Color, 1977, 84 mins. 27 secs.
Directed by "James Paris" (Kostas Karagiannis)
Starring Kosta Karagiorgis, Deborah Shelton, Nikos Verlekis, Giorgos Hristodoulou
Mondo Macabro (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD)
Long before she became a regular on TV’s Dallas and turned heads in Body Double and Nemesis, actress Deborah Shelton was living in Greece and starting off with a string of low-budget genre films including the horror oddity Bloodtide. One of her very earliest outings was Dangerous Cargo, a stripped-down nautical thriller from director Kosta Karagiannis, a.k.a. Dacosta Carayan a.k.a. James Paris, the maniac who gave us such films as The Wife Killer and Tango of Perversion. Like those jaw droppers, this one has been given the Mondo Macabro treatment – with a Blu-ray edition no less. We truly live in astonishing times.
Likely inspired by Charles William’s 1963 novel Dead Calm (which was eventually filmed in 1989 with Nicole Kidman after an aborted attempt by Orson Welles in the late ‘60s), our sordid tale takes place on a cargo ship whose swarthy, pipe-puffing captain (The Devil’s Men’s Verlekis) enjoys his downtime in the arms of his beautiful wife (Shelton). Unfortunately the whole voyage seems jinxed from the outset with the bosun found stabbed on a pier just before departure, with a convenient replacement (Karagiorgis) showing up just in time. Meanwhile the missus is trying to ignore a past torrid fling with the ship's first mate, Avgeri (Hristodoulou), who lingers a little too long watching her in the shower for her husband's comfort. When Avgeri discovers that the new arrival is concocting something nefarious involved a cargo of nitroglycerin down in the hold, the stage is set for mutiny, violence, a sudden storm, and lots of dramatic turmoil.
With its heavy doses of macho brutality and mistreatment of its female lead, this is just the kind of trashy film that wouldn’t stand a chance of getting made today but holds a strong fascination for its rampant disregard for the limits of standard good taste. Shelton gives her all to her large number of sex scenes with the two male leads, which probably accounts for about a third of the running time; there’s nothing as outrageous as her bonkers nude combat scene with Thomas Jane in Nemesis, but that’s certainly not for lack of trying here. You also get a fun, jazzy score that sounds like it was composed a decade earlier and wouldn't be out of place in a Peanuts TV special. Extra points for the nutty final five minutes, which deploys stock footage and rough sex in a manner that will make your jaw drop. Though most of the film is bound to the ship location, Karagiannis opens it up a bit with some romantic flashback / travelogue footage (including the obligatory trip to the Acropolis) that ultimately adds nothing to the plot at all but makes for a bit of diverting eye candy.
Though Mondo Macabro has been doing entires in its Greek Collection for a while with a focus on DVD, it's nice to see them pushing more into the Blu-ray arena here with a nice transfer that comes with an opening disclaimer about the available materials but looks just fine. It's presented at 1.33:1, presumably open matte as it frames off well enough to 1.78:1 if you zoom it (but also losing a lot of nudity in the process). For some reason the Greek mono audio is Dolby Digital only, though this isn't exactly the most dynamic sound mix in the first place. Optional English subtitles are included, and the sole extra is the usual reel of other Mondo Macabro titles.
Reviewed on March 12, 2020.