Sunday, August 30, 2015

Amazon Jail (1982)

Written by: Alfredo Palacios, Oswaldo de Oliveira
Directed by: Oswaldo de Oliveira
Sandra Graffi as Betty
Elys Cardoso as Liz
Sergio Hingst as Edgar
Elizabeth Hartmann as Helena

There is very little information to be found about Oswaldo de Oliveira. Well, the one we care about anyway. There's a pretty famous soccer coach with the same name, but I daresay you're not here reading this right now because you're interested in who kicks the most GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLS! Nope, unless you read Portuguese, just about all that's out there for our boy is year of birth (1931), year of death (1990), and filmography (a lot of weird crap).

My introduction to Oliveira's oeuvre was the ferociously nasty Bare Behind Bars, which is the cinematic equivalent of jumping down a Slip 'N' Slide covered with rusty nails and rotten meat. That's sort of like going into the specialty hot sauce store and starting with the Nuclear Inferno of Satan's Molten Wedding Tackle Spackle. You're only going to have less searing oil on your tongue from there on out.

Tonight's movie is actually not a women in prison movie, but more of a white slavery movie. We meet the first of our two antagonists, Edgar, arranging for a couple of rich business types to come to his villa and sample his wares. Those wares are mulheres (the original title of the movie is actually Curral de Mulheres, which makes a lot more sense than Amazon Jail), who have been tricked into coming to Edgar's plantation for job interviews only to be tossed in a big wooden stockade and surrounded by guards and dogs. They're managed by Helena, his inevitably bisexual...wife? Lover? Sister? Fuck, I don't know what their relationship is supposed to be. It's weird, like everything else in this movie. Anyway, she's sent to hand pick some girls to put on a show for the rich guys that night so they can make their purchasing decisions after having done their due diligence, which in this case means being slapped around by a bunch of shapely buttocks.

The girls are strangely unafraid despite their completely powerless position. There isn't a single one of them who acts even a little scared that they might be facing all the tortures that a bunch of greasy old fat guys could visit upon them. One is compliant on the grounds that being in the harem of a rich guy at least means a nice house and good food and jewelery, and it's sure better than being stuck in a pen in some weirdo's back yard. The rest of their attitudes range from indifferent to “go fuck yourself”.

Speaking of buttocks, I hope the mere existence of them is enough to hold your attention for a good five or ten minutes, because that's all you're going to be looking at. After Edgar has plied the men with drinks, Helena brings in the cream of the crop, decked out in thongs, pasties, and not much else. A lone and seriously overworked drummer bops out a sassy dance beat while the girls parade around the table and jiggle and the greasy old men fondle to their congested hearts' content. Not since Ed Wood's Orgy of the Dead has a display of theoretically seductive bouncing flesh been this boring. At least this one has relative brevity going for it.

While all this is going on, Betty, the main instigator of insubordination among the captive women, is having quite uncomfortable and impractical looking – but apparently quite exciting nonetheless – sex with Edgar's nephew (I think his name is Tod, or Ted, or something. It was a little hard to make out.) through the wooden posts that comprise the bars of her prison. Tod/Ted hasn't been part of Edgar's operation for long, you see, and while he hasn't openly revolted against his uncle's business practices, Betty is doing a pretty good job of convincing him to help her and the girls escape so he can bang her on a nice comfy bed somewhere without getting dick splinters.

The next day a new batch of women is brought in, and one of them, Liz, is even more of a rebellious badass than Betty. Edgar's birthday party is coming up, and they concoct a plan to use the impending bacchanalia as a diversion for an escape. They'll all be expected to provide the party entertainment so obviously a mass exodus is out of the question, but it should be plenty easy to slip one girl out a window. If they can hold their captors' attention long enough, the hope is that she'll have enough of a head start on the guards and their dogs that she can get to the authorities and bring help.

Everything is going swimmingly until the dogs start barking and the girl's escape is noticed far too early in the plan. She does manage to stay ahead of her pursuers until the next day, when she runs across three girls skinny dipping in a quiet little bend in the river overlooked by a scenic waterfall. The guards catch her before she can make the urgency of her problem clear, and sure enough all four of them wind up back in the compound.

Now there was no way the men could have recaptured their quarry unseen, so their options were either kill or kidnap the other three women, and they made the best of a bad situation. At least the boss got some more stock, right? But every good predator knows you don't shit where you eat, and these three were local girls with boyfriends who notice they've gone missing by the end of the same day.

