White Slave (1985)
User ReviewsAdd a Review
The film makes sure to include a little bit from all of the major food groups of this horror subgenre: gore, hazardous jungle treks, badly graded stock footage of wildlife, animals stupidly killing each other for real, tribal warfare, cruel and probably entirely fictitious tribal customs and punishments meted out left, right and centre, and plenty of nudity. Interestingly, there's no cannibalism at all. While the first third of the film really seems to be going through the motions with these things, there's a whole bunch of plot from then onwards and dare I say a good degree of human warmth. Once Catherine is fully ensconced in the tribe, she deals with character rivalries, tribal customs and conflicting loyalties and emotions. There's some honour and romance at stake, plus a minor mystery to be dealt with and revenge to be had. White Slave mobilises from being an extremely by-the-numbers exploitation film to one with an involving story and human qualities you can get into. You still have to put up with one of the silliest court trials in the world (it's used as a framing device), but overall, I found this film to be a pleasant surprise.
- The Gore: If you're a fan of the red stuff, Amazonia delivers. While the total number of scenes of gratuitous gore may be fewer than in some other films of this type, the gore is very well done and, for the most part, reasonably realistic. I was especially impressed with a scene depicting a human head being cut off. There are scenes in this movie that are definitely not for the squeamish.
- Plot Ideas: It may not be completely original, but I liked the idea of the kidnapped young girl living with and growing in the Headhunter society. It presents the opportunities for some interesting set-pieces.
What Doesn't Work:
- It's Not Really a Cannibal Film: Regardless of how it was marketed, Amazonia isn't really a cannibal movie. The film's only real cannibals are dispatched within five minutes of making their appearance.
- The Acting: Elvire Audray as Catherine Miles is positively wretched. Everything she does and says further reinforces the notion that she's a second rate actress. The rest of the acting is no better. One look at the courtroom scenes should be enough to demonstrate to anyone just how bad the acting is.
- A Sappy Love Story: If I sit down to watch a trashy, Euro-cannibal film, I want a trashy, Euro-cannibal film. Unfortunately, Amazonia is full of too many melodramatic, sappy moments. And that ending is straight out of a Lifetime movie. It's beyond ridiculous.
- The Headhunters: I hate to compare any film of this genre with Cannibal Holocaust, but it's hard not to. The cannibals in Cannibal Holocaust look like the real deal wild, savage, dirty, and all but alien. In contrast, the natives in Amazonia are too clean. Most look like they've just had a shower, a shave, and a hair cut. And am I seriously supposed to believe that one of these Headhunters knows English (or Italian or whatever language)? That must have been some kind of correspondence class she was taking.
Overall, Amazonia is a weak film when compared with other movies of its ilk. It's neither as good and powerful as Cannibal Holocaust nor is it as silly and fun as something like Massacre in Dinosaur Valley. If you're a fan of this kind of movie you might find something worthwhile, but, overall, it's liable to be a disappointing experience.
Now, 'Amazonia' isn't a bad little flick but it tries to be so much bigger than it actually is. The entire production seems to shout out: 'Look, we're as good as Cannibal Holocaust!!!' The opening sequences, in which the beautiful jungle is shown guided by a great score, is an exact copy of Deodato's film and throughout the whole film, the same documentary style is used. The film could have done without these pretentious aspects. At his best, Amazonia is like a fairly reasonable crossover between Cannibal Holocaust and Umberto Lenzi's 'Deep River Savages' (in which an Englishman spends years among a primitive tribe in New-Guinea). It's not nearly as memorable as the majority of Italian sleaze classics and that's merely due to the atrocious acting of Elvire Audrey. There's some great gore and terrific authentic sleaze to enjoy, though.
overall, quite entertaining.
A young girls parents are killed and decapitated (in a fairly gory scene) and she is taken prisoner by a group of headhunters. They strip her and trade her as a slave, so she spends the rest of the movie running through the jungle naked. Unlike a lot of these kinds of movies it actually does have a plot and it's supposedly 'based on a true story'. Definately worth a rental.
If you use words like "atrocious banal" then you probably will not like this movie.
