Don't be fooled by the brilliantly lurid title of this film, which suggests images of unparallelled violence to the epidermis of a living person: no-one in Skin 'Em Alive is actually skinned alive. A couple of people are impaled on spears, loads are shot or blown up, and one gets his head banged against a wall, but there is absolutely no graphic flaying of the human body's largest organ whatsoever. A shame really, since this film sorely needs something really sensational (ie., some spectacularly graphic gore) in it order to make it worthwhile viewing for fans of Italian exploitation.
Bryan Rostron plays down-on-his-luck lothario Rudy, who decides to leave the country when he gets into trouble with some local hoods. After scrounging some cash from a buxom, blonde bimbo girlfriend, he hops on a plane for Africa, where he meets up with his half-brother Franz, the leader of a team of bloodthirsty mercenaries who are fighting a war against rebel natives. Rudy hopes to get his hands on some of the diamonds that Franz is rumoured to have sewn into the belt of his trousers, however his plans are scuppered when his half-brother is captured by the rebels. In desperation, Rudy joins the other mercenaries on a daring rescue mission...
Whilst the plot of the film isn't all that bad, having many of the elements that go to make a great exploitative adventure (thoroughly unlikeable characters totally devoid of morals, a jungle setting, savage natives, funky soundtrack), the dreary direction from Mario Siciliano means that the film never fulfils its potential. There is quite a lot of (non explicit) violence and rape (the mercs take advantage of any native women they happen upon), but Siciliano holds back on the genuine nastiness and sheer sleaziness that directors such as Ruggero Deodato, Umberto Lenzi, Joe D'amato or Bruno Mattei would have given the project (now those guys would have made sure that at least one person had been skinned alive!).
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