Italy | 1978
Directed by Joe D'Amato
Melissa Chimenti
Sirpa Lane
Maurice Poli
| 88 Minutes | Not Rated
Format: DVD(R1 - NTSC)
Severin Films
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Review by
Brian Lindsey
    5   10 = Highest Rating  
Steamy sex. And pig guts.
    Papaya, Love Goddess of the Cannibals was the first of sleazemeister Joe D'Amato's Caribbean sexploitation/horror features, of which Erotic Nights of the Living Dead and Porno Holocaust are the most notorious. Certainly less explicit it skirts the boundary, but never ventures into hardcore territory the film played better for me than its successors. I found those pics vulgar and stupid, with poorly executed horror scenes, lamer sex scenes, and little to offer in terms of titillating cheese. Papaya may not deliver any tasty cheese, either, but it at least provides sultry atmospherics in the form of its nude female stars and D'Amato's skillful location photography. The 'horror' elements, such as they are, amount to an afterthought.
    A dark-haired, bronze-skinned beauty strolls along an idyllic tropical beach. She indulges in a bit of sensuous nude sunbathing before coming upon a small hut nestled amid the palm trees. Inside is a naked white man who appears to be in a drugged torpor and the drug he craves is our fetching beach girl. She slices up a melon and rubs a piece of the fruit across the man's body, then proceeds to make love to him. A contented smile lights his face as she starts giving him head, only to suddenly contort in agony... The woman bites his pecker off, spitting out the severed organ with disgust! As the mutilated man rolls around screaming in pain, his erstwhile lover nonchalantly strides from the hut, which is approached by a pair of male natives. These newcomers obviously her confederates set fire to the hut with the victim still inside.
    Next we meet shapely blonde Sarah (Sirpa Lane, The Beast in Space), a journalist enjoying a Caribbean vacation. To experience some of the local culture she attends a cockfight. (Not a PETA member, I'd wager.) Here she runs into an old friend, Vincent (5 Dolls for an August Moon's Maurice Poli), a construction engineer with business on the island. In short order they hook up and retire to his hotel bungalow. Their fun is cut short when Sarah discovers a burned body in the room it's the guy whose dick was chomped off at the beginning of the film. Vincent identifies the crispy corpse as that of a fellow engineer working for his company. He didn't really know the man all that well, and is completely mystified as to why the killers would dump the body in his bungalow. A police inspector theorizes that it must be some kind of warning, but beyond that the authorities are baffled. There are no real clues to go on.
    Not to let a little thing like murder get in the way of a good time, the couple decides to tour the island by jeep. Vincent wants to show Sarah the area where his company plans to construct a nuclear power plant. (Despite being on holiday her reporter's curiosity is aroused; she's interested in the native islanders' reaction to the plant and the involuntary displacement of whole villages to make way for it.) Their road trip has barely gotten underway when they offer a lift to a beautiful hitchhiker named Papaya (Melissa Chimenti, billed simply as "Melissa")... Yep, it's the deadly dong-severing siren from the first reel. Friendly yet resentful of their cultural insensitivities, Papaya intrigues Sarah and Vincent with talk of a secret pagan ritual known as the Festival of the Round Stone, in which participants are said to indulge in all sorts of unspeakable hedonistic acts. Later, in a shantytown settlement, the mystery woman lures the curious foreigners into the bowels of a decrepit building where said ritual is already in progress.
    Sarah and Vincent are invited to partake in the ceremony, a sort of voodoo/Santeria-type deal. They're made to drink blood laced with some kind of hallucinogen. As the effects start to kick in, two dead pigs strung up from the ceiling are sliced open to let their innards spill in gory piles upon the floor. Then a semiconscious white man is brought in on a stretcher. He's stabbed to death by the high priest, who cuts the heart from the corpse's chest and takes a bite of it. Wild naked dancing breaks out as the music shifts from native drums to disco (???), the participants shedding their garb with abandon. Sarah and Vincent are stripped by the dancers as the boogying gives way to a mass orgy. (This last bit is implied, not actually shown.)
    Waking up sometime later, the two outsiders find themselves 'guests' of Papaya and her people, underground activists who will do anything to prevent the nuclear plant from being built on their island. As Sarah learns more about their cause, Papaya lavishes physical attention on the couple especially Vincent, who quickly becomes besotted with the native girl. Seemingly drained of willpower, his need for her sweet lovin' grows stronger and stronger, like a drug addiction...
    Now just where, you might be asking, do the cannibals fit in to all this? Answer: They don't. Yeah, the voodoo priest briefly nibbles on the heart of the sacrifice victim, but that hardly counts; Papaya does not consume her mouthful of man-meat. (Ptui!) There are no cannibals in the movie whatsoever despite a title that suggests a menu of jungle horrors in the vein of a Deodato or Lenzi film. The actual onscreen title is Caribbean Papaya, which is at least factually descriptive... as long as one doesn't have a botanical documentary in mind.
    Nicely lensed (on a shoestring) in the Dominican Republic, the film doesn't let its sketchy, half-baked plot interfere with the nudity and softcore sex scenes, which pick up considerably in the second half. D'Amato's mission was to generate a little tropical heat sweaty, languid, naked which he occasionally succeeds in doing with help from his leading ladies and composer Stelvio Cipriani's "Porno Chic" score. Papaya is a good example of the Eurotrash erotica the Italian director/cinematographer spent a sizable chunk of his career making, the kind of movie that often featured Laura Gemser amid picturesque scenery. (If you appreciate the Black Emanuelle movies you'll probably like this one.) Its revolting pig-gutting scene is also illustrative of much of D'Amato's work, an example of excess that serves no purpose. The animals are already dead when sliced open, thank goodness, but the sight of their innards spilling out isn't particularly appealing or necessary.

Excessively grainy (more than would normally be expected for a film of this vintage), the print used for Severin's new DVD is otherwise excellent damage/wear is nonexistent and colors pop in this anamorphic 1.85:1 transfer. (The über-grainy look is obviously inherent to the original cinematography.) Visuals are backed by a good-quality English mono audio track; dialog and music are rendered cleanly and clearly. There are no extras save the lengthy, nudity-filled theatrical trailer (also using the Caribbean Papaya title). 7/15/08