Catherine Miles (Elvire Audray) is a beautiful 18-year old taken captive by a group of savages after her parents are killed on a river trip. Sold to a member of the tribe for the sum of 'a goose, a water-dog and a turtle', Catherine endures terrible suffering until she is helped by Umukai, a warrior who treats her with a bit of respect. After many months spurning Umukai, believing that he was the one who killed her mum and dad, she discovers that others were in fact responsible. Falling in love with her friendly native hunk, she convinces him to help her take revenge on those really responsible.
Amazonia is pretty close in theme to The Man From Deep River, Umberto Lenzi's classic from 1972, but doesn't quite match that one in terms of quality. However, with a fair amount of cheesy gore (several be-headings, blow-darts in the face, some bloody bullet wounds) and loads of female nudity (courtesy of Audray and the native women, some of whom are pretty foxy), fans of this kind of thing should find just about enough to enjoy in this flick to make it worth a watch.
The story is narrated by Catherine Miles, who is on trial for the double murder of the people responsible for her parents' deaths. She leaves her boarding school and can't wait to visit her parents on a nice trip to their plantation in the Amazon. However, when they're on a boat ride down the Amazon River with her uncle and aunt following behind in a motorboat, her parents are blow darted to death, and Catherine passes out after being hit in the arm with a poison dart. She wakes up to see Umukai standing over her, as he proceeds to remove her parents' heads as trophies. He spares her because of her youth and beauty (trying to keep up with the rest of the corny plot) and meets up with the other warriors, who take her back to the village, some several miles away. Catherine is bought from the chief by an old, "rich" villager, who finds he can't pleasure himself with her because she's a virgin. Basically, she's tormented and deflowered by a wooden dildo, but before she has the misfortune of being raped by an old man, Umukai challenges him to the death for her, and, of course, he wins. The rest of the story is Umukai trying to win Catherine over (as she is now his woman, his property), but Catherine can't because she thinks he killed her parents. But when he tells her the truth of what happened on the boat almost a year ago, she does fall in love with him, and he helps her exact her revenge, which is one of the best scenes in the movie.
This is one example of exploitation at its finest, and while it doesn't have the non-stop sleaze and fun of Massacre in Dinosaur Valley, it's grostesque enough, and exploits some factors, such as nudity, to above what you're normally seeing. Again, it's not soft-porn, but it's unadultered and uncensored. But other than the exploitation factor, there's plenty of things that keeps it from being far from perfect. The biggest problem with this is that it screams to be a blockbuster adventure movie, but frankly, it's not. It tries to copy elements from other, more successful films instead of trying to be all that it is. For instance, it tries to blend genres of the adventure/cannibal movie with a crime/trial drama. But it doesn't make it look like a more sophisticated film; it blows up in its face. The same goes for the non-chronological storyline. It needed to just stay with the basics, keep it simple. You're dealing with a somewhat obscure genre, so by changing the norm, you only risk alienating your film from the limited number of fans of the genre. The Man from the Deep River worked because not only was it a better movie, but it was the first cannibal movie. The reason I enjoyed it enough was that I looked past this farce and saw more than just the cannibal genre in it. Though it is indeed slow moving at times, there's more to it than what meets the eye. First off, it's a mystery movie. There is no other film in the cannibal genre that's a mystery movie. The twist at the end is very clever and unique, and, again, not a lot of these fils have any plot twists (or ones well executed). However, some of these twists bring question into the plot. For instance, one twist is that Umakai falls in love with the modern outsider. Why? Because of her beauty? That's what we're led to believe. The only point is to build the plot around it. Where's the character development? It only comes from Catherine, while it should come from both.
So while it's definitely not perfect, it has enough substance to not only make it bearable, but rather enjoyable. As usual, some mysogyny is present, but like the violence, it's very toned down. Like almost all exploitation movies (save a select few), this isn't exactly what you would call a "good" movie, and, most likely, only B-movie fans will enjoy it. However, even if cannibals and exploitation isn't exactly your forte, there's still enough action in the movie to keep you interested. Not to say it doesn't have problems, which it's chocked full of. The bad acting and dubbing drags it down, and the trial drama aspect could be wiped out completely. The biggest problem to me is the makeup and wardrobe, as the "primitive" tribe looks to neat and clean. Other than that, there's no plot holes, and flows easily enough. So most of the problems are merely superficial. It has its own certain "bad movie charm" that makes fans of outrageous cinema smile. Still, it's specially made for cannibal-genre die hards, so for anyone other than that, it's just an interesting obscurity.
