DVD Review: AMAZONIA - THE CATHERINE MILES STORY (1985)

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Review: Amazonia – The Catherine Miles Story / Cert: 18 / Director: Mario Gariazzo / Screenplay: Franco Prosperi / Starring: Will Gonzales, Elvire Audray / Release Date: September 16th

Evolving from the sensationalist “mondo” pseudo-documentaries of the '60s, cannibal movies and jungle horrors positively spewed out of the Italian exploitation industry in the late '70s and early '80s. Amazonia: The Catherine Miles Story (aka White Slave) dates from the tail-end of the wave. 18-year-old Catherine (Audray) returns from boarding school in England to be with her Mum and Dad, wealthy plantation owners who live in the Amazon. Unfortunately, on an excursion by houseboat to an unexplored region of the forest, her parents are murdered with poisoned darts, and Catherine is taken prisoner by a tribe of head-hunters. You just know a grass skirt beckons.

In quick order, the prim Catherine is sold by the chief to one of his tribesmen in exchange for a pig and a turtle. When she tries to escape, she is mistreated and violated with a bamboo dildo. (“Later,” she explains, “I understood that what these savages did to me was not considered to be an act of defilement and torture but rather a religious ceremony and a cause for celebration.” Oh, no biggie then. ) It's all a massive culture shock, but eventually she comes to understand their language and their strange customs. (For instance, when women are menstruating, they have to sleep in a tree.) And then there's Umukai (Gonzales), the best hunter in the tribe. There's no question that he makes a bad first impression by chopping off both of her parents' heads, but he also shows a softer side by lending her some primitive insect repellent, and it doesn't hurt that if you squint he looks a bit like Ashton Kutcher.

Despite its late date and the technicality that the tribe are head-hunters, not cannibals, this is a bona fide entry in the subgenre, one that flaunts its mondo/travelogue roots in various ways. The script by Franco Prosperi (who had credits on White Cannibal Queen and Cannibal Holocaust II) frames the whole thing as a true story ripped from the headlines (although it wasn't), with snippets of Catherine's gasped-out testimony at a subsequent trial being heard in voice-over. Meanwhile, the film is intercut with random footage of wild animals being beastly, in particular some rather startling shots of a panther pouncing on a brocket deer and a monkey. The location cinematography is picturesque, the SFX are fun and theatrically gory and Audray (who had already played a prehistoric hottie in Umberto Lenzi's Ironmaster, so was presumably used to this kind of thing) is solidly convincing as the sloane turned jungle vixen. Not the best of its kind, but cannibal fanciers will find it well worth a nibble.

Extras: Original Trailer / Alternative Title Sequence



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