IN THE LAND OF THE CANNIBALS: Bungle In The Jungle A La Mattei

For most filmmakers, making one ripoff of Cannibal Holocaust would be enough to satisfy their craving for cinematic notoriety. However, Italian trash kingpin Bruno Mattei was not most filmmakers. He managed to plunder Cannibal Holocaust twice: the first time with straightforward ripoff-remake Mondo Cannibal, the second time with In The Land Of The Cannibals, which mixes and matches parts of Deodato’s infamous classic with other cannibal sources and even bits filched from Hollywood fare like Aliens and Predator!

In The Land Of The Cannibals starts with a guys-on-a-mission plot: Lt. Wilson (Lou Randall) is ordered by the military brass to find out what happened to a jungle expedition that has disappeared. He heads into the jungle with a small group of soldiers and a knowledgeable but very cynical guide, Romero (Claudio Morales). They quickly discover cannibals a-plenty and the picked-over remains of the earlier expedition. However, there is one survivor in Sara (Cindy Matic) – and she’s been brainwashed by the cannibals, who now worship ITLOTC-dvdher as a living fertility totem. Wilson decides to make a rescue attempt, sparking a strange, dime-store mix of shocks and action.

The resulting film is every bit as daft you’d expect a late-period Mattei opus to be: there’s chintzy video cinematography and editing, canned music, wildly mugging Filipino extras standing in for savages, cheap action and cheaper gore. The daft plot spends its first half ripping off virtually every highlight from the first jungle expedition in Cannibal Holocaust and the second half becomes the cannibal movie equivalent of all the cheap-o, Rambo-inspired war/action flicks that Italian filmmakers made in the second half of the ’80s. Predator fans will be amused by a bungled attempt at stealing that film’s “Ain’t got time to bleed” line.

As with Mondo Cannibale, In The Land Of The Cannibals bypasses any kind of serious critical consideration and goes straight to bad-movie appreciation. It fits into the more watchable side of the bad movie spectrum. It’s not as loopy as Mondo Cannibale, trading that film’s unpredictable weirdness for a more straightforward plot (look out for that weird non-ending, though). It’s also got a surprisingly decent performance from Morales, whose competent handling of a generic characterization stands out like gold amidst the usual mixture of mugging and non-performances you expect to see in a Mattei flick.

All in all, In The Land Of The Cannibals is only for specialized bad-movie tastes but the plot’s odd horror/action approach makes it a unique curiosity for such viewers. As for the rest of you… you’ve been warned.

DVD Notes: This title was recently released on DVD in the U.S. by the InterVision Picture Corp sublabel of Severin Films. The full-frame transfer offers a faithful representation of the film’s video cinematography and cheap dubbing in its original ratio. The one extra is a trailer for the film that is as goofily bizarre as the full-length version.

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