There were women beautiful women in the films during the 60s and 70s. However, there was only one Ursula Andress. Of course, to men who lived in this time (i.e. not me), she is affectionately-known as 'Ursula Undress.' You can't tell me that you don't immediately think of her exiting the water and approaching James Bond in Dr. No when you hear that name. In addition, today's movie is by a lesser-known Italian director known as Sergio Martino, the man who brought us All the Colors of the Dark, Big Alligator River (future review) and Island of the Fishmen (also a future review). He is also the man responsible for one of the longest titles in the history of cinema: Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have The Key. Is it good? Eh, not really. While the man never became a big name in America, he did make some interesting genre films that need to be explored. Today's film just so happens to be one of those. It is...
One quick note: This film has also been released as Mountain of the Cannibal God. It is the same film. There are also at least two cuts out there: theatrical (found in most movie bundles) and uncut (found on recent DVD re-release).
The story is a simple one: a woman (Andress) and her brother hire a rugged man (Stacy Keach) to take them out to find her explorer husband. He was last seen around the Ra Ra Me Mountain, which is an area inhabited by some dangerous cannibals. The government does not want people going there- cannibal murders do hurt tourism, after all- which makes the trip all the more complicated. Fortunately, the man is up for the job, even if our other visitors are not exactly naturalists. This is where the movie goes into full 'cliche' mode. We get the people riding in a raft, seeing snakes and all sorts of nature footage. Like most of these films, you get scenes of animals being killed on-screen, although it is tame by comparison to films like Cannibal Holocaust. Mind you, this is only in the uncut version though. The group also runs into another explorer named Manola, who is staying at a mission camp. Fortunately, the movie really picks up at this point and introduces some interesting ideas.
By way of dream flashbacks (Writing Cliche #638), we learn that the group's guide has an ulterior motive for going to the mountain. As we learn later, he is not alone in this though. A few years earlier, he had been captured by the villagers there, but managed to escape with his life. His goal now: find out if they are still alive and take them out! After all of the build-up, our heroes are captured by said cannibals and taken to their lair for dinner. It is there that our heroes discover the skeleton of Andress' husband, who is worshiped as a God for some strange reasons. You see, the Geiger counter he had on him is beeping, which makes the natives think that his heart is still beating somehow. Why does he have a Geiger counter, you ask? It is quite simple, really. The whole thing about looking for her husband was really just a cover story. The pair are actually after some uranium that is kept inside the mountain. That's slightly different than what you told him.
This part of the movie that you are most going to remember. The group is surrounded by natives who partake in much debauchery. One of them goes so far as to hump a nearby pig! You've got to admit- you don't see that in American cinema! Meanwhile, we get the most famous and worthwhile scene: Ursula Andress being rubbed down with gold paint by two female villagers. By the way, this scene is also only available in the Unrated cut. I bet I know which one you'll want to watch now. This whole thing gets one of the cannibals all hot and bothered & he dares to touch the woman. Bad idea, buddy! His comrades grab him and physically-emasculate him. Thanks, movie, I needed to see that special effect. Rather than being a human sacrifice, the villagers opt to turn Andress into their new goddess. Sucks to be everyone else, huh? In spite of this, Keach and Andress manage to escape by diving into the river and floating away. Of course, they lost their friends and achieved nothing. The End.
The movie is good, but definitely rife with cliches. What you have to understand is that this sub-genre was not thriving for decades like the Western or the Kung-Fu film. Most of these movies were made in the mid-1970s to early 1980s. So, in less than 10 years, most of these cliches came out you in machine gun like succession. This is not something that only happened with the Cannibal/Jungle Peril genre, but it is pretty shameless. That said, this movie does toss a few twists into the story to disguise this fact pretty well. Unfortunately, it also contains that graphic animal footage that makes people on the fence shy away and has made video distribution a little tricky. In his defense, Martino claims that this was added in later at the behest of his producers, but that is simply conjecture. As far as films go, this is pretty good, given the handicaps that it has. Of course, it is not the pinnacle of this genre. You have to wait for that one a little longer.
*Up next, the Eighties brings us the pinnacle of Horror cinema. Oh wait- wrong movie. This is actually a Phantom of the Opera film with Pauly Shore. Stay tuned...