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Ultimo mondo cannibale (Ruggero Deodato, Italy, 1977)

Featuring Me Me Lai, Massimo Foschi, Ivan Rassimov, Sheik Razak Shikur, Judy Rosly, Suleiman and Shamsi

Last Cannibal World is one of the earliest, and perhaps the best, of the notorious wave of Italian cannibal flicks unleashed at the end of the 'seventies. It's Deodato's prelude to the better known Cannibal Holocaust, and is better paced and less obviously sensationalist that its successor.

The start is slow as it is clumsily contrived for Massimo Foschi to be the last of a band of oil prospectors landed by plane in the middle of a Philippine jungle. Things steadily pick up, and his capture by the tribe of cannibals has the impressive 'jungle gothic' atmosphere later seen in Holocaust.

Foschi is carried to a vast cave where the whole tribe spend a lot of time binding and stripping him, then molest his genitals. Instigator of the latter activity is Me Me Lai, maybe convincing as a Y-front-twanger but not quite so much as a cavegirl.

Our man is used naked in weird flying rituals before thrown into a pit to be urinated upon by small boys. In a nod to Wells's Æpyornis Island he has to fight for his scraps of food with a large and vicious sharp-beaked bird. Romance demands he escapes along with Me Me, but that turns out to be just a way-point on his downward spiral to the ultimate state of primitive degradation.

Lechers will be disappointed at the scarcity of female cannibals, but the cumulative impact on the viewer of the endless physical suffering is powerful indeed. Gruelling though they are, some scenes border on the magnificent. Foschi is shockingly good as the centrepiece, and there is a splendidly florid musical score. The weak point is the 2.35:1 'slit-o-vision' cinematography, a terrible choice which leaves most shots either inelgantly cropped or full of emptiness. The effect is especially bad with the spliced-in stock footage.

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