Back at Edgar's place, everyone is in a state of panic over when the cops will show up. Well, everyone but Edgar. I think he believes his outlandish mustache will come to life and protect him like a furry Daimajin. It's like watching a soap opera seeing how many different contingency escape plans Helena has cooked up with various people. Edgar, George, one of the slave girls, probably one of the damn dogs too for all we know. None of them ever have a chance to come to fruition, however, because Betty and Liz have cooked up a new escape plan that involves getting a couple of the guards drunk with a bottle of cheap rum smuggled to them by Edgar's nephew and then while they're sleepy and near the door of the stockade, immolating them with a Molotov cocktail that has roughly the explosive energy of a daisy cutter bomb. Tod/Ted even joins the fight by blowing up Edgar's Jeep when he and Helena try to get away from the compound.

Once the girls are out in the jungle, they realize only half their struggle is over. Now they have to manage a days-long hike through the Amazon rainforest with no food, water, tools, or any kind of supplies in order to reach civilization. At one point they come across a rock face with dozens of bird nests, and decide to raid them for eggs. One of the girls gets bitten by a snake, and the journey is held up while they try to make her as comfortable as they can while they figure out what to do. The girl's condition gets worse and worse until it becomes clear she's not making it out of the jungle alive. Liz puts her out of her misery with a gun stolen from one of the guards in the movie's one truly impactful and even somewhat poignant scene. The terrified look in the girl's eyes, her pleas that she doesn't want to die, juxtaposed against the massive jungle surrounding them and the hopelessness of her situation, is potent stuff.

Fortunately the movie stops taking itself seriously almost immediately as the girls stumble across a mining camp run by a slightly insane ex-priest and his legion of brainwashed gay lovers led by his turbo-queer black valet who overacts his part so hard I was worried the poor guy was going to hurt himself. Most of the men are gay purely by dint of being stuck in the jungle with nothing but an ocean of dicks around them, and the addition of a bunch of barely clothed and reasonably attractive women stirs things up enough for Fabulous Jim Jones that he cooks up a plan to kill the women in a big gay blood orgy the next night. Those boyfriends who've spent the whole movie ineffectually stumbling around the jungle finally show up, and the shit hits the canopy.

It's hard to believe that the guy who made Bare Behind Bars could go back to more or less the same well and come up with something as lighthearted and fluffy as Amazon Jail. Granted, we're talking about a very specific value of lighthearted and fluffy here, but I swear this movie is intended to be more of a comedy than anything. The acting is broad and hammy and over the top even for a movie like this, and I don't think all of the humor is unintentional. It's also not terribly funny, but you can't have everything. At least it's sleazy enough to keep the audience from falling asleep for the most part. If you're an exploitation completist who just can't rest until they've seen every smutty, sleazy movie they can conceivably get their hands on, you'll definitely see worse than Amazon Jail. At the very worst, you're not going to wish you could recapture the 90 minutes you spent on it. That said, if you're only going to see one Oswaldo de Oliveira movie, I suggest you not make it this one.


  1. Perhaps de Oliveira realized he'd gone a bit too far with Bare Behind Bars? I watched the latter after reading your review of it, and even I found it a bit nauseating (and promptly gave it the honor of second place on my list of the most depraved movies I've seen).

  2. It's entirely possible he sleazed himself out. Happy to hear I'm having a positive (negative?) impact on your viewing habits \m/-_-\m/
    Out of curiosity, what tops the list? It's got to be Serbian Film for me, which packed even more of a punch because rather than just being a catalog of atrocities, it's a genuinely good movie that also happens to be utterly horrifying.

  3. Bloodsucking Freaks is #1, because it makes evil look fun. Sardhu and his little buddy are just so enthusiastic, I couldn't help but think their antics were pretty funny (especially compared to the "good guys".)

    I find A Serbian Film to be a bit, I dunno, "pretentious"? Like the filmmakers deliberately set out to make a "controversial movie", instead of an exploitation movie. For one thing, they almost always cut away from anything nasty. Subtlety is great for more refined horror films, but a truly depraved film needs to go all out, show as much as possible given the limits of special effects and the law. As you know, Cannibal Holocaust (which I rank higher (lower?) than Serbian Film) actually did get its director in legal trouble, and frankly I'm surprised the makers of Bloodsucking Freaks didn't get in trouble, that movie is damnably realistic.

    Also, Serbian Film seems too "clean", it's not sleazy enough. Films shot in the 60s and 70s have a real advantage in that regard, not only in terms of the film stock, but also the decor and clothing.

    Which isn't to say that it isn't a disturbing movie, the sound effects in particular are very well done (the baby scene, urk...) I'd probably put it in my top ten. And it would've been in my top five before I found alt.binaries.sleazemovies. :)