Massacre in Dinosaur Valley
Italy - Brazil / 1985
Directed by Michele Massimo Tarantini
Starring
Michael Sopkiw
Suzane Carvalho
Milton Morris
Color / 98 Minutes / Not Rated
Format: DVD(R1 - NTSC)
Shriek Show
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2004 Stand-alone edition
Review by
Brian Lindsey
 
6
    9   10 = Highest Rating  
I've been a lifelong lover of exploitation flicks. Usually, the more outrageous and transgressive they are the better. Yet there's one particular subgenre I view with disdain and contempt: the Italian cannibal film. I speak of Cannibal Holocaust, Cannibal Ferox and the like. These ultra-gory jungle adventures seem to have a rabidly devoted following which I'm quite frankly at a loss to understand. Now I certainly have nothing against steamin', heapin' helpings of cinematic gore... That fact should be readily apparent to anyone who's ventured past the main pages of this website. For me, what takes these films beyond the pale is the real on-camera killing of animals. Obviously, such abhorrently hideous (not to mention completely unnecessary) scenes are what gives these films, to some cult movie fans at least, the alluring cachet of the forbidden, the taboo. Films are declared reprehensible by the mainstream press and for some folks this only heightens their interest in them. I freely admit to generally falling into this category myself (What's all the fuss about? I gotta see!), but not when it comes to movies that stoop so low as to butcher defenseless animals merely for the sake of a cheap shock. It's immoral, plain and simple. In my book, only kiddie porn plumbs scummier depths of genuine depravity by filmmakers.
    So what exactly does all this have to do with 1985's Massacre in Dinosaur Valley? In some countries it's passed off as Cannibal Ferox II. Happily, this Italo-Brazilian co-production offers all the trappings of the cannibal/jungle adventure genre without any animal killings whatsoever. That it's chock full of cheesy laughs, gratuitous nudity and gore (the fake kind, that is) makes for a readily enjoyable romp of the 'so bad it's good' variety.
    The plot's rather cut and dried;
writer/director Michele Massimo Tarantini (Women In Fury) doesn't want to impinge too much on the mayhem and nudity.* The survivors of a plane crash in the Amazon jungle three men and three women attempt to trek back to civilization, running a gauntlet of leeches, snakes, piranhas, alligators, headhunting cannibals and evil white slavers along the way. Asserting leadership of the group is cammo-wearing John (Milton Morris), a boorish Vietnam vet whose drunken floozy of a wife constantly belittles him in front of the others. (Even though hubby's a real bastard, you'll cheer when he bitch-slaps her.) John claims to know survival skills from his time in 'Nam, so the others the foxy daughter of a professor killed in the crash, a fashion photographer and one of his underwear models, a hunky, shotgun-toting paleontologist agree to follow his orders. But Kevin (Michael Sopkiw), our heroic "bone hunter" (who at film's start is shown dragging a coffin-shaped crate of fossils into a bar, a la Django), soon suspects that the bullheaded John is only leading them deeper into Indian country. Sure enough, both nature and natives take a deadly toll of the party. Underwear Model and Dead Prof's Daughter are captured and taken to the village of the headhunters, where they're stripped and forced to participate in a barbarous ritual. Kevin and his trusty 12-gauge come to the rescue in the nick of time, but their escape by river only lands them in the clutches of white slavers operating an illegal mine. It might've been preferable to be a meal for the cannibals...
    Massacre in Dinosaur Valley is silly, trashy, sleazy fun from beginning to end. Obviously, the goal here was to infuse the cannibal genre with a little Indiana Jones-style adventure. Actually, there's only a single instance of cannibalism in the entire film (when the Indian chief cuts out a victim's heart and eats it), so it's misleading to lump it in with the notorious cannibal flicks of Ruggero Deodato and company.
    The focus here is on action and T&A titillation. Tarantini certainly succeeds in the latter effort; sexy Suzane Carvalho (star of Women in Fury) and yummy Susan Hahn spend a good chunk of the film's second half either naked or topless. Even when clothed they're subjected to substantial leering by the camera. (Naturally the ladies don't wear bras under their very thin blouses... and it can get rather wet in the rain forest. This is the type of film in which guys pause for a lecherous peek at a gal's panties even with a band of savage headhunters hot on their heels!) Action scenes are generally okay, but the important crash sequence is rendered uproariously funny by its abject cheesiness a toy airplane is dropped in a mud puddle while everyone screams on the soundtrack. Some of the sloppily-dubbed dialog is a riot, too.
    Not to knock anyone else's viewing choices, but I'll take naked babes, cheesy mayhem and unintentional laughs over the mutilation deaths of animals any day. They're much more fun.
* There aren't actually any dinosaurs in the movie... It's just a geographical name. Somewhat misleading, no?

With Massacre in Dinosaur Valley, Shriek Show has issued one of its best discs ever. I've certainly no complaints regarding the widescreen 1.85:1 transfer; it looks as good as anyone could hope for such a low budget foreign exploitation pic. (And is anamorphically enhanced for 16x9 TVs.) While not spectacular, the solid English-dubbed audio track is a definite cut above your average Euro-Cult offering for Region 1 DVD.
    I didn't expect any substantive extras with this title so I was pleasantly surprised. Star Michael Sopkiw not only provides a humorous video introduction to the film but also participates in a lengthy interview segment and a full-fledged audio commentary. In the 26-minute interview he looks back at his brief foray into acting during the 1980s, focusing on his first and last films, the post-apocalyptic 2019: After the Fall of New York and Massacre in Dinosaur Valley. (A model cast for his good looks, Sopkiw appeared in only four movies all Italian during his short career. The other two were Blastfighter and Lamberto Bava's Monster Shark, AKA Devilfish.) He admits to being a little embarrassed by his body of work, stating that the films "aren't really anything to be proud of," but adds that he had a lot of fun making them and has no regrets.
    These themes are expounded on at greater length in the audio commentary, wherein a bemused Sopkiw goes into more detail about his co-stars, shooting conditions in Brazil, etc., when not laughing at the film and himself. (He also reports that no animals were harmed during the shoot.).
    A second featurette (19 min.) has director Tarantini discussing his entry into the Italian film world, his thoughts on eroticism in cinema, and the helming of Women in Fury and Massacre in Dinosaur Valley on location in Brazil. The DVD is topped off with a selection of deleted scenes, an image gallery and trailers for Massacre and four other Shriek Show/Italian exploitation releases: Eaten Alive, Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals, Jungle Holocaust and Zombie 2
. 12/10/04
UPDATE In March 2006 Media Blasters reissued Massacre in Dinosaur Valley as part of the 3-disc Jungle Horrors Triple Feature, which also included Jungle Holocaust and Eaten Alive. This box set went OOP in 2012.
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