01 July, 2008


Sun, sand, surf, and sexploitation from the master, Joe D'Amato...Severin's new DVD of Joe D'Amato's rarely seen 1978 Dominican Republic lensed voodoo thriller laced with huge helpings of sex, violence and anti-nuke sentiment!

For more information about PAPAYA DEI CARAIBI:

After delivering his successful Black Emaneulle entries (EMANUELLE IN AMERICA, EMANUELLE AND THE WHITE SLAVE TRADE, EMANUELLE IN BANGKOK, etc) Joe D'Amato was the king of Italian sexploitation. But he decided to the extra mile, to the Caribbean to be specific, and make a series of delirious, low budget collages of graphic cannibal/zombie horror, local voodoo rituals and long sequences of softcore/hardcore sexual encounters. With titles like EROTIC NIGHTS OF THE LIVING DEAD, PORNO HOLOCAUST, VOODOO BABY, he probably thought he was hitting all the bases, and had successfully combined cannibal gore and softcore sex in the topics with GLI ULTIMI CANNIBALI (1977)

Preceding all the titles was PAPAYA DEI CARAIBI (1978) aka PAPAYA, LOVE GODDESS OF THE CANNIBALS, a pioneering Joe D'Amato attempt to merge gore, mid 1970's softcore sex antics [with some mild S&M thrown in for good measure], elaborate Caribbean voodoo rites, and a surprising dose of Third World politics, all tied up with the rough and ready cinematography in which the DP/Director specialized. It anticipates the symbolic dialectic represented by the paradigm shifting of Fulci's ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS (1979) where the North-South dichotomy of powerful exploiters vs the magic practicing sub proletariat native population gets it ultimate identification package, and also borrows George A. Romero's "when there's no more room in hell..." tagline from his international hit DAWN OF THE DEAD (NOT the remