Slave of the Cannibal God

Director: Sergio Martino

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

It's kind of alarming how awful a film could be & Ursula Andress nevertheless agree to be in it. She wasn't a terrible actress by any means, especially not by exploitation & action film standards, but she seemed nevertheless typed for her physical attributes, i.e., boob size, which just didn't require roles to be any good. But in a film like She (1965) she was so great for exhibiting said attributes that you'd think she wouldn never thereafter need to resort to something as ridiculous as Slave of the Cannibal God (La Montagna del dio cannibale, 1978).

Known also as Primitive Desires, Prisoner of the Cannibal God, & The Mountain of the Cannibal God, it's not like anyone could consider watching it believing it would be any good. It screams exploitation from the titles onward, & has to be judged on that basis.

Slave of the Cannibal GodThat curious subgenre of Italian horror, cannibal movies, tend to be the lowest of the low in complete crappiness, & unless you've seen several of those, you won't be able to tell how much better this is than the usual fare. Best of the worst isn't saying much, but it's something.

Much of it is way too boring but it does have a seriously demented climax, horrific more for its racism than for any actual horror, but undeniably an intriguing grotesque despite its tediousness & ineptitude.

With all the river-rafting & jungle tramping it's like the nickle version of Conrad's Heart of Darkness, & one begins to wonder if the lost husband Henry shouldn't've been named Kurtz Junior. And are there really yummy crabs to be found in mountain waterfalls of South America?

Susan (Andress) & her brother Arthur (Antonio Marsino) together with Dr. Edward Foster (Stacy Keach being not at all doctorly) set out on an expedition into the dark interior of New Guinea (but really shot in Sri Lanka) in search of Susan's lost husband. In reality none of them, not even Susan, care if they find her hubby. They know he had found a uranium mine, & they want to get rich.

The journey into the jungle is boring as all hell. Apart from pushing & shoving & some stock footage of wildlife, & one fairly gross crocodile attack, little of consequence happens. The most "important" scene is when aboriginal peoples kill & eat an iguana. This is portrayed as though it's the most disgusting horrific thing any repulsively primitive people could do, though in reality it was no different than a bunch of honkies at Ernie's Steakhouse eating theirs rare.

Only racism permits the mere act of eating to be construed as horrific if aborigines are doing it, though if the same pictorial & audio attitude were taken for a documentary about Ernie's Steakhouse, that might be funny.

Susan would've been offed early in the story if not for a character who apears from out of nowhere to save her fabulous ass, one Manolo (Claudio Cassineli) who just happened to be in the neighborhood, for what reason seems to have been deleted from the script.

After his inexplicable appearance in the story, the white characters, except for Susan, are knocked down a peg in importance, & it won't be too long before they're dead, including even Stacy Keach who I had mistaken for one of the stars rather than yet another doomed side-character. But the whites still outlast their native hirelings, the last of whom is graphically beheaded, that being the sort of thing that has to pass for the film's good moments.

A romance between Claudio & Susan seems inapropos only because she turns out to be such a greedy bitch, but can't deny that for a woman in her forties, she's a hotty, so who needs her to be a good person besides.

When they find the uranium mine, they're soon captured by a tribe of aborigines. These people like to paint their bodies with blood & mud & wear hideous plaster of paris masks. Some s/m stuff is done with Susan & Manolo, a cannibal feast devoured, & a white dwarf pokes Manolo with what looks like the head of a spear.

Everyone is filthy dirty except Ursula, who manages to be severely manhandled by the mud-coated aborigines without herself getting dirty. She is stripped down & dressed up in a sea-shell outfit that looks pretty spiffy, then tied up for a little bondage & discipline.

Climactic fights, feasts, & rituals are all stupid as hell, but if one can look beyond the casual cinematic racism of assuming aboriginal peoples are ideal for evoking horror, the fact is, the mud-clad cannibal tribe & the alabastar Ursula drapped in chains of cowries provides the camera with ample opportunity for widescreen compositions, sometimes reminiscent of Frank Frazetta sword & sorcery illustrations of well endowed women amidst barbarians.

The missing hubby, by the by, turns out (like Kurtz of Heart of Darkness) to be something of a local god to the cannibals, but unlike Kurtz he's dead & they worship him as a fetid corpse, & rub bits of his greasy rotten flesh on their faces in religious fervor. If Catholic parallels leap to mind, it's an Italian film after all, & certainly has nothing authentic to do with aboriginal races.

The corpse-god has a geiger counter in its possession, which clicks constantly, & has been mistaken by the ignorant natives for an immortally beating heart. Since Susan showed up with another of these metal hearts, she's obviously a goddess, so when they dress her nice & tie her up, it's so they can worship her once she's a corpse.

Either the director didn't know what to do with this setting or he understood that the setting was enough, as it the camera lingers on & pans amidst the tableau, & Ursula keeps posing quite seriously like a model as though unaware of any element of kitsch, her straightfaced approach to the role adding to the pulp-illustration strength. If you look closely at these scenes you might see an incident of pig-fucking, but it's all treated like a "day in the life" of muddy cannibals, oddly matter-of-fact.

The real purpose of the film is to photograph Ursula Andress partially naked, tied up, forced to eat human flesh, pawed & threatened by cannibals. When enough of that's been dished up, she & the good guy escape for a leisurely return home.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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