Legendary Italian exploitation film director Bruno Mattei apparently decided that in a career as long and as aimlessly varied as his, it just wouldn’t be complete without one of these jungle barf bag flicks under his belt. And in true Bruno style, when he tackles a project, he does it with as much gusto as the three or four days of shooting will allow a 72 year old man. And also in true Bruno style, he realizes that whatever is worth doing poorly once is worth doing even worse twice and so he also shot Cannibal World in 2003, too!
From the late 1970s when he cut his teeth on scuzzy Nazi sex movies, through his apprenticeship in the Italian minor leagues that are the Emanuelle films, up into the early 1980s when he would effortlessly cash in on the first wave of zombie popularity, Bruno obviously had nothing left to prove.
In fact, by the time Cruel Jaws flopped up on our shores in 1996, it almost seemed that Bruno’s sabbatical following that film was more a byproduct of him having made every movie there was to make as much as anything else.
Then, as if his Italian social security had been cut off, Bruno thundered back onto the world stage in 2001 with the only movie that could have been his comeback vehicle, Killing Striptease! And then, like with most thoroughbreds who never really forget how to run, Bruno Mattei knocked out 14 more movies until 2007 when only Death itself finally halted his trashy cinema rampage!
But what about this movie? What about Land of Death? What about it? It sucks! You don’t need me to tell you that! All you need to do is have a look at the credits and anyone with a brainstem could figure that out!
Bruno may have be in his seventies, but he was still making movies like it was the 1970s! Just because Bruno had been out of circulation for half a decade doesn’t mean he wasn’t doing his research!
He knows full well that what we need from our cannibal movies is a gross out moment about every five to six minutes and he delivers these with the ease of someone who knows his way around a severed leg and a pail of pig guts. But Bruno isn’t content to merely appeal to our baser instincts. He’s also going to educate!
I learned a lot about cannibal culture from this movie. Do you know what they do when one of their women has been unfaithful? It involves a big ball of clay with spikes in it! Clearly “no fault divorce” hasn’t yet made it to the rainforest!
And these savage little buggers are also clever. When they trap some dope in a tree, they’ll stand around and set fire to it until dinner falls out of the tree! And the only blonde woman they’ve ever seen? Elevated to goddess! Hey, that’s just like our world!
Taking on our savages are about five or six soldiers from the army who are in Brazil to find out what happened to the last platoon who wandered into cannibal country. I can’t say that I was ever sure what mission it was that the first group was on, but that’s probably above my pay grade.
The rescue team gets help from a guy familiar with the territory and knows the ways of the local tribes. He’s also got all those talents that keep your butt alive deep in the jungle. Like being able to tell from a decomposing skull that it used to be a Caucasian. He also was able to make a positive identification as it being his friend, just from the skull’s teeth! How many of your friends could you identify just from their teeth? (Except friends from Arkansas of course.)
Horrifically cheap at every level from the camera work and the terrible-looking digital video to the atrocious dubbing (a white guy dubbing a black actor?) all the way to the military music being played by what sounds like a junior high band and used at every inappropriate time imaginable, Land of Death makes you long for the craftsmanship of a Cannibal Holocaust or even Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals!
But we can’t really lay all that on Bruno can we? I mean, he’s in there trying his hardest, throwing skinned corpses at us, ripping hearts out, shooting natives, blowing up natives, and having the characters eating gruel that contains monkey testicles. You can’t really ask any more of a man or his movie than monkey testicles, can you?
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