Fortunatly the whole central section of the movie is totally different, apart from the obvious facts of being set in the Amazon.
It's actually quite a well written (for the genre) tale of a girl who is dragged into the Amazon and lives with a tried there.
There is a lot of nudity but for the more part it doesn't feel gratuitous but rather just what you would expect.
There is some blood and some sexual situations but mostly not 'too' exploitationary.
On the whole this is a film I think I'd like to watch again, although it's not without it's faults which include the dubbing and some VERY gratuitous animal stock footage.
There are some interesting twists and turns in the movie too which makes a change, and no HUGE leaps of logic plot-wise. It also makes a far better point about western man being the real cannibals, far better than Cannibal Holocaust.
The "cannibal genre", if there is such a thing, is pretty strange. It seems to have only lasted a few years and only in Italian cinema. Two films are widely known ("Cannibal Ferox" and "Cannibal Holocaust") while the imitators are forgotten and hard to find. This is one of those, following some of the same themes -- animal violence, and the idea that white man is more dangerous than the native.
Nobody of note seems to have been involved in this. Director Mario Gariazzo is obscure, maybe known for "Bloody Hands of the Law" with Klaus Kinski, but i doubt it. The DP is Silvano Ippoliti, who had been active since 1949. But aside from a film with Tinto Brass, "Caligula", has anyone seen much of his work?
The lead is played by the otherwise unknown Elvire Audray, a young and nubile blonde who spends the entirety of the film topless - an authentic facet of the movie, of course, and not an excuse to show some naked female flesh. The setting, the native tribe, the music and the style of filming all make for an authentic feel to the movie, ironically only ruined by the intrusion of the badly-acted courtroom sequences which pop up periodically. At least the framework of the movie gives it a structured plot, so that you actually feel that it's going somewhere instead of middling along aimlessly like some of these jungle shockers do. Although pretty, Audray can't act very well, and the cast are generally wooden or ham actors. The only exception is Alvaro Gonzales, whose tribesman Umakai is a genuinely noble and heroic figure thanks to his strong, almost mute performance.
The movie is pretty gory as a whole so it comes as no surprise that it has been cut in its UK release. Nonetheless, bits of gruesomeness remaining that the film has to offer include bloody deaths by blowpipe darts; heads being chopped from corpses (ironically, this is cut when it happens, but left in during a later flashback to the event); real-life animal violence; forced rape; a man having his face eaten off by ants, flies and worms; a man being eaten by a crocodile and the culminating double axe murder with Katherine as the culprit. Rotting severed heads also play a bit part in the film's narrative. There's also one of those lovely grub-eating interludes which Lenzi saw fit to include in his influential CANNIBAL FEROX film. Exploitation fans might get a kick out of this sometimes sleepy expose of jungle life thanks to the atmosphere and scenic setting it offers, but there's no real horror here - only some shoddy gore effects.
The framework of the film is a court trial and it's about as interesting as it sounds. The meat of the story is told in flashback with occasional intercutting of sweaty Hispanic lawyers spouting the most trite legal blather such as "OBJECTION! This is irrelevant!" and then going back into the jungle. Even the anthropology sounds made up.
If you haven't guessed the ending by two minutes after Cathy's parents are killed then you really need to get out more.
I lost track of the number of times I said incredulously shouted "WHAT??" after one scene or another. The prime example: Cathy watches some white guys in a helicopter gun down some natives and turns to her noble savage lover (who she believes chopped off the heads of her parents)and cries out, "HOW CAN MEN BE CAPABLE OF SUCH THINGS?!" Um, chica? Your boyfriend allegedly committed the same act of violence.
Sadly, the film making and acting are at a level that's just slightly above competency so rather than being amusing, it's just dull.
This movie is best summed up by a line from one of the lawyers: "This just more cheap sentimentality."
*1/2 out of 4