Viral biologist Jeremy Taylor (Al Cliver) is travelling to the exotic land of Malabi with his wife and young daughter on a boat up the river, but although he needs to be there for his work, he is having misgivings about taking his family along. As the location grows ever more cut off from civilisation, the stories he has heard about cannibals in the area begin to press on his mind, rightly so as the craft is boarded by these tribesmen and they set about dragging his wife to the deck and eating her raw. As if that was not bad enough, they then kidnap him and his daughter...
The Cannibals, known by a selection of titles including White Cannibal Goddess or Mondo Cannibale, was one of trash director Jess Franco's entries into, well, the cannibal genre as you may have gathered from the name, a misbegotten collection of exploitation flicks which lured the thrillseekers with promises of extreme gore and other stomach-churning sequences. Some of those efforts went on to a degree of notoriety, but not so this one as with practically all of Franco's movies it was his name and all that went with it which offered the attraction to his fans. There are those who found it hard to believe he did actually have adherents, but they do exist.
Probably not because of The Cannibals, mind you, which displayed all of the director's cheeseparing cost cutting and little of his occasional flair, and the reason for that could have been that he never expressed an interest in the genre and was simply making what was commercial at the time, not that the time lasted very long for these works. The plot was, for all its pretending to be part of the new extreme cinema of the seventies and eighties, rather 1930s B-movie conventional with its central concept of Taylor's daughter going native and becoming the queen of the tribe who capture her - the man himself having escaped minus one of his arms.
A special effect achieved by having Cliver fold his arm inside his shirt sleeve, leaving it looking very uncomfortable, not to mention not exactly convincing but then neither was the plastic crocodile we caught sight of on the river bank at the beginning of the story. We are intended to believe Taylor has spent many years trying to persuade his doctors that he was indeed attacked by cannibals, though they don't accept that (why would he lie?) so once he has raised the money for a fresh expedition to rescue his daughter, now grown to be willowy blonde Sabrina Siani wearing very little, they set off in spite of hardly anyone taking him seriously, which seems a long way to go to indulge a supposed madman.
Anyway, he is naturally absolutely correct in his assumptions, and little Lana is still alive; to take away some of the pain of the loss of his wife he gets Franco's muse Lina Romay as a new girlfriend, as after all you would miss her in one of his post-1972 movies if she was not there. Her Ana is the sole member of the party to swallow his story, but the others soon catch up to her point of view once they get to the jungle and the poisoned arrows begin to fly. If what you were watching for was the gore, you'd be both rewarded and disappointed, as while there were assuredly shots of the cannibal extras (who look like a bunch of blokes who recently attended a children's birthday party to have their faces painted) chowing down on what was meant to be human flesh, as filmed in slow motion at great length in closeup, they don't half turn tiresome. Aficonados would be satisfied should they lower their expectations, but this was not for the mainstream in any form. Music by Roberto Pregadio.
Legendary director of predominantly sex-and-horror-based material, Spanish-born Jesus Franco had as many as 200 directing credits to his name. Trained initially as a musician before studying film at the Sorbonne in Paris, Franco began directing in the late 50s. By using the same actors, sets and locations on many films, Franco has maintained an astonishing workrate, and while the quality of his work has sometimes suffered because of this, films such as Virgin Amongst the Living dead, Eugenie, Succubus and She Killed in Ecstasy remain distinctive slices of 60s/70s art-trash.
Most of his films have been released in multiple versions with wildly differing titles, while Franco himself has directed under a bewildering number of pseudonyms. Actors who have regularly appeared in his films include Klaus Kinski, Christopher Lee and wife Lina Romay; fans should also look out for his name on the credits of Orson Welles' Chimes of Midnight, on which he worked as assistant director.