Trap Them and Kill Them (1977)

(courtesy of guest reviewer – GORELORD)

OH – MY – GOD! The European horror gods have truly blessed myself and my collection with this fantastic and enjoyably cheesy entry in the Italian jungle / cannibal sub-genre. And now I’m taking it upon myself to grace the readers of And You Thought It Was Safe with their first excursion into the nasty world of Italian cannibal flicks. Not to mention, the wonderfully sleazy world of infamous Italian horror and sexploitation director Joe D’Amato (real name Aristide Massaccesi).

The jungle /cannibal horror sub-genre first reared it’s gruesome head in Italy in the form of 1973’s Man From Deep River, which was directed by one of the kings of the cannibal films, Umberto Lenzi. The brief history of the sub-genre ranges from 1973 to 1981, but it’s popularity among hardcore gorehounds is just as apparent in the year 2000 as it was in the 70’s and early 80’s. The plot for most of these splatterfests was pretty much the same. A group of travelers would go on an expedition into the Amazon jungles for one reason or anotherĀ  only to be stalked and graphically mutilated and eaten by a savage cannibal tribe. The majority of these films contained some pretty bad acting and horrible dubbing, but at the same time sickened audiences with their incredibly realistic gore effects. These films are definitely not for the Sunday matinee crowd, and you’re not likely to find them in the possession of those closed minded mainstream morons at Blockbuster.

TRAP THEM AND KILL THEM (1977) is an odd hybrid in the sub-genre. It’s a cross between the cannibal film and the popular softcore sex Emanuelle series from Italy. For those of you who don’t know, the Emanuelle series of films starred extremely sexy European exploitation queen Laura Gemser as the title character, who found herself caught up in many sex-filled adventures. This film, although a cannibal movie, is no exception as it definitely has it’s share of screwing. It’s hard not to drool though the minute you lay your eyes on the Indonesian born goddess Gemser. TRAP THEM AND KILL THEM is not a direct part of the series but is also known as EMANUELLE E GLI ULTIMI CANNIBALI (Italian title) and EMANUELLE AND THE LAST CANNIBALS. Other, more direct movies in the series include: Black Emanuelle (1975), Emanuelle in America (1976), Emanuelle Around the World (1977), and Sister Emanuelle (1978) among several others.

Right away as the movie starts, fans and lovers of European trash cinema will be hooked. The opening credits roll to an extremely groovy piece of disco cheese called “Make Love On the Wing”, sung by Ulla Linder. This song was truly funky and I dug it bigtime. In fact, all of the original music contributed to the film by composer Nico Fidenco was totally cool and added a lot to the cheesy 70’s feel. At the end of the opening credits it says: Based on a true story as reported by Jennifer O’ Sullivan. I don’t have a clue who Jennifer O’ Sullivan is, but with all of the time the people in this film spend having sex, I doubt it’s a true incident of cannibalism. And plus, it’s directed by one of the kings of European exploitation, Aristide Massaccesi (a.k.a. Joe D’Amato).

The opening scene (set in New York I believe) takes us to a mental asylum full of warped wackos and one breathtakingly beautiful babe. The lovely Emanuelle (played by Laura Gemser) is a newspaper journalist posing as one of the patients of the asylum. Suddenly, a screaming nurse runs out into the hall with her right tit chewed off ! Whoa, what a great start ! Asylum attendants rush into a room where a crazed female patient gnaws on the nurse’s nipple. “She was found on the edge of the Natogrosso,” one nurse claims. “she’s a real savage”. They straight jacket the flesh-eating freak before she can finish her snack.

The same night, Emanuelle sneaks into the girl’s room hoping to get a scoop for her paper. She sure has a funny way of getting to the bottom of a story as she lifts up the girl’s gown and starts petting her kitty, if you catch my drift. She discovers an odd Aztec-like symbol above the girl’s pubic area and photograph’s it with a camera hidden in a doll. The camera must magically penetrate through clothing because when she takes the picture the symbol is clearly covered by the gown. Yet for some reason when she shows the photo to her boss Rod, the girl’s gown is pulled above the symbol revealing it. Oh well, this movie is great without being perfect,and there’s plenty of mistakes where that came from.

