You know how sometimes studios change a movie’s name to try and get people hyped and cash in on the success of something way better? It’s why there are seventeen unofficial sequels to the unofficial Dawn of the Dead sequel and, like, three Demons 3‘s that have nothing to do with Demons. It’s one of the worst ideas ever and leads to near universal disappointment. That’s all I got.
CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST II
original title: Natura contro
aka: The Green Inferno
Italy/Spain, 1988, Antonio Climati
The point is, Green Inferno wasn’t the first attempt to cash in on the movie that was almost called Green Inferno. In fact, that honor goes to…Green Inferno. The one from the eighties. It was released in several territories as Cannibal Holocaust II and claims to have been banned in umpteen countries. In reality, as far as I know, none of that’s true. It was released in Italy as Naturo Contro from director Antonio Climati, who in no way wanted it to be a sequel to Deodato’s far superior, much gorier Cannibal Holocaust. The title was slapped on by overseas distributors to link it to something successful and controversial. It didn’t work. In fact, the two movies could not be more different in tone, scope, and intent. They both have jungles and a few scenes with natives, but that’s about it.
It starts kind of neat. Reporter lady discussing the process by which some guy prepares shrunken heads for the local natives. That’s one thing it does well, showing off neat aspects of the cultures the characters interact with. It’s not a huge aspect of the movie, but it’s part of what makes the genre as a whole interesting and it’s pretty cool here. Before long, though, it turns into an Amazonian rescue mission when a professor goes missing in the jungle. Now it’s up to our rag tag group heroes (?) to find the professor and get him out of… The Green Inferno. You like that? Good, because it’s all the plot you’re getting. Before any action even goes down we spend like a third of the movie watching the characters fart around a village on fetch quests with an end goal of finding fuel to power the plane to go deeper into the jungle. Also they decide to take an odd job darting monkeys to smuggle outside the country as exotic pets. Because that’s what heroes do.
As the story “develops” we get interaction between the leads and a few native tribes, mostly completely friendly ones. In fact, these isolated tribes are not only mostly docile and helpful, but some of them are fluent in poorly ADR’d English. Kind of a far cry from the exaggerated but grounded take on the natives in Cannibal Holocaust. In a way that’s kind of refreshing, but I tend to like exploitation in my exploitation so at the same time it’s a bit lame. To be completely upfront, there aren’t really any cannibals in Cannibal Holocaust II. It’s been a few days since I’ve seen it so it’s starting to feel like a fever dream, but I distinctly remember no on screen cannibalism. There are some hanging bodies and busted up skeletons around, but nothing says these folks were eaten, and if I recall these were actually the work of the evil poachers and prospectors who were harassing the tribe the aforementioned professor was trying to study. It’s kind of hard to follow, but the point is that this isn’t a horror movie and hardly an exploitation film either.
More than anything, it’s a series of vignettes showing off odd jobs and cultural traditions that, as far as my knowledge of the Amazon goes, could be absolutely accurate. But given Italy’s history with the subject I kind of doubt it. Interspersed with these scenes of monkey tranquilizing and the occasional vaguely rapey scene with the creepy boat captain that eventually joins the crew are little snippets of strictly okay action. Nothing grandiose but there are some fun gun fights here and there and they had a boat and a plane to play with so things don’t look super cheap. It comes just a hair shy of being dumb, exploitative fun but misses its mark just hard enough to end up not much more than a below average Italian action movie that was forced to become something it never wanted to be.
It’s fine for what it is, really. It’s not dumb or unique enough to stand out against cheesy 80’s action greats like Eliminatorsand Hell Comes to Frog Town, but if you go in with no expectations whatsoever you can enjoy yourself for a little while. The problem is in the marketing. Action fans won’t want to watch a sequel to Cannibal Holocaust and Cannibal Holocaust fans, especially in the era of video rental domination, won’t bother recommending your product to friends or partake in repeated rentals when they make it thirty minutes in and realize there are no cannibals. The decision to change the title pleased exactly no one and slyly changing its name to Cannibal Holocaust‘s working title only served to bite it in the ass two decades later when a much more accurately titled Green Inferno made it damn near impossible to find any info on this thing. It serves as nothing much more than a flaccid, limp tease of a movie with hints of potential here and there, but despite kind of blowing ass, it’s still kind of fun watching it back to back with Cannibal Holocaust. The shift from horror and gore to straight up action is a bit like jumping from Alien to Aliens in a way. Only both those movies are awesome. And they both have aliens in them.
If you really wanna give Green Inferno a shot, I say go for VideoAsia’s Kick Ass Heroes four film box set. At least that way you’re getting three other shitty action movies, one of which is directed by Godfrey Ho. Not even the mediocrity of this movie can drag Robo Vampire down. As always with VideoAsia collections, it’s serviceable but clearly from a rough source.