Color, 1977, 93 mins. 6 secs.
Directed by Joe D'Amato
Starring Laura Gemser, Gabriele Tinti, Susan Scott, Donal O'Brien, Percy Hogan, Monica Zanchi, Annemaria Clementi, Geoffrey Copleston
Severin Films (Blu-ray & DVD) (US R0 HD/NTSC), 88 Films (Blu-ray) (UK RB HD), Media Blasters (DVD) (US R0 NTSC), Neo Publishing (DVD) (France R2 PAL) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)

The Emanuelle and the Last Cannibalsfourth of five films Emanuelle and the Last Cannibalsin the Black Emanuelle cycle directed by Joe D'Amato and starring Laura Gemser, Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals offers a ridiculously enjoyable hybrid of softcore sleaze and Italian cannibal mayhem rushed quickly into production to cash in on the same year's Jungle Holocaust. Having just pushed the series as far as it could go with the outrageous Emanuelle in America, D'Amato and company decided to take a different tactic for box office success and ended up choosing wisely. As it turned out, the cannibal craze was just beginning and would keep on escalating well into the early '80s. Not one to go for animal violence in his films (quite the opposite, as Pedro the horse can attest) and even avoiding a hardcore variant for this one, D'Amato ended up making one of the more accessible films in both of the areas he was exploiting.

Still hot on the trail of new, tantalizing stories around the globe, photojournalist Emanuelle (Gemser) smells a lead when a blonde woman brought back from years of being brought up in the Amazon ends up in a New York insane asylum and displays a tendency to bite off random body parts. Emanuelle infiltrates the hospital and snaps some photos, followed by some magic finger soothing on the poor girl. An unusual tattoo above the girl's crotch points to a supposedly extinct tribe of cannibals, so it's off to consult with the Emanuelle and the Last Cannibalserudite and frisky Emanuelle and the Last CannibalsProfessor Mark Lester (Tinti, of course) who ends up bedding our heroine over and over after showing her some raw footage of cannibals slicing off genitalia. (Why not?) Since he's an authority on tribal customs, Mark joins Emanuelle on an excursion to the Amazon where they cross paths with hunter Donald McKenzie (O'Brien), his wife Maggie (Scott), traveling nun Sister Angela (Clementi), and Isabelle (Zanchi), daughter of their ill-fated guide. Of course, it isn't long before all hell breaks loose in this green nightmare as cannibals emerge and start dining on the intruders.

If there were any doubt that Italian cinema was going a little insane trying to satisfy audiences by any means necessary by this point, Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals provides solid proof as it stitches together elements that don't seem like they should exist within miles of each other. Anyone paying money to watch Gemser do her sexy reporter bit will get ambushed halfway through, and even more strangely, it features an outrageous turn by giallo queen Susan Scott (or Nieves Navarro), sporting darker hair than usual here to perform a graphic solo routine in a tent and a couple of really dubious sex scenes before undergoing a vicious fate at the hands of the cannibals that's the exact opposite of what you'd expect from an erotic film. Once again composer Nico Fidenco performs Emanuelle and the Last Cannibalsscoring duties with another Emanuelle and the Last Cannibalsdance-friendly rendition of his familiar "Make Love on the Wing" theme, adding to the bizarre atmosphere and laying the groundwork for his later score in the much-loved Zombie Holocaust. By this point D'Amato and Gemser had pretty much taken the series about as far as it would go since their one follow-up feature, Emanuelle and the White Slave Trade, plays like more of a tame greatest hits reel and even lifts scenes from this film to pad it out.

Trying to market this film proved to be a real challenge outside Italy since you're dealing with a film whose first half is basically the usual Gemser softcore interludes, interspersed with a couple of shockers like that opening sequence and Tinti's home movie reel (some of which turned up the same year in Sexy Night Report and the one surefire giveaway that this is from the same hand as Emanuelle in America). The film didn't hit America until 1984, just barely, under the title Trap Them and Kill Them and promoted strictly as a horror film (even by an apparently oblivious Famous Monsters magazine in its final original days). Apart from a handful of scarce VHS releases, the film wasn't easy to see on home video either until the 2003 DVD from Media Blasters featuring the English dub, a trailer, Emanuelle and the Last Cannibalsa minor image gallery, and Emanuelle and the Last Cannibalsa very drab transfer. The first Blu-ray of Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals hit shores in 2016 from U.K. label 88 Films, which was bare bones apart from the theatrical trailer and alternate Italian credits but did include the welcome gesture of featuring both the English and Italian dubs with optional English subtitles. The transfer didn't really set anyone's world on fire at the time, improving in detail over the DVD but still looking muddy with very flat black levels.

In 2018, Severin Films brought the film back to the U.S. for the first time in over a decade with its usual multitude of buying options depending on your level of dedication including a limited edition slipcase Blu-ray, a DVD, and a Laura Gemser Deluxe Bundle with Violence in a Women's Prison. You can also snag a Laura Gemser pin to wear to your next PTA meeting. Image quality is a major improvement with superior contrast, better colors, and finer detail; it still isn't a pretty film by any means (and that stage blood is still a funky color as always), but it's quite remarkable how good it looks here if you're familiar with the history of the film. The English and Italian dubs (both of which are ridiculously loose and sloppy, with particularly dazed line readings for Gemser in English) are included here in DTS-HD MA mono options with English subtitles translated from the Italian track (and quite different from the 88 ones). In addition to the trailer, the release adds a whopping five new featurettes, making this the Emanuelle and the Last Cannibalsfirst Emanuelle and the Last Cannibalsbona fide special edition ever for this film. "The World of Nico Fidenco" (27m4s) is more of a career-spanning interview with the composer and popular vocalist, who recounts how he wound up getting a shortcut to Italian record chart stardom and parlayed his success into a long, very fruitful career working on films including all of the D'Amato-Gemser Black Emanuelle films. "A Nun Among the Cannibals" (22m53s) is a surprisingly funny and candid interview with Clementi who talks about getting an agent and landing her first role, her natural affinity for acting without training, her gratitude for post-dubbing on her films ("I have the memory of a goldfish"), and her reaction to being covered in animal guts. O'Brien turns up next for "Dr. O'Brien MD" (18m47s) with the future Zombie Holocaust star, sporting a beard and shot in SD at a restaurant, chatting about his start in the industry, early roles in The Train and Run Man Run, and collaborations with directors like D'Amato, Lucio Fulci, and Sergio Sollima. Next up is Monica Zanchi with Notturno Video's featurette "From Switzerland to Mato Grosso" (18m40s), with the Swiss-born actress sharing stories about how she got into acting and ended up appearing in films like Hitch Hike and Sister Emanuelle. She chats a fair bit about this film including her crush on Tinti and a fight with a costumer, as well as her views on doing nudity. Finally, the reclusive Gemser is represented with the "I Am Your Black Queen" archival interview (11m25s), also from Notturno, speaking generally about her time in the series which she remembers as one long experience with D'Amato whom she continues to greatly miss.

Reviewed on April 24, 2018.