Cangaço was the name given to a form of social banditry (think Robin Hood) that became popular in the Northeast of Brazil in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. However, in the hands of Brazilian exploitation director Roberto Mauro, cangaço becomes a vehicle for action, fun, and plenty of sexy ladies in skimpy outfits running around the desert with guns in their hands. Yes, after a few weeks of Mexploitation, I felt a need to go back to Brazil for a pornochanchada, and this time the result was a blast. As Cangaceiras Eróticas (The Erotic Avengers) is a 1974 film that, although it’s supposed to be an action movie, brings to the screen the best of the silly humor, over-the-top action, and nonsensical nudity that makes pornochanchadas one of the best sub-genres in latsploitation.


Brazil, 1974, Roberto Mauro

The plot of As Cangaceiras Eróticas walks the line between pornochanchada mayhem and the kind of story that takes itself seriously. In the film, Helena is the daughter of criminal. As a result of her strange family situation, she was raised in a boarding school. While that kept her away from death and violence for a while, she eventually ends up suffering anyway when the priest who was her teacher and caretaker is killed by a group of outlaws. Instead of crying, Helena convinces her female friends to join her in getting some revenge. The group of females form a gang of avengers and set out to patrol the wild areas of Northeast Brazil. Wearing matching uniforms that make them look like stripping cowgirls and brandishing guns they just learned how to use, the ladies kill some bad guys and capture and punish others. Luckily for the captured ones, punishment is having sex with the beautiful avengers.

For some strange reason, this pornochanchada was categorized as an action film. While there are a few shootings and some running around, this is the kind of movie more known for impromptu stripping sessions, bad humor, groups of females bathing naked in a lake, funky editing, transparent underwear, and lots of sex. Also, the continuous presence of humor clearly makes it a comedy. For example, every time the avengers capture a group of men, they force them to strip and then measure their manhood. Needless to say, the jokes keep coming while their yelling out measurements. Also, every time the ladies shove men into their tent, the one they leave outside to keep an eye on things always runs into the shot naked and screaming “I want some too!”

As Cangaceiras Eróticas is predictable in a lot of ways, but it also packs three nice surprises. The first is that the photography is one step above decent. There are no shaky shots and only a few extremely fast zooms. Considering the ladies are always moving, the camera work is decent and there are horrible shots. The second surprise is the awesome degree of campiness. For example, bullets fly and bad guys die, but there is not even a drop of blood visible in the entire film. However, the crowning jewel of the film is a scene almost at the end. The avengers are sitting around their camp, which is in the middle of a desert. Suddenly, one of them decides to perform a striptease. Before doing so, she runs into a tent and comes out with sticks of ice cream for a few of the women. There is no electricity or running water out in the wild, but they somehow manage to keep ice cream inside their tent. Yes, the scene makes the movie and is something fans of campy cinema can’t miss. Last but definitely not least is the fact that the director somehow managed to make an exploitation film in which, in a way, women are the ones running the show. Yes, they chose to wear skimpy outfits and parade around naked, but they do so while making males their slaves and killing bad guys.

Brazilian pornochanchadas have a special feel to them, a kind of humor that’s hard to find anywhere else and a way to present nudity that very “Brazilian,” for lack of a better word. If you are curious to know what it’s all about, this film is a perfect place to start.