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Love Goddess of the Cannibals

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Papaya: Love Goddess of the Cannibals
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Directed by: 
Joe D'Amato
Melissa Chimenti
Sirpa Lane
Maurice Poli
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"Love Goddess of the Cannibals" takes us back many moons to a dimly remembered point in history called the late nineteen-seventies, when the word 'Internet' would have signified nothing and the phrase 'free porn' would have seemed to denote but a wistful fairy tail -- all but incomprehensible. I know: hard to believe, eh kids? Curiously enough, a lot more mainstream movies were absolutely soaked in sex and nudity in those days -- more so than they are today, anyway, but I digress: if you wanted anything harder than what they offered in order to satiate your ungodly, disgusting desires (not that I'm judging or anything!) you had to wade through the turgid plots and indifferent acting performances cluttering the output of sundry porno film-makers (who would usually much rather be doing almost anything else in most cases) in order to catch an eyeful of people really 'doing it'.

Then along came an Italian cinematographer called Aristide Massaccesi, who said to himself,  'what if I combine all the most disreputable (but successful) genres in '70s euro cinema into one movie, and then throw in some proper sex-rutting as well -- thereby satisfying several audiences all at once?' And that is exactly what he did. (I really should have been a History teacher!) 

He changed his name to Joe D'Amato (but usually continued to photograph his own movies under his old name) and the movie we are about to examine was one of the results of his fantastic idea; it isn't all that good, but it's mad enough to deserve a little of your attention. 

The film is D'Amato's take on the then-popular Italian cannibal genre, an inherently racist breed of exploitation flick posing as responsible moral fable, in which a bunch of horrible corrupt Westerners turn up in some remote jungle location, anger the local 'primitives' with their greed and cultural insensitivity and end up being dispatched one by one in unpleasant ways -- that is if they don't become part of the native menu first. There's also a hint of the Mondo documentary genre: another Italian exploitation innovation in which a documentary examination of local customs and eccentric mores allegedly being practiced in numerous exotic locales, usually ends up being an excuse to dwell on all sorts of prurient, sometimes not even authentic, ethnographic details. Add to that copious amounts of nudity from the film's two female starlets, and you're away! 

Thus, after a lilting piece of lounge music courtesy of the great Stelvio Cipriani in which we get to peruse in no small detail the dusky form of Melissa Chimenti (given only the name 'Melissa' in the titles) as she reclines in front of some palm trees on a sweltering tropical beach (a favourite setting in Joe D'Amato films), we're plunged into what passes for plot in this movie. It turns out to be a kind of feeble recapitulation of the standard cannibal movie's main moves, but set on a Caribbean island instead of in a remote jungle location where Western man has thus far failed to penetrate. In fact, there seems to be plenty of tourist activity on this particular island, as indicated by all the beach-front hotel rooms and bars that are clearly visible. This tale turns out to be about the clash between the values of Western, tourist-inspired gentrification and the slum-dwelling, voodoo worshipping locals who manage to form an organised terrorist cell, utilising human sacrifice and a systematic programme of drug-induced sexual slavery, in order to defeat a plan to build a nuclear reactor on their land. Fair dos to them -- they seem to manage it without anyone ever noticing that they even exist!

The number one secret weapon in this plan is the aforementioned Melissa Chimenti, who plays a sex-mad hotel maid called Papaya. You can't build a nuclear reactor without geologists and engineers, so part of the plan is for Papaya to lure each of them back to a beach hut one-by-one for a spot of holiday sex, and, during the frenzy of erotic nibbling and fruit-smeared-on-private-parts shenanigans that ensues, to yank off their dangly bits with her teeth while two of her accomplices set fire to the hut and leave the poor sod to burn to death! This would seem to be a rather slow and ponderous form of terrorism, but it's gotta be a lot more enjoyable than simply blowing yourself to bits in a suicide bomb attack, so should probably be encouraged, especially when no one seems all that bothered about all those bearded Italian reactor workers who keep disappearing.

