have sex, Emanuelle drops by her regular boyfriend the following morning to tell him she's off to the Amazonia for a month (finding time to bonk him near a river), returns to Mark and fucks him some more, and then they're good to go.

Once on Amazonian soil, they shack up with Mark's old colleague Wilkes (Geoffrey Copleston), and fuck some more prior to poaching his wife Isabelle (Monica Zanchi) as their guide and taking into the jungle the following morning. It's there that they bump into married couple Donald (Donald O'Brien) and Maggie (Nieves Navarro).

Setting up camp with this hunting couple (ah, but WHAT are they hunting ...?) - which, naturally, allows for more scenes of masturbation and fucking - our protagonists have it easy for a short while. But, of course, the cannibals are not far away...

There's no point being coy about it: the first half of this film is pretty sluggish fare. Yes, Gemser was something of a hottie in her prime (though a tad under-nourished for my liking), but the softcore fumblings come with such regularity during this film's first 50 minutes that the plot really does drag as a result. And let's face it, Tinti was a leathery middle-aged guy even in 1977: aside from a bit of tame lesbianism, there's precious little to constitute genuine erotica here. Although, in fairness, where else are you going to see two attractive women scrub each other's naked torsos down in a lake, while a chimpanzee comes along, steals a cigarette from their luggage and proceeds to smoke it?! Such random, unexplained madness clues you in on how far "out there" this film can at times be.

The travelogue scenery isn't particularly well-shot, and the plot is distinctly by-the-numbers. There's certainly no indication that Massaccesi was interested in his storyline, such is his workmanlike direction. This latter point is peculiar, however, as the director actually co-wrote the screenplay with Romano Scandariato!

Thankfully, the final half of the film is wonderfully trashy on every level. The violence starts to come in quick bursts, and is often unexpectedly gory. The film is uncut here, so you can expect nipple-slicing, castration, decapitation and gut-munching along the way. Gratuitous nudity continues, of course, but any plays for eroticism are banished in favour of good-old exploitation. How about a spot of gang rape, for example?

In fact, I'd forgotten just how politically incorrect - nay, outrageous - EMANUELLE AND THE LAST CANNIBALS is. It's seriously grisly stuff in its final 30 minutes, and doesn't care how racist or sexist the crazed action may come across as. Far from being offensive though, this relic from a time when they could make films as demented, as nasty as this, really does feel oddly historic now. Case in point: you watch Eli Roth's THE GREEN INFERNO and, while it has a greater budget and more convincing gore, it never feels as feral, as raw or as "wrong" as what you're seeing here. And in exploitation cinema terms, that's entertainment.

For those who require a sense of conscience, there is at least a (laughable) attempt at pacifying the PC brigade right at the end of the film, when one character makes a short speech which touches on issues of race, slavery and such - to which another sagely replies "It's the price of civilisation" ...

You have to hand it to 88 Films, they are bringing some fantastic cult titles to UK blu-ray of late. Representing number 13 of their consistently surprising Italian Collection, EMANUELLE AND THE LAST CANNIBALS hits these shores, not only remastered in HD, but fully uncensored for the time (previous BBFC cuts of almost two minutes have now been waived). The feature running time is 91 minutes and 56 seconds.

Presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the picture is naturally enhanced for 16x9 televisions. Forming a respectably sized MPEG4-AVC file on a BD-25 disc, EMANUELLE is given the benefit of full 1080p resolution and the improvements over previous domestic releases is quickly apparent.

Colours are much more pronounced, while the detail in some exterior scenes is revelatory. Skin tones remain natural throughout as does the light layer of grain which subtly coats an otherwise impressively clean print. Depth and texture are strong too, further adding to this mighty fine proposition. There is inherent softness throughout, but long-term fans of the film will know to expect that: it's always gone with the territory.

LPCM 2.0 audio comes in options of English dubbed and - pleasingly - the original Italian track. The former is reliable enough, while the latter has a slightly more spacious sound. The Italian track also comes with defaulted English subtitles, which are well-written and easy to read at all times.

As with all of the Italian Collection titles, the disc opens to a static main menu page. From there, a pop-up scene selection menu allows access to the movie via 8 chapters.

Bonus features are somewhat limited, which is hardly surprising given that most of the principal participants are long-since dead. We do however get original Italian opening and closing credits sequences, plus a spoilerific 2-minute theatrical trailer. There are also trailers for a handful of other titles from the 88 Films roster: CHILDREN OF THE CORN; DON'T GO IN THE WOODS ... ALONE; HOLLYWOOD CHAINSAW HOOKERS; LIVE LIKE A COP, DIE LIKE A MAN; MOTHER'S DAY; SLAUGHTERHOUSE; TRANCERS; SPLATTER UNIVERSITY.

This release also comes with a handsome "art card" insert, and reversible cover artwork.

EMANUELLE AND THE LAST CANNIBALS is a fantastic slice of trashy adventure-horror from an age that simply doesn't exist anymore. Me? I love it. And, thanks to 88 Films, we can now watch it uncut in HD!

Review By Stuart Willis

Released by 88 Films
Region B
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review