The once beloved word Grindhouse has been so overused as of late when it comes to cult film that it is all but meaningless. Does it refer to the time period of the seventies before the mandatory “R” rating of all modern day film, where nasty hyper-sexualized violent movies played in double and triple features in small filthy theatres or small town drive-ins? Does it refer to the Planet Terror/Death-Proof double feature by Rodriquez and Tarantino, which sought to reclaim the authentic feel of a double feature from long ago by using stressed film, fake trailers, and a finished hardcore product which still packaged the same tame lame MANDATORY R-rated viewing experience that might as well have been filmed on digital all along? Whatever the true, “according to Hoyle” meaning of grindhouse, Full Moon has recently released an ongoing series of movies which, hopefully, will reintroduce this overused phrase to a whole new generation of moviegoers, most of whom won’t remember when it actually meant something.
As the entire TV programming lineup from ID television will testify, you can get away with a lot of prime time trashy storytelling by taking any real life tragic story based on sex, murder and greed and filming its reenactment as a factually accurate yet visually stimulating dramatization. Cast it with pretty actors and actresses engaging in suggestive scenes of screwing and killing inspired by actual crimes and you have created a genre of television known as “Murder Porn” fit for network TV that many moderate audiences find fascinating, though probably not for the reasons they are willing to admit (even if only to themselves). Yet if a story is real, based on an actual historical event, how can it be exploitation, right? WHITE SLAVE is a little like the ideological grandfather to this modern genre of sleazy documentary, except for the fact that it never actually happened at all. That’s right, this film (known as “The Catherine Miles Story” in some countries) pretends to be the documentary of a girl who ended up being taken in by a tribe of jungle savages after her parents were murdered and summarily beheaded. Yet the fakery of this is pretty obvious by the time that you realize that this film was actually released as CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST 2 in some markets. Does that make it a bad film? No, but it is does make it somehow needlessly pretentious.
“Okay, so it’s a fake Documentary?” You might be saying, “So was BLAIR WITCH, and that set box office records, you got a point here?” I would be the first to admit that the fictional narrative doesn’t really matter, that this film is much more than another lurid thriller about a true crime. It is also a one sided love story, a weak revenge thriller and a failed horror movie but if you put all the elements together, you do come across with something special for those of you who like films that are mean spirited, trashy and ultimately a particularly lurid mess on all counts.
Here’s what I can tell you without ruining everything. Despite the cover art which oozes sexploitation, the actual (and by that I mean fake) story of Catherine Miles experience with the head hunter tribe is not as uncivilized at it would otherwise seem. While it is true that she was initially purchased for a goat and a chicken and becomes the property of the oldest man in the tribe who refuses to have sex with her when it is discovered that she is a virgin (because in their society this means she has the same sexuality as a small child). Of course she tries to escape and when they catch her, the native women diddle her with a gourd “to teach her about the nature of adulthood” I am guessing. Worse yet, as a non-virgin she is now considered a full grown woman which in their society, means she will now belong to the old man sexually, by right. But luckily for Catherine, a strong native man named Umukai falls in love with her and challenges her Master to a duel and wins her freedom for himself…But Catherine hates this man because she saw him decapitate her parents, and admittedly it’s kind of a hard thing to forget when one considers that the severed heads of her Mommy and Daddy are now among the most favorite ornaments in the whole tribe. Remarkably, Umukai does not force his love upon her, and Catherine eventually does love him, but only briefly as her ultimate plan seems to be to use him to escape, seek revenge on the real person’s responsible for her parent’s death and return to civilization where she now faces trial for her own savage crimes of vengeance. Well you know what they say, “You can take a girl out of the jungle…”
I don’t want to say this film is entirely worthless, there was some effort put into it. For fans of savagery and sex, the graphic scenes of violent beheadings and nudity are ever-present and unabashed for an R film. The romantic (if not traditional) love story between Umukai and Catherine while unconventional, was gentle and nothing but an expression of kindness, caring and unselfishness (on his part anyway). Even the simple island folk seemed to have a culture based on peace, freedom and basic harmony between all members (when they weren’t holding you down and raping you with a gourd for trying to sneak away, that is). I am just saying that somewhere in this films attempt to deliver a traditional romance, murder mystery, sexploitation, fake documentary, something just went kind of awry…somehow.
Special features include Charles Band talking about “Grindhouse” films and a trailer vault.