Rod and Emanuelle inquire to one of the other reporters at the paper about the origin of the symbol. He tells them that it’s the symbol of an extinct tribe of cannibals called the Tupinambas. Rod boasts about what a huge story this is for the paper, even though he just let a guy walk away with a piece of the photographic evidence.

Emanuelle is sent to try and arrange an expedition to the Amazon with experienced anthropologist and curator of the Natural History Museum, Professor Mark Lester (played by Laura Gemser’s real life husband, the late Gabriele Tinti). Laura and Gabriele appeared in many exploitation films together. As she heads to the museum to meet Professor Lester, some trippy, suave 70’s music entrances us. They sit down for lunch at a cafe where Emanuelle starts asking Mark questions about cannibalism. He responds by saying, “But the subject is so vast that if you want to know more we should go to my house”. Subtle buddy, real subtle. He might as well have said, “I want to bang you now”.

Anyway, they head to Mark’s place and on the way Emanuelle mentions the expedition- “By the way, I’d like to make you an offer. An expedition to the Amazon. Lead by you and fully subsidized by my paper”. Now how could anyone refuse a temptress like Emanuelle? They get to Professor Lester’s where he shows her documentary footage of a cannibal tribe chopping off a head, severing a penis, and eating their rivals. She shows Mark a picture of the tattooed symbol on the girl from the asylum. He tells her that the Tupinamba tribe thought to be responsible for the symbol are long extinct, but their descendants are the supposedly extinct Yapyakahs. Mark is intrigued and accepts the expedition. Strap yourselves in, it’s gonna be a bumpy ride.

We cut to a scene involving Emanuelle and her boyfriend as they park near the waterfront. She tells him about the trip like it’s no big deal- “Tomorrow I’m leaving for the Amazon, for work. Something very, very interesting. It’s about cannibals”. Then we get some really goofy dialogue. “Emanuelle you’re crazy, you’re really crazy”, he says. Good old Emanuelle, always horny, responds by saying, “Maybe I am, but right now I want to make love”. She ends up screwing him under a bridge…with his jeans still on !!! Now how in the hell does that work? Emanuelle is always thinking about sex. Like when Professor Lester goes to send a telegram to his friend in the Amazon. While he goes in to send the telegram, Emanuelle sits in the taxi and has flashbacks of them having sex. This goes on long enough to play the entire slow version of that awesome opening disco tune “Make Love On the Wing”.

It’s time to set off for the Amazon as Emanuelle and Mark board a plane. And in another funny mistake, one scene has Emanuelle sitting in a window seat looking at stock footage of land and clouds and Mark is sitting next to her. When the camera cuts back to them after the stock footage, Mark is in the window seat and Emanuelle is in the seat next to him. It was like 5 seconds in between shots ! How in the hell did they miss that?

They arrive in the Amazon where they go to the home of a colleague of Professor Lester’s named Wilkes (played by Geoffrey Coplestone). Wilkes was the one who found the girl in the asylum. It is here that we meet two other members of the ill-fated expedition. A soft speaking nun, Sister Angela (played by Annemarie Clementi), and Wilkes’s daughter Isabelle (played by Monica Zanchi). Actress Monica Zanchi appeared in another of the Emanuelle films along side Laura Gemser and Gabriele Tinti the following year in Sister Emanuelle (1978). She also had an uncredited role in Lucio Fulci’s classic Zombie (1979).

Emanuelle and Mark explain to Wilkes that Emanuelle is there to do a story on the Yapyahkahs, but he claims the Yapyahkahs have been extinct for 50 years. Sister Angela tells them that a priest in the area, Father Morales, would know something on the subject. Isabelle and Sister Angela plan on taking supplies to the Father’s mission the next day and invite Mark and Emanuelle to join them. And of course we can’t let a night go by in this film without another hot and heavy sex scene between Emanuelle and Mark. This time though, Isabelle looks on from around the corner while pleasuring herself. It’s no-holds barred all the way with Joe D’Amato directing.

