Directed by Antonio Climati. Starring Marco Merlo, Fabrizio Merlo, May Deseligny, Bruno Corazzari, Roberto Ricci. Horror/Action/Adventure, Italy, 90 mins, cert 15.
Released in the UK on Blu-ray by 88 Films on 11th March 2019.
Not to be confused with Eli Roth's THE GREEN INFERNO from a few years back, this late '80s addition to the Italian cannibal genre also goes under the names PARADISO INFERNALE, NATURA CONTRO and, more notably but less appropriately, CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST II, the latter title added by distributors at the time who were hoping to cash in on Ruggero Deodato's notorious video nasty. Did it help? Well, possibly as it is the most memorable thing about the film, and this is despite GREEN INFERNO attempting to throw all the usual cannibal movie ingredients into the mix.
But that mixture has been watered down considerably since the days of CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST. After all, this was 1988 and things had moved on from the grimy footage of animal torture, mutilation and rape that made Deodato’s movie so infamous because despite being released as CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST II there is no actual cannibalism involved – unless you count the mention of a cannibal fish that makes its next meal the inside of one unfortunate man’s back passage, which is disgusting but not actually cannibalism. Nor are there any of the depraved acts that the characters in Deodato’s film indulge in or – more importantly – any real sense of danger or threat. The main characters in this film are a pair of blonde-haired and muscular airplane thieves (or so they appear to specialise in), a bespectacled anthropologist who isn’t averse to helping the other two steal planes, and a reporter who all fly off to the Amazonian jungle to try and find a missing professor. Once there, of course, they run into local tribes, gold smugglers and just about every criminal from the South American underworld as they try to stop the native tribespeople from being slaughtered whilst looking for the professor.
Pretty standard cannibal movie plot and, if truth be told, it is a pretty standard cannibal movie with a leaning more towards action and adventure rather than horror. Naturally the acting is awful but that is what we have come to expect from these Italian exploitation movies, the only thing being this is now 1988 and everything looks brighter and glossier than it did back in the late 1970s, and if you really try you could mistake certain scenes in this film for scenes from MACGUYVER, THE A-TEAM or any other ‘80s action TV show you care to name, such is the made-for-TV look throughout.
However, the look isn’t the only thing to reflect a more restrained approach as there is very little in the way of gore here. There are the odd splashes of colour when somebody gets hit with a spike swinging from a tree but everything else is either bloodless or implied and happens off-screen, including the castration by anaconda which would have been a grizzly highlight if Ruggero Deodato or Umberto Lenzi had made the film but here is shown in the ‘safest’ way possible. Ironically, director Antonio Climati has a history of making mondo films where all of those things would have been shown in all their glory; unfortunately for GREEN INFERNO, it is sorely lacking in anything remotely contemptuous or controversial (note the 15 rating). The payoff for that is that the film contains no animals being killed or tortured, with some animals even being treated and rescued by certain characters, and although that is a trade worth making there are plenty of opportunities to make use of practical effects that just don’t happen.
Presented in a 2K restoration with cleaned up colour correction, GREEN INFERNO does look fabulous, the image being very clean and the colours quite striking, giving it a fairly modern look considering it is now over thirty years old. The disc is a little light on extras, coming with a trailer, Italian opening and closing credits and, more notably, a half-hour featurette containing interviews with Ruggero Deodato, Umberto Lenzi and Segio Martino, who give explanations behind their contributions to the cannibal genre. To be honest, there’s nothing revealed here that hardcore fans won’t already know - and none of it has anything to do with GREEN INFERNO - but it doesn’t hurt to go over it all again and hear it straight from the mouths of those involved.
Overall, GREEN INFERNO isn’t a terrible film and is actually quite entertaining in its own way but it fails to live up to the movies it shamelessly namechecks by being quite tame and safe. Yes, the acting is bad and it isn’t really a horror movie but it does have a sense of adventure and – shock! – fun about it. The film looks stunning and for newbies there is some context about the genre with the featurette in the special features so this package is probably a good place to start if you are looking for an entry-level cannibal movie experience, but for those looking for a companion piece to CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST – still the daddy of them all – then GREEN INFERNO, as a movie, is somewhat lacking.
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