Commandos head deep into the Amazon jungle to rescue a general’s daughter who has been kidnapped by a cannibal tribe.
Before we even get into the movie itself, I want to talk about the title of this film. Or should I say, titles? Here, we’ll be going with the title In the Land of Cannibals, which is simply a translation of the Italian title, Nella terra dei cannibali. But, much like the director, Martin Miller (aka Bruno Mattei, Vincent Dawn, Pierre Le Blanc, et all), this movie has a whole list of names, some of them beyond ridiculous. The worldwide English title is Land of Death. In France, it is either Cannibal of Death or Horror Cannibal 1. It was released in the UK as Cannibal Ferox 3: Land of Death, and in Japan as Cannibal Holocaust 3: Cannibal vs Commando, both of these in an obvious attempt to latch on to a much better and more well known film. It seems there was a missed opportunity here, as Predator 3: Without the Aliens would have been more appropriate for this near-remake.
In the Land of Cannibals is about a group of commandos who get sent into the jungles to find a missing expedition of soldiers who had been searching for the governor’s lost daughter. They team up with a jungle guide named Romero (Claudio Morales), pile into a helicopter, and set out for their destination. Along their journey, they encounter a handful of familiar scenes from Cannibal Holocaust and Cannibal Ferox, and even more from Predator. Eventually, they come across a native mutilating the genitals of a native woman, then sending her out on a canoe, so they follow him to the tribe. They fight against another tribe, and soon discover the governor’s daughter, Sara Armstrong (Cindy Matic), is being used by the tribe as a drugged sex goddess (a later explanation says she was part of a mission that was slaughtered, but she was spared because they had never seen blonde hair before). The movie ends with the commandos attempting to rescue Sara and ‘get to da choppa!’, er, I mean, find the helicopter that will be flying them back to safety.
Look, I’m all about a movie throwing in familiar things or recreating scenes in order to pay homage to an influential movie or genre. And I even recognize the difficulty in putting together a wholly original movie today, especially when dealing with such a specific subgenre as cannibalsploitation. But when you’re simply lifting whole sections of movies and simply replacing the actors and rearranging the dialogue, that’s where I draw the line. It reminds me of writing research papers in junior high and using a thesaurus in order not to plagiarize; all that gets you is a very familiar story told less effectively than it originally was. And that’s what In the Land of Cannibals is, a poorly retold story of Predator, but replacing the alien with native cannibals.
We’ve got the usual elements of a cannibalsploitation film here: partially eaten dead bodies, severed limbs, ritual murders, dead animals (I can’t be sure they went “full murder” in this one like Deodato or Lenzi did, but it doesn’t appear that any actual animals were harmed in the making of this film), half-naked “natives” howling and dancing around. There are a few shootout scenes as well, as we watch heavily armed commandos gun down a spear-wielding tribe. But I don’t think there’s a single original thought in this movie, it’s all simply chunks of other movies put in an order that made enough sense to call a “new” movie.
I mentioned the Predator connection before, but I still don’t think I stressed it enough. We’re talking exact scenes and carefully reworded quotes throughout. I could write an entire column just showing the comparisons, but instead I’ll just name a couple blatant ones. Within the army of commandos, there’s also a “native-looking” solider who seems to be one with the jungle (in Predator, he’d be named Billy). At one point, he holds his necklace as he looks out into the trees, says he senses something. Later, we see him trembling, and he admits “I’m scared,” to which fellow soldiers tell him that he’s never scared. In the first half of the mission, the commandos have a native captive; substitute that character for the Anna character in Predator, and you know exactly what his actions will be. A soldier’s arm gets chopped off while he’s shooting an automatic gun, an exact recreation of Dillon’s demise. There’s even reworded quotes like “all or none” and an elongated “get to da choppa!” But my absolute favorite is when the soldier Vasquez somehow gets hurt, and another soldier points out that she’s bleeding, to which she responds “I’ve got no time for things like bleeding!” I can only hope this will one day become the title of her autobiography…
The gore is decent at best, the acting is pretty bad, and the story is tedious. I always try to look for the silver lining in even the worst movies, but In the Land of Cannibals is a tough one for me to justify. It’s a point that by now has been driven into the ground, but I’ll repeat it one more time: if you’ve seen Predator and Cannibal Holocaust, there’s really no need for you to check this one out. Unless, of course, you want to make a drinking game out of it. For every scene that lifted straight out of a previous cannibalsploitation movie or McTiernan’s Predator, call it out and take a drink. Just make sure to pick a night when you don’t have to work in the morning, because you’ll be wasted in no time.