The next day Emanuelle, Mark, Isabelle, and Sister Angela, along with two natives, Phillipe and Manolo, head off to the Amazon wilderness in search of Father Morales’s mission. They go by boat but they must have stopped somewhere because next we see Emanuelle and Isabelle playing near a waterfall and fondling each other. A smoking monkey sits by and watches !? Man I love this movie !

Now they’reĀ  all back on the boat and Emanuelle is snapping photos of stock footage Alligators. What would a cannibal movie be without stock footage of wildlife? When the group makes it to an island and tie up their boat, the action picks up almost immediately. As Emanuelle is loading film into her camera, a huge python constricts itself around her neck. As the others struggle to get it off her, a gunshot penetrates the snake’s head. The man who shot it identifies himself as hunter Donald Mackenzie (played by Donald O’ Brien). O’Brien is probably best known for his lead role in another European stomach turner, Dr. Butcher M.D. (1980). Donald breaks the news to the group that Father Morales’s mission was massacred by savages. He brings them back to his campsite where they meet his wife Maggie Mackenzie (played by Nieves Navarro, credited here and in many other films as Susan Scott). They also meet the Mackenzie’s man servant Salvador (played by Percy Hogan).

Both Susan Scott and Percy Hogan have also appeared in several Euro-trash horror and exploitation films. Scott (real name Nieves Navarro) had appeared prior to this in the 1972 Italian Giallo (slasher/mystery) The Slasher is the Sex Maniac. She also starred with Laura Gemser and Gabriele Tinti again the same year as this film in Black Emanuelle, White Emanuelle (1977). Percy Hogan appeared in an in-name-only Emanuelle film, Black Emanuelle 2 (1976), which was an indirect sequel. He also appeared in a 1977 sci-fi starring Jack Palance called Anno Zero-Guerra Nello Spazio (a.k.a – War in Space and Battle of the Stars).

The group sits around the Mackenzie’s campsite as Donald talks about his experiences as a hunter. Maggie wonders if they’re sure about the possibility of discovering real life cannibals. Mark assures her, “Yes, the tribe we are to locate are indeed cannibals. They tie up their victims, rip open their bellies, tear out their insides, and eat it.” Almost as soon as those words leave Professor Lester’s mouth, we experience what I thought was one of the scariest parts of the film. We suddenly hear breathing and a heart-beet like sound, with some odd language mumbling hauntingly as the camera gives us a point of view perspective from several different angles of the group being watched. It’s the cannibals stalking their prey ! These scenes are really atmospheric and gave me a real feeling of unease. Of course, there’s more sex, this time between Maggie and Salvador.

The next day one of the native guides, Phillipe, runs up to the others in panic. They go with him and discover the other native guide Manolo, laying on the beach gutted with a snake exiting his chest cavity. They all decide that it’s time to get the hell out of there and begin their trek back through the wilds of the Amazon to some cool distorted flute and drum safari music. You just get the feeling that they ain’t gonna get out alive.

This is where I’m going to stop reviewing TRAP THEM AND KILL THEM scene for scene because I don’t want to give away which members of the expedition get butchered. But believe me, a lot of blood and guts are spilled. One of the girl’s nipple is cut off and eaten in front of her before she is disemboweled. Spears are imbedded in stomachs and backs. One of the guys is cut in half with rope. One of the other women has her vagina stabbed with a knife and ripped open. I thought it was time I lived up to the name Gorelord. Plus, there’s a sub-plot involving diamonds.

Unfortunately, the director Aristide Massaccesi, one of the legends of Eurotrash, passed away last year. I want to thank him for having the balls to direct the kind of movies he wanted to, despite what the “conservative crowd” had to say. His movies have a large following and will continue to forever.

If you could stand the nasty killings in this wicked cannibal caper, check out others in this messed up sub-genre, including: MAN FROM DEEP RIVER (1973), CANNIBAL (1976), SLAVE OF THE CANNIBAL GOD (1978), EMERALD JUNGLE (1980), THE MAN HUNTER (1980), WHITE CANNIBAL QUEEN (1980), and the two most disgusting CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST (1978) and CANNIBAL FEROX (1981). Floss your teeth after viewing.