Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals
By: Joe Lewis on August 16, 2007  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Shriek Show (USA). All Regions, NTSC. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 2.0. 93 minutes
The Movie
Director: Joe D'Amato
Starring: Laura Gemser, Gabriele Tinte, Nieves Navarro
Screenplay: Joe D'Amato, Romano Scandariato
Music: Nico Fidenco 0Country Italy
Year: 1977
AKA: Emanuelle e gli ultimi cannibali
The Emmanuelle phenomenon, as it is sometimes referred to, began in 1974 when Just Jaeckin directed the film Emmanuelle. It was an X-rated masterpiece, and, alongside Deep Throat and Debbie Does Dallas, was held in the somewhat dubious 'smut classic' category. The film was incredibly successful – so much so, in fact, that the Italo-sleaze merchants caught on. Just one year later, Black Emanuelle (a difference in spelling was used in order to prevent possible lawsuits) was released, with Laura Gemser, an Indonesian model, in the title role. Gemser's Emanuelle was an investigative journalist, always looking for the next scoop and frequently using her, er, assets to get the best story possible. Emanuelle became more successful than Emmanuelle, and Black Emanuelle spawned at least eight sequels.

Enter Joe D'Amato, aka Aristide Massaccesi. Having previously directed a number of Italian gialli, D'Amato helmed Emanuelle in Bangkok in 1976, putting his own distinctive flair on the franchise. It was then that Emanuelle shifted from softcore romp to something increasingly eccentric and, eventually, outright perverse. The thing with a D'Amato film is that you never quite know what you get when you sit down to watch one, and Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals is perfect testament to this. Part erotic romance, part jungle adventure and part cannibal gore film, Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals is sure to keep the Italo-exploitation fan happy for its duration.

Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals begins in a New York hospital, where a nurse is gruesomely attacked by a woman who has a tattoo exclusive to a lost Amazonian cannibal tribe. Emanuelle thinks it's a perfect chance for an exclusive scoop and, after consulting with her editor, she and anthropologist Mark Lester (Gabriele Tinti) set off for the jungles of South America. There, she and Lester meet up with a sleazy explorer and his even-sleazier wife. They set up camp, but before long find themselves stuck in the proverbial creek with a tribe of hungry cannibals on their tail.

D'Amato made his niche in the horror/porn genres with his zombie films Erotic Nights of the Living Dead and Porno Holocaust; and his Emanuelle films, Emanuelle in America. Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals is by far the least hardcore of these films and, while it does skirt the line occasionally, we remain firmly in softcore territory. Regardless of whether the film itself appeals to you, there's no denying that Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals is very audacious, albeit a rip-off on every level – the cannibal boom in Italian cinema was ever-growing, and the Emanuelle franchise was in full swing, so why not capitalise? The result? A very good, though flawed, exploitation picture. D'Amato could have easily pulled back with the sexual element – for a film with the word 'cannibal' in its title, there are precious few eviscerations and human roastings, and we only really get to the gristle in the last twenty minutes. The blend of sex-and-violence doesn't sit as well as D'Amato's most notable entry in the genre, Emanuelle in America, which blends the gore film and sexploitation with excellent results. The acting is poor, but this may also be down to genuinely atrocious dubbing. In saying that, there's a lot to like here, and fans of D'Amato or Italian exploitation in general should enjoy what Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals has to offer, including the beautiful, and frequently unclothed, Laura Gemser. Nico Fidenco, a Black Emanuelle regular, does the music for this film, putting together some mellow porn Muzak/pop tracks typical to the series.

D'Amato followed Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals with some of his best work, including Beyond the Darkness and Anthropophagus. With the Italo-exploitation well gradually drying up, D'Amato began to direct hardcore porn films, and was extremely prolific in his output. D'Amato directed almost two hundred films, most of them porn, before dying of a heart attack in 1999, aged 62. His films, particularly his horror pictures and entries to the Emanuelle genre have become cult classics, and the name Joe D'Amato has long been associated with wild, wacky and exceedingly weird exploitation films.
Presented in a 1:85:1 aspect ratio, Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals looks its age, disappointing when you consider Shriek Show are meant to be one of the leading exploitation DVD distributors. The colours are poor and the picture is grainy.
The English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono is of a bit higher quality than the picture, but it's still pretty poor.
Extra Features
Piss weak. The best we get are trailers for Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals, Violence in a Women's Prison and Lizard in a Woman's Skin, as well as an image gallery. Cheers, Shriek Show.
The Verdict
Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals is a great beer-and-pizza Italo-exploitation film, though its content pales in comparison to the perverse hijinks of its predecessor Emanuelle in America. Whether or not this is a good thing is entirely dependent on the strength of your stomach, and the height of your morals. It's a shame that Shriek Show didn't extend the film the respect it deserves on DVD format. When you consider the excellent transfer of Emanuelle in America by Blue Underground, a number of the other Black Emanuelle films by Severin, and even D'Amato's other films by Shriek Show themselves, a poor job was done here. It would be unfair to dock points off Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals for a sub-par release, especially considering the availability of superior discs from online retailers such as Xploited. Bad soft porn and bad graphic violence? Welcome to the world of Joe D'Amato and, as the tagline of a classic film once suggested, leave your inhibitions at the door.
Movie Score
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