Thursday, August 16, 2012
Benvenuti nella Giungla
Mondo Cannibale (Cannibals) (1980) is Jess Franco's foray into the then-popular cannibal genre (decidedly marked by Ruggero Deodato's Cannibal Holocaust (1980)). This production was "announced as Rio Salvaje to be produced by Magna Films/Madrid;" but, it was French film company, Eurociné, who overtook the production (with Daniel Lasœur serving as production manager). (1) Italian actors Al Cliver (Pier Luigi Conti) and Sabrina Siani were cast as the leads. Humorously, Franco admits to seeing Deodato's seminal film and "then one more" before having his fill of the cannibal genre (2), and despite his ambivalence towards the genre, I cannot fathom Franco ever turning down an opportunity to make a film.
Mondo Cannibale lacks the realism and sadism so characteristic of the genre. Hence, it completely misses the mark with the genre’s fans. The film was shot in Alicante (3) in a beautiful palm forest, a locale more suitable for young lovers to stroll under the moonlight than for human-flesh feasting. Turtles, if they frequent the area, were left in peace. Franco cast the local gypsies as the cannibal tribe, and frequent collaborator Antonio Mayans (aka Robert Foster) was cast as the tribal leader.(5) Al Cliver plays Jeremy Taylor, and with his wife and young daughter they take a foray into the jungle for an expedition. Shit goes from bad to worse when the cannibals attack. Taylor’s wife is killed; Taylor is tortured and maimed; and his young daughter goes missing, presumed dead. Cliver’s Taylor wakes up in a hospital in New York with amnesia. Lina Romay appears as a nurse in the asylum (Romay as a non-blonde Candy Coster). She becomes attached to Taylor and helps him recuperate. He regains his memory and is determined to return to the jungle to find his daughter...
DVD a few years ago. Its attraction is primarily for fans of Jess Franco. Cannibal fans can get their fill and then some with Deodato’s masterful film. Despite the fact that she has little dialogue and delivers a sub-par performance, one can see Sabrina Siani’s charisma. She’s incredibly sexy and scantily-clad throughout the picture. Antonio Mayans is surprisingly animated in his role, but he is always a compelling actor to watch. Al Cliver gives a familiar performance: he never stretches the heights of his acting ability but manages to deliver again, an emotional and thoughtful performance. Lina Romay’s role is very straightforward and offers little in the way of character. She should be given more but c’est la vie. I’ll see anything that Franco makes and have seen well over a hundred of his films. Mondo Cannibale gets a rare revisit from me.
2. Video interview “Franco Holocaust.” Cannibals DVD. Blue Underground. November 13, 2007.