Thursday, September 29, 2011
Cannibals, cannibals, cannibals! A-biting and a-chomping! Snackin' on Human flesh!
For all that we might weave outrageous fantasies of Vampires and Were-wolves, of Aliens and Ghouls, of the half-dead and the undead and all manner of imaginary beasties, there's nothing quite as shocking as the atrocities and horrors enacted upon people by... Other People! From the Nazis to Human Centipedes, many of the most threatening films feature the cruelties of humans.
Somewhere within this tradition is the, now somewhat passé, strand of Cannibal films that excited 70s and 80s audiences. Some of these films, mostly Italian, clawed their way to notoriety, even infamy - I'm thinking Cannibal Holocaust... - whilst others drifted along in (mostly deserved) obscurity. Their sad drawback, as the 21st century viewer can't fail to notice, is that the exciting, blood-curdling thrilling tales of Amazonian savages exacting bloody acts of cruelty upon (mostly buxom and nubile) Europeans tend to extensively racist... The 'White man's burden' in this case is usually some civilizing mission to the Amazon rainforest, where civilizing usually involves (with a degree of historical accuracy) slaughtering the 'savages' they encountered.
That said, Massacre in Dinosaur Valley is obviously aware of this racist subcurrent and is careful to balance the acts of Native savagery with a good deal of Caucasian savagery too. It is, of course, sexist from start to finish but... well... it was made in Italy in the 70s...
After a spot of messing around in a Brazilian bar, a plane carrying a professor and his (beautiful) daughter, a young paleontologist, a US army vet and his alcoholic wife and a photographer and his two (beautiful) models crashes in... Dinosaur Valley! We lose a couple of the characters in the plane crash but the rest of the party set out into the jungle in a bid to escape to civilization. The story is, despite being utterly predictable, crass and unimaginative, astonishingly good fun from start to finish. As expected, we lose several of the characters along the way as they fall victim to jungle dangers such as piranhas and quicksand, until our remaining three - the brave young paleontologist, the professor's daughter and one of the models - find themselves caught up in the natives' tribal rituals, which involve dinosaur masks, claws and... gratuitous nudity! Hurrah!
Mostly unscathed, our heroes escape downriver and fall into the clutches of some rather unpleasant gem miners, who lock up the man and cart the women off to their bedrooms. Thankfully, predictably, all turns out more or less OK, as the baddies get their come-uppance and the good guy gets the girl as all her feminist leanings melt into nothing in the face of his rugged, heroic masculinity... (Hmmm)
As you should have worked out by now, Massacre In Dinosaur Valley is nothing if not trash but it is supremely enjoyable trash. It's poorly acted, poorly scripted and never really surprises but it does everything with such unabashed enthusiasm that, for a b-movie fan, it's very hard to sneer at it. Great fun!