Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Nella terra dei cannibali (2003)

... aka: Cannibal Ferox 3
... aka: Cannibal Ferox 3: Land of Death
... aka: Cannibal Holocaust 3: Cannibal vs. Commando
... aka: Cannibal of Death
... aka: Horror Cannibal 1
... aka: Land of Death

Directed by:
"Martin Miller" (Bruno Mattei)

What can one really say about Bruno Mattei? He churned out dozens of schlock horror and exploitation titles from the 70s well into the new millennium, showing very little actual talent along the way. Most of Mattei's films have this cheap, seedy quality to them that some (well, a few) seem to like but most find dreary and insufferably boring. One has to give the guy a little credit though for hanging in there and trying to adapt to the changing times. While many of his contemporaries threw in the towel when home video began to evolve in the late 80s and the Italian film industry subsequently started to dry up, Mattei kept trucking along undaunted, right up until his death in 2007. Utilizing digital video when it became widely available, Mattei traveled to the Philippines and began churning out low budget d-t-v genre flicks for the La Perla Nera production company. Though English-dubbed, these films don't appear to be well-distributed here in America, but they have made the rounds in other countries, perhaps doing their best business in Japan. I'd assume these things made money somewhere or else there wouldn't be so many of them.

Land of Death was released in some countries as Cannibal Holocaust 3: Cannibal vs. Commando. Mattei's previous cannibal flick for the same company was CANNIBAL WORLD, which was released in some quarters as Cannibal Holocaust: The Beginning, which one could assume is the part 2. Neither of Mattei's films are true or official sequels, but both lift liberally from the original Holocaust. And by lift liberally, I mean plagiarize. Both movies not only rip off their plots but also frequently even rip off entire scenes, shot-for-shot, from Ruggero Deodato's famous shocker. Mattei doesn't quite stop there though. He also swipes from many other films in this subgenre as well as many films outside the subgenre, including ALIENS (1986) and PREDATOR (1987). To further complicate matters, Land of Death was also released some places as Cannibal ferox 3. That's right, Cannibal ferox 3. So now it can actually be seen as a belated follow-up to two entirely different cannibal films!

If you've seen one of these things before, this plot is certainly nothing new. An expedition into the jungles of Brazil doesn't return, so a group of military men (and one woman) show up in the area looking for them. Troops are led by Lt. Lou Wilson (Lou Randall), a muscular, buzz-cut meat head who comes off like a slightly better-looking version of Vin Diesel (and like Diesel, he cannot act his way out of a wet paper sack). There's also Vasquez (Ydalia Suarez), a tough Hispanic chick cloned from the character of the same name from Aliens, Sgt. Cameron (Silvio Jimenez), who's, uh, black, and a couple of other white guys; Kruger (Santi Larrauri) and Smith (Kenny Krall), who have no character and are basically around to die. The five get in touch with unshaven, corn-cob-pipe-smoking white local Romero (Claudio Morales), who's hired to guide them through a jungle "so God damn hot you'll be drinking your own piss." Also going along are local tracker Isaias (Brando Jr.), who knows the customs and languages of some of the tribes, and a captive cannibal man (Brad Santana), who's walked around on a leash.

The seven set forth on their quest to find out what became of the missing expedition and try to avoid a particularly savage tribe called the Epishaw, or "People of the Lake," while they're doing it. The scenes that follow are almost all copied directly from Holocaust. The adulteress punishment scene, the smoking out of a tree scene, a switchblade used to pacify the natives scene, the burning of the village scene, the dinner with natives (fermented monkey brain stew... mmm!), etc. etc. etc. None of the re-filmed bits are as effective as what you can see in the original film. Finally steering us away from all that is a "blonde goddess" subplot. This involves the sole survivor of the previous expedition, a large-breasted woman (Cindy Matic), whose life is spared simply because, well, she's blonde. The natives keep her drugged and all the tribes in the area have elevated her to a "Love Goddess." The army finally gets their hands on her and try to make it back in time to catch their helicopter, while the tribes comes at them with blowguns and curare-dipped arrows, spears and knives.

Dialogue, dubbing and acting are all beyond awful, the whole thing looks cheap and I doubt there's a single scene in here that wasn't stolen from some place else, but this does have a little merit and it's slightly better than Cannibal World at least. It's fast-paced, some of the Philippines locations are nice, there's a lot of blood and gore (gut munching, brains blown out, dismemberment...), a bit of nudity and tons of gunfights and brainless action. Mattei was also able to get away with killing two animals onscreen; a pig and a snake. Not that I condone that. I actually hate it. But it is interesting the filmmakers were able to get away with this in 2003 with certain laws in place.

DVDs were released in Japan, France, Italy and Russia. An all regions English version is available through the company Jef Films.


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