Slave Of The Cannibal God

Beware the Pooka!
Released:
1978

Director: Sergio Martino

Starring: Ursula Andress, Stacy Keach

The Setup:

A woman and her obnoxious brother journey into cannibal territory to find her lost husband.

Discussion:

This film is a cheese-tastic mix of gore, animal torture, and Indiana Jones rip-off. Poor Ursula Andress’ husband has disappeared on some forbidden island or other in New Guinea, and she brings along her pretty-boy brother who does nothing but glare ridiculously and make motiveless insinuations about the other men on the trip. They hook up with Stacy Keach, doing his best Indiana Jones imitation [though Raiders of the Lost Ark would not be released for another 3 years! THAT’S how prescient this film is!!!], and trying woefully to act. He was scarred, deeply and emotionally scarred, you see, by the time he was held captive by the Pooka, a cannibal tribe that live on the super-scary mountain peak that Ursula and co. are trying to get to.

All the names of places and tribes in this thing, like the Pooka, sound like they were totally made up on the fly by the screenwriter who had done no research other than watching previous jungle movies. Thus the island [or the mountain, I forget] is called Ra Ra Mula or something… it’s all that ridiculous.

Poor, 42-year-old Ursula seems to have been facelifted to the point where she LITERALLY cannot make an expression. The skin across her entire face above her mouth is stretched so taut that her eyes just move back and forth as though she’s behind a mask, but nothing else moves. I guess she’ll just have to fall back on her formidable blank staring skills.

This movie is one of those that tries to amp up the gore factor by including completely unrelated nature documentary footage of animals being killed. It’s charming. Not nearly as much stock footage as the classic Hell of the Living Dead [see Related Movies], but in a similar vein, and it has the same delightful effect. Animals WERE harmed during the making of this film.

One of the moments of stock footage is QUITE remarkable, however, and left a deep impression on me. A monkey’s head is caught within the jaws of an anaconda or python [don’t know which, but that motherfucker is BIG!]. Anyway, there follows a quite [dare I say] poignant shot of the monkey’s eyes calmly looking around as his hands gently explore the head of the snake, trying to figure out what’s happened to him. You can really see the intelligence of the monkey as he tries to asses his situation, and the calm with which he faces it I found quite moving! You would expect him to freak out and struggle, but he doesn’t. I should attempt to relieve your heartbreak now by letting you know that he doesn’t make it.

It all unfolds at a brisk pace, with a moment of peril or an insertion of stock nature footage approximating an animal attack every five minutes, until you’re kind of worn out and past caring. Eventually the reasons for Ursula’s brother being such a bitch and Ursula’s true motives are revealed, earning her a particularly nasty death in my book, but alas, she’s the babe of the movie and she’s the one with the tits, so after a rote reversal of priorities she gets to live.

My version of the movie was the edited one, so I did NOT get to see Ursula smeared with the rotting flesh of her dead husband NOR the guy fucking the water buffalo. I guess the TRUE vision of the cinematic classic remains for me to discover.

Should you watch it?

Sure, why not?

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