Saturday, September 9, 2023

Savana violenza carnale (1979)

... aka: Dschungelinferno (Jungle Inferno)
... aka: Hell in the Jungle
... aka: Infierno en la selva
... aka: Remolino sangriento (Bloody Whirlwind)
... aka: Savanna: Carnal Violence

Directed by:
Roberto (Bianchi) Montero
Jorge Gaitán (uncredited)

Based on the scant information you'll find online, this is said to have been made as part of a package deal between Italian (Sirius Cinematográfica S.R.I.), Spanish (Amanecer Films) and Colombian (Acemar División Cinematográfica) production companies, with a second junglesploitation feature titled Remolino sangriento ("Bloody Whirlwind") filmed in Colombia at the exact same time by the same people and featuring most of the same actors. While Savana violenza carnale and Remolino are listed as separate films on most movie websites, the more I looked into this, the more I became convinced these "two" movies are in fact just one. Savana had an international release under multiple titles, yet I could find no real evidence that an entirely different film called Remolino sangriento was ever released, or was ever even filmed. There's no theatrical poster or newspaper ad for it, no home video release, no print for a film that's surfaced, no trailer, no still photo taken during the production and no screen shots.

As for what caused this confusion, I think it traces back to two specific places. The first is the official website of Colombian filmmaker Jorge Gaitán, who claims he co-directed the film with Italian director Roberto Bianchi Montero. The second is a plot synopsis found on Cinéfagos.net (a site specializing in Colombian films), which includes a slightly different yet overlapping cast and crew and supposedly shows a black and white still from the film. The problem? Their capsule plot synopsis for Remolino is an exact match for the plot of Savana and the still photo they use to represent Remolino is actually taken from a scene in Savana.

With all of the above taken into account, I'm entirely convinced Remolino isn't a separate film at all but instead is the original shooting title and / or Colombian theatrical release title for the film commonly known elsewhere as Infierno en la selva ("Hell in the Jungle) or Savana violenza carnale. Also worth noting that the credits on the Savana and Inferno prints, which were meant for distribution in other Spanish-speaking countries as well as Europe, do not include the Colombian cast, crew or director. Instead, almost all of the names present are those representing the Italian, Mexican and Spanish contingent. That's likely because the unknown Colombian cast and crew wouldn't have been a box office draw outside of their home country, yet the Italian / Mexican / Spanish ones may have been.

Alright, now with that out of the way, on with the show...

While out in the jungle leopard hunting, rancher Carlos Gómez (Giuseppe Scarcella) and his doctor friend Miguel (Armando Silvestre) hear a woman screaming and then stumble upon Damián (Aldo Sambrell) lying on the ground and barely responsive. He's dying from a snake bite, so they decide to amputate his hand and hope for the best. Exploring the camp further, they find a young woman named Rita (Rosa Gloria "Vasquez" / Chagoyán) chained up in a hut. She clues them in that a few days prior she and her mother, Susana (Pepa Rendón), were attacked by Damián and his accomplices (Frank Braña and Camilo Medina), who'd all just escaped from prison. The trio of lowlifes tried to rape both women, but Susana managed to blind one of them by throwing boiling hot water in his face. She and the attacker (now an injured liability) were both killed on the spot. Rita was then tied up, taken into the jungle and shackled up in the hut, where she was subjected to beatings and rapes. Damián has a cache of stolen diamonds, worth millions of pesos, and kills his one remaining companion so he can keep it (as well as Rita) all to himself.

Damián manages to beat his infection and recover, but what should they to do with him now? Carlos proposes taking him back to the city and handing him over to the authorities but Rita, not being able to stomach being around the man who killed her mother and raped her, talks them into leaving him tied up in the shack. Once they get back to Bogota they can have the police come retrieve him. That turns out to be a mistake. Soon after they leave, Damián's equally scummy brother, Lucas ("Gil Roland" / Gilberto Galimberti), and another man (Edgardo Román) show up to free him, though the latter is promptly bitten and killed by another snake.

While the first half of the film delivers the goods for fans of this stuff (sweaty atmosphere, some gore, some nudity, animal attacks, mismatched stock footage of jungle critters, etc.), things slow down quite a bit once this leaves the jungle for civilization. Carlos, who's been something of a loner up until now, and Rita, who has basically lost everything, start developing feelings for one another and he invites her to come live in his home. Meanwhile, Damián and his cohorts are up to their usual criminal schemes, including gunning down a trio of policemen, unloading their precious stones to an American black market dealer (Carlos Barbosa) and trying to sabotage a horse show. Damián, of course, also wants revenge on both Carlos and Rita. The doctor character played by Silvestre, the one who actually performed the amputation, curiously exits the film at the midway point and is never seen again.

When Carlos goes to talk to a police chief, Damián and his men use that as an opportunity to briefly lay siege on his ranch. Cattle is stolen, horses are freed from their stable, buildings are set ablaze, Carlos' assistant Antonio is shot in the head, maid Rosa (Luz Marina Grisales) is whipped, stripped and raped, Rita is kidnapped and they unsuccessfully attempt to blow the entire home up with sticks of dynamite.

Aside from some unconvincing day-for-night photography, this is competently made, but it's also unoriginal, forgettable, saddled with a middling script and not nearly exploitative or nasty enough for its intended audience, nor as sleazy as some as some of the poster art tries to make it appear. It also has a tendency to drag due to a large amount of time-padding travelogue footage, which was included here perhaps to try to entice foreigners to vacation in Colombia. There are lots of long scenic shots, a horse competition, musical numbers, dances, etc. Due to trying to cram all of that in, the climax feels rushed, and despite fist fights, gunfights, a machete duel and a piranha attack, the film fails to build up any real tension or excitement.

The director made numerous softcore films in the 60s and 70s, as well as the giallo The Slasher Is a Sex Maniac (1972) and numerous mondo documentaries and spaghetti westerns. He finished out his career with hard porno flicks in the 80s. His son - Mario Bianchi - had a sleazy movie career that rivaled his father's and included all of the same types of films.

Never released here in the U.S., or in an English friendly version for that matter, this made its way onto home video in Greece, Italy, Spain and West Germany. It was also kind of released in Mexico, though not in its original form. Ample footage from it ended up being used to pad out a stripper / sexploitation film called Las muñecas del King Kong ("The Dolls of King Kong") in 1981. To my knowledge, there's no official / restored DVD release anywhere.

There are two versions of this one floating around online; censored and uncensored, and a run time discrepancy of about 8 to 10 minutes between these. The cut version, which is the one that's been uploaded to Youtube and runs about 85 minutes, is missing some of the violence, a scene where a leopard kills a monkey, almost all of the nudity and both rape scenes. Even the uncut version is pretty tame and comes off like child's play compared to many other films of this type.

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