1985 - 90m.
A few years after his masterpiece, Cannibal Holocaust, director Ruggero Deodato made a return to the jungle setting that he will forever be remembered for. Rather than focusing on the cultural habits of flesheating tribes as has been done previously, this movie takes on a more campy feel that combines b-movie action, gore, Jim Jones, and drug dealers. Although this is a much different movie than Cannibal Holocaust or Jungle Holocaust, it has plenty of 80's b-movie ingredients and features a cast that works well together with the material that must of had many of them wondering what they got themselves into. Inexplicably, one of the stars of this is Willie Aames who took this role after his run on "Eight is Enough" and shortly into co-starring on "Charles in Charge". He is one of the last people you would expect in an Italian gorefest and seems particularly out of place with his Mickey Mouse shirt prominently displayed throughout the picture.
Lisa Blount (Prince of Darkness) and Leonard Mann (Night School) star as a reporter and her cameraman who head into the jungle in an attempt to find a cult leader (Richard Lynch) who has ties to the drug trade and Jonestown. They are also on the lookout for their boss' son (Aames) who has gone missing. Shortly after arrival, they realize that they are being tracked by a group of natives led by Michael Berryman who appear out of nowhere and dispatch their opponents with a variety of methods from blowdarts to stabbing to good old decapitation. They also have an affinity for some more gruesome techniques such as a moment when a character is drawn and quartered in great detail by two trees that is in heavy contention for the nastiest gore gag in a jungle movie. Aames uses the arrival of these newcomers to escape from the drug dealers who are holding him prisoner along with his friend Ana (Valentina Forte - who takes a brief shower). With the help of a satellite feed to the U.S., many of these exploits are transmitted to America where Aames' father (Richard Bright) organises a search part to get them out.
After watching the uncut version for this review, I realized what I was missing all these years. I had previously only seen an R-rated version on a crappy old VHS tape that I owned and it was quite a difference seeing the version that was produced for some foreign markets. What I used to think was a mediocre jungle action flick is now up there with some of the more infamous Eurogore titles from the heyday of sleaze and slaughter. This flick has everything that you could want from a jungle action flick including crocodiles, snakes, beautiful scenery, topless natives, and a steady stream of splatter. Although there are some nastier entries in the genre, this one certainly does not disappoint as far as entertainment value goes. My only complaint is that although Richard Lynch hams it up as usual as the lead villain, I would have been happier with more screentime from John Steiner (Caligula) as a sleazy drug dealer and Gabriele Tinti (from many Laura Gemser-era Emanuelle movies) as his equally sleazy cohort.
Deodato was a huge name in the golden era of grindhouse movies with not a lot of pictures to his credit. He does not have the filmography of Joe D'Amato, Jess Franco, or Bruno Mattei but the half dozen or so films that he is most known for are all great representations of exploitation cinema with this movie being no exception. I still can't get over the fact that Willie Aames of all people has almost top billing and it is also an interesting choice for Lisa Blount who was in An Officer and a Gentleman a few years prior. Most of the rest of the cast make sense with Michael Berryman in particular fitting right in with the mayhem. Also look for Eriq La Salle ("E.R.") as a pimp, Barbara Magnolfi (Suspiria) as a smuggler who is found stabbed and naked, Richard Bright (Vigilante) as Aames' dad, and Karen Black. An interesting piece of trivia is that Wes Craven was originally supposed to take on this project and Deodato took over after Craven backed out. This may just be a Hollywood urban legend but it would explain the presence of Berryman and the largely American cast. (Josh Pasnak, 6/16/13)
Directed By: Ruggero Deodato.
Written By: Cesare Frugoni, Dardano Sacchetti.
Starring: Lisa Blount, Leonard Mann, Willie Aames, Richard Lynch.
aka: Straight to Hell.