The story then has a journalist called Sara Russell (played by Sirpa Lane of "The Beast" fame) hooking up with another of the on-site geologists: a middle-aged and smug-as-you-like know-it-all called Vincent (Maurice Poli). These two know each other from way back, apparently; which explains why no sooner has Vince stumbled upon her uninhibitedly cheering along at a local cock fight (some juicy mondo footage of the birds ripping into each other is included here) than they're suddenly naked showering together back at Vincent's hut on the beach front. Unfortunately, the mood is somewhat sullied by Sara's discovery of the burned corpse (minus his private parts) of Vincent's colleague, stashed beside his Martini cabinet!

While out driving one day, mulling over the sad fate of Vincent's friend and fellow geologist, the two catch the hotel maid Papaya hitching a lift by the roadside. It turns out that she lives in the semi-abandoned slum village which is being cleared ready for the building of the nuclear reactor, and is on her way to an annual local event called the Fiesta of the Round Stone. They offer her a lift but they have also been followed by Papaya's two accomplices, the same guys who burned the beach hut with the castrated geologist pal of Vincent still inside.

Sara and Vincent wander around the dusty back streets of the township for what seems like ages. To his credit, D'Amato isn't just content to give us only the sunny holiday locations of a travelogue movie in this film: these look like real poverty-stricken streets caught on the fly we're seeing, and there is one particularly persistent local bystander who seems determined to push his way into every single shot, with the effect that he often appears to be on opposite sides of a road at the same time! Nonetheless, we still have to endure what seems like an eternity of the two leads wandering around dilapidated back streets -- and at this point there still hasn't even been all that much rumpo action as yet!

Eventually, the two investigators come upon the strange fiesta which is being held in the basement of one of the large abandoned houses in the area. It seems Vincent and Sara have been manipulated into arriving at this place at precisely this point: there's naked tribal dancing going down (naturally!) and the tribal drummers, unusually, seem to enjoy the accompaniment of a synthesiser player (he must be hiding behind a column somewhere). A drugged Westerner is carried to the centre of the room on a stretcher, and, finally we get the only real bit of cannibal action  that occurs in the whole film when a dagger is plunged into his chest and the masked master of ceremonies rips out the victim's heart and takes a juicy bite of the bloody muscle! Here, the film at last earns its rightful place as a major slice of euro-cheese silliness when, all of a sudden, the tribal drummers wig out and manage to conjure up a jazz-funk shakedown out of nowhere, complete with a freaking out wah-wah guitar and groovy bass line!  

Vincent and Sara have unwisely imbibed a bowlful of some dubious looking liquids before this, and when they wake up, it is to find the alluring Papaya presiding over them, happy to give them both a bath and to 'help out' with the drying-off chores. After Papaya's given them a soapy seeing too, Sara is whisked off by Papaya's terrorist friends to be indoctrinated with their anti-nuclear ecological creed, while Vincent becomes another drugged sex slave for Papaya, for no particular reason as far as I could see apart from it helping to fill out the running time with a bit more soft core rutting.

The big 'twist' -- if that's the right word for it -- is that Sara is very quickly convinced of the correctness of the terrorists' cause and takes up with their handsome leader, while poor old Vincent is hastily dispatched off-screen without the now-besotted reporter even batting an eyelid! Things look to be going off the rails somewhat when Papaya gets jealous of her leader's relationship with Sara, but all is well, when the randy reporter proves herself perfectly willing to share her attentions in a bi-sexual tropical island paradise of sun-drenched beach sex. Topping!

This is all a complete load of ridiculous tosh from start to finish off course, but like most cheesy euro  sleaze nonsense, it's sort of satisfying in an unhealthy but enjoyable kind of way: it's nice to pig out on such cinematic junk food every now and again, even if you do feel slightly queasy afterwards. This is meant to be what Shameless call a 'rebuild version' of the film, although, unlike some of their titles which cobble together material from various prints of variable quality, this one seems to be pretty stable throughout. Shameless fans  get a choice of Italian or English audio options with this one (with English subtitles included), plus a fold-out poster of the original poster artwork. A trailer and a selection of alternative title sequences are also included as well as the usual Shameless trailer reel. Not a D'Amato 'classic', but it's a watchable, eco-minded sex and gore time-filler nonetheless.

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