Slave of the Cannibal God (1978)
Directed by Sergio Martino

Artistic Value: * ½
Entertainment Value: * * *

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In order to find out what has happened to her husband, who sometime earlier disappeared in the jungles of New Guinea, Susan Stevenson (Ursula Andress) sets out on an expedition into those wilds together with the idealistic Professor Edward Foster (Stacy Keach) and the cynical Arthur Weisser (Antonio Marsina). Once deep in the forest, these explorers are joined by a local expert, Manolo (Claudio Cassinelli), and learn that a cannibalistic tribe thought to have been exterminated may still exist. Of course, they are eventually captured by the savages and exposed to various brutalities.

While Sergio Martino's Slave of the Cannibal God is hardly as vile as are many of the other cannibal themed Italian films made at about the same time, it is never as memorable as several of those films are either. I do not mean to imply by this that those other films are better. They are not. In fact, thanks, in large part, to their directors' having actually murdered animals for the viewer's entertainment, they are among the very few movies that I would actually describe as being morally repugnant. Such repulsiveness does, nonetheless, leave a profound impression on the moviegoer, and this, for better or worse, ensures that he will remember works that, were it not for these despicable details, would be nothing more than forgettable trash. Slave of the Cannibal God, not having as much such content, though it is by no means free of it, is basically what those other films would have been were they less extreme: forgettable trash.

In fact, the movie is little more than an amorphous sequence of titillating or gruesome happenings. Through much of Slave of the Cannibal God's duration, the characters wander around the jungle meeting with the odd danger or thrill. The viewer is given the chance to see attacks by masked savages, the sacrifice of a lizard to ward off evil spirits, a crocodile attack, the pitiful strangulation of a monkey by a python, one man's amorous encounter with a naked native girl, and her killing before their relationship is consummated. While none of these occurrences is particularly engaging, they are rarely boring.

Unfortunately, they fail to lead up to much. The film's final act is actually fairly tame, even though it revolves around the capture of the explorers by a tribe of cannibals, their frightening experiences with that tribe, and their attempts to escape. Throughout these developments, the director does, admittedly, reveal some strange and often grisly incidents, including a prisoner being assaulted by a midget, the emasculation of a tribesman who attempts to rape Susan, a weird ritual involving the eating of snakes writhing in a tub of dirty water, the painting of Susan with fluids from her husband's rotting corpse, which is being worshipped as a deity by the barbarians, and other such nasties. The events portrayed are unpleasant, but, nonetheless, they are never truly horrific. Like almost every other part of the movie, its conclusion can be amusing, but it is not impressive.

There is not that much that can be said about Slave of the Cannibal God. On the whole, it is reasonably entertaining in its way. It is just never more than lowbrow fun.

Review by Keith Allen

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