Adventure / Drama / Horror / Romance
Adventure / Drama / Horror / Romance
An 18 year old Catherine Miles graduates from her boarding school and takes a trip with her parents to the Amazon. While on a boat ride, her parents are brutally murdered by a local cannibal tribe and she is taken prisoner. In order to survive, she adopts the customs of the tribe with the help of a warrior who has fallen in love with her, all the while planning vengeance for her parents' death. He later helps her to escape, and now free, she goes to find who exactly was behind the death of her parents.
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August 27, 2018 at 11:48 AM
A truckload of sleaze, gore and nudity
This Italian film with once again more alternative titles than actual dialogue is a mid-80's exploitation attempt by enthusiast director Mario Gariazzo, who obviously was deeply impressed by the work of his fellow Italian filmmakers Rugero Deodato and Umberto Lenzi. It's a supposedly true story (yeah
sure) about an 18-year-old girl who visits her parents' plantation in the middle of the Amazon jungle. Shortly after her arrival, her parents are brutally murdered and beheaded during a boat ride. The poor cutie is taken prisoner by a savage and primitive tribe. During two years, she's has to take part in traditional and barbaric rites of this tribe. She's sold to the richest man in town (price = one goat and a chicken), has to work and, eventually, she escapes with the head warrior she has fallen in love with.
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.
A pleasant surprise in this subgenre
White Slave starts off looking like it's going to be a really lame pastiche of Cannibal Holocaust, what with an opening montage of the Amazon set to ho-hum music imitating Riz Ortolani's famous score for that other film. And actually it stays lame for a fair while - but then it gets good! Amazon headhunters ambush the boat of some well-to-do white landowners and their daughter, who's back fresh from studying in London. They remove the heads of the parents and drag the daughter back to their village, where gradually (and after much gnashing of teeth by all concerned) she's absorbed into their tribal lifestyle - which never seems to involve any more headhunting for the rest of the film, but don't dwell on that.
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.
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There are other, much better examples of the genre
I think most fans of cannibal/jungle type films will agree that Cannibal Holocaust is the Granddaddy of the genre. Amazonia: The Catherine Miles Story was originally marketed as a sequel to that film. But, Cannibal Holocaust it ain't. To my surprise, most of the reviews of Amazonia that I've read have been positive. And while I certainly found elements of the film enjoyable in the way that only a good exploitation film can be, there are far too many problems I have with the film for me to consider it much more than average at best.
- 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.