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  Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death Man Eaters
Year: 1989
Director: J.F. Lawton
Stars: Shannon Tweed, Bill Maher, Karen Mistal, Adrienne Barbeau, Brett Stimely, Barry Primus, Jim McKrell, Paul Ross, Vicky Varner, Alan David Gelman, Pat Crawford Brown, Christopher Doyle, Lloyd Gordon, James Trenton, Steve Reid, Jim Maniaci, Junero Jennings
Genre: Comedy, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: A couple of adventurers are lost in the Avocado Jungle, but not knowing where to turn one of them notices an example of the fruit hanging from a tree. Venturing over to pluck it, he hears the sound of splashing and follows it to see a group of attractive women bathing in a pool, so hardly believing his luck he calls out to them. That is the point where he gets an arrow or two in his chest, dropping dead, and his friend runs off in a panic, even though he doesn't know where he's going, as illustrated by the way he stumbles into a trap: he has met The Piranha Women...

And not the Cannibal Women as they are named in the title for reasons best known to the producers, but the end result was the same, a spoof of all those jungle adventures which brought in references to Raiders of the Lost Ark and Apocalypse Now for good measure. This was the brainchild of the man who wrote Pretty Woman, J. F. Lawton, which sounds like an odd match until you know that script was made into a fairy tale through rewrites, and then the surprisingly dedicated examination of feminism in this movie begins to make more sense. Not that this was a dry tract on gender politics, as the aim here was assuredly for the funny bone.

Now, if you take your average tiny budget parody then the filmmakers usually opt for the broadest possible targets so as not to alienate the audience they so desperately need to entertain, and it was true of a lot of falling over here for easy laughs so Lawton did not entirely reject the obvious. Yet along with that was a contemplation of whether men and women could be on equal standing, which played out as a frequently ridiculous take down of both the male chauvinist pig's point of view, and the radical, man-hating feminist one, as if a middle ground was being sought. If it didn't particularly succeed in hitting that happy medium, it wasn't through lack of trying, only the jokes tended to get in the way.

That said, the fact it was attempted at all spoke to a certain kind of exploitation flick where with nothing to lose the creators included whatever was pressing on their minds and built a trashy plot around it: you could see the Roger Corman school of cinema had influenced the generations of moviemakers to come, and this was a good example. They have to get a bunch of characters into the jungle, and they begin by having lecturer Margo Hunt (Shannon Tweed, not nude for a change) sent by the government who see the Piranha Women as a threat to the vital avocado economy. Only she can track down Dr Kurtz (Adrienne Barbeau) who has gone native there, and tagging along are chirpy airhead Bunny (Karen Mistal) and macho man Jim (Bill Maher when he was making a living as an actor).

Actually while Margo pushes the woman's liberation line and Jim rejects any idea that he shouldn't be the dominant one, they're both pretty absurd, which is kind of the point, although Bunny, the feminist's nightmare female, is wholly played for laughs. In the spirit of many an impoverished movie, there's a whole load of chat to keep expenses down, but raises more laughs than you'd expect, or indeed this had any right to when most of it consists of the cast wandering through a forest for ninety minutes or so. Among the highlights are the tribe of cowed males who co-exist with the cannibals by knitting potholders and baking for them until a disgusted Jim gets them drunk to discover their inner boor, and the Piranhas' deadly rivals the Barracudas who are split on how to serve their meals - naturally the Piranhas favour guacamole. Lawton concentrated on his lessons and musings so that the exploitation aspect tended to be relegated to a bit of nudity at the start to cheat you into thinking you'll get more (you don't), but when it was this funny, you shouldn't grumble too much. Music by Carl Dante.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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