Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals (1977) poster

Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals (1977)


(Emanuelle e Gli Ultimi Cannibali)

Italy. 1977.


Director – Joe D’Amato, Screenplay – Aristide Massaccesi [Joe D’Amato] & Romano Scandariato, Story – Aristide Massaccesi, Photography – Aristide Massaccesi, Music – Nico Fidenco, Makeup Effects – Fabrizio Sforza, Art Direction – Carlo Ferri. Production Company – Fulvia Cinematografica s.r.l./Gico Cinematografica s.r.l./Flora Film s.r.l.


Laura Gemser (Emanuelle), Gabriele Tinti (Professor Mark Lester), Susan Scott (Maggie McKenzie), Donald O’Brien (Donald McKenzie), Monica Zanchi (Isabelle Wilkes), Percy Hogan (Salvadore), Anne Maria Clementi (Sister Angela), Geoffrey Copleston (Wilkes)


Emanuelle is working undercover, posing as a patient in a psychiatric hospital to write an article for The Evening Post. While she is there, she sees a woman patient who has been brought in from the South American jungle bite off a nurse’s breast. Realising that the woman lived among the cannibal tribes of the region, Emanuelle decides she wants to write an article about the tribes. She recruits anthropologist Professor Mark Lester, the two becoming lovers in the process. Her newspaper agrees to underwrite an expedition to South America. Joined by several others, they undergo a journey into uncharted territories to discover the lost cannibal tribe there.

Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals is one of the strangest crossbreeds to emerge from 1970s Euro trash cinema. There had been the huge hit of the erotic film Emmanuelle (1974). This was based on Emmanuelle (1967), a French erotic novel about the bored wife of an engineer living in Bangkok and her sexual dalliances with various men and women she encounters. Though a work of fiction, this was published as a supposed memoir by Emmanuelle Arsan, which was later revealed to be a pseudonym for Marayat Rollet-Andriane, a French-Thai woman who was married to a French diplomat stationed in Thailand. The film version of Emmanuelle was a huge hit around the world, giving international fame to Sylvia Kristel in the title role, and was one of the first major softcore films to be released by an American studio. It led to a large number of spinoffs. There were six official Emmanuelle sequels, three of them starring Sylvia Kristel.

However there are over seventy films bearing the Emmanuelle name, where it has been appropriated by unofficial films or where other works of Euro erotica that were passed off as Emmanuelle films in English-dubbed release,. These became so prolific there was a British spoof Carry On Emmanuelle (1978). There was even several genre crossovers, including a science-fiction cable series Emmanuelle in Space (1994) starring Krista Allen as an Emmanuelle who has a series of human and alien encounters in the future; and Emmanuelle the Private Collection: Emmanuelle vs Dracula (2004), and another cable series Emmanuelle Through Time (2011).

The Italian-made Black Emanuelle (1975) starring Indonesian-born actress Laura Gemser was a copycat series – note the one less ‘m’ in the name for copyright reasons. This had its own popularity and spawned a series of sequels, Black Emanuelle 2 (1976), Emanuelle in Bangkok (1976), Emanuelle in America (1977), Emanuelle Around the World (1977), this film, Emanuelle and the White Slave Trade (1978), Violence in a Woman’s Prison (1978), Emanuelle Escapes from Hell (1983) and Emanuelle’s Perverse Outburst (1983), all starring Laura Gemser who frequently co-starred with her real-life husband Gabriele Tinti.

Around the same time as the success of the Emmanuelle films, there was also the Italian cannibal film, which became one of the most notorious and extreme horror genres of the 1970s. This began with Deep River Savages/The Man from Deep River (1972) and progressed through the likes of Last Cannibal World/Jungle Holocaust (1977), Slave of the Cannibal God/Prisoner of the Cannibal God (1978), Cannibal Holocaust (1979), Cannibal Apocalypse/Cannibals in the Streets (1980), Eaten Alive (1980), Zombie Holocaust/Dr Butcher M.D. (1980) and Cannibal Ferox/Make Them Die Slowly (1981), among others. The most notable feature of these was their pushing the envelope of sadism and gore about as far as it is possible to go for any film made then and since with several of the films depicting the actual on-screen slaughter of animals and many of the entries being banned in numerous countries around the world.

Laura Gemser in Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals (1977)
Laura Gemser as Emanuelle

The sixth of the Black Emanuelle films, Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals is an oddity in the sense that the two genres – the softcore erotica of the Emmanuelle/Black Emanuelle films and the hardcore savagery of the cannibal film – do not mix. The first hour of the show centres around Emanuelle (Laura Gemser) and her plans to make a journey into the jungle in search of a lost cannibal tribe. This is a standard jungle adventure where the plot is frequently sidetracked by Gemser’s dalliances with various members of the party (mostly with Gabriele Tinti) and they with each other and the native bearers. There is no real plot in most of these scenes, just intervals between glossily photographed sexual interludes (ones that even come accompanied by a female singer on the soundtrack).

This works okay but then the film becomes a cannibal film and takes a turn for the perverse. Certainly, in comparison to most of the abovementioned cannibal films, the amount of gore spilt on screen is tame. However, it seems perverse to go from beautifully shot scenes of women running around topless to closeup shots of the natives slicing nipples off the same breasts that had been presented to us to erotically admire earlier. Or a closeup on one women’s pubic bush before the stomach above is then gutted and the intestines torn out. I am not really sure what director Joe d’Amato was thinking when he allowed an erotic film to get so twisted. Either that or he was attempting to be subversive in a way that entirely eludes me.

The film was directed by Joe D’Amato (1936-99), a prolific director in the Italian exploitation industry whose career was predominantly in pornographic films (including a number of the other Black Emanuelle films and several other films starring Laura Gemser). He made over 200 films and is known under a variety of different pseudonyms. His other genre films include:- the giallo Death Smiles on a Murderer (1973), another erotic/cannibal film Papaya, Love Goddess of the Cannibals (1978), the necrophilia film Blue Holocaust (1979), Anthropophagus/The Grim Reaper (1980), the erotic/zombie film Erotic Night of the Living Dead (1980), the erotic/voodoo/cannibal film Sex and Black Magic (1980), Absurd (1981), the erotic/zombie film Porno Holocaust (1981), the sword and sorcery film Ator the Invincible (1982), the post-holocaust film Endgame (1983), Ator the Blade Master (1984), the post-holocaust film 2020: Texas Gladiators (1983), the Ator film Quest for the Mighty Sword (1989), Frankenstein 2000 (1992), Contamination .7/Creepers/Troll 3 (1993), the pornographic reincarnation film Chinese Kamasutra (1993), the pornographic Ghosts in the Castle (1994), the pornographic Marquis de Sade (1994), the pornographic Tarzan X (1994) and its sequel Tarzhard: The Return (1998), the pornographic ghost film Erotic Bluff (1995), the pornographic caveman film Homo Erectus (1996), the pornographic psycho-thriller Primal Instinct (1996), Hell’s Angels/Demons of Lust (1997), Hell’s Angels 2/The Seven Sexy Sins (1997) and Hell’s Angels 3/The Devil’s Lair (1998), a series of pornographic vignettes set in Hell, the pornographic Greek myth films Aphrodite: Goddess of Love (1997), Hercules: A Sex Adventure (1997), Olympus, Refuge of Gods (1997), Samson in Amazon’s Land (1997), The Sexual Adventures of Ulysses (1998) and Love and Psyche (2000), Kamasutra (1997), a pornographic film with fantasy elements, the pornographic Queen of Elephants (1997) about a female Tarzan, a pornographic version of the story of the Phantom of the Opera with Phantom (1998), Elixir (1998), a pornographic film involving a youth serum, Eternal Desire (1996), a pornographic version of Highlander (1986), and Experiences (1999) and Experiences 2 (1999) about a woman sucked through her computer to participate in a series of erotic interludes across time.

Clips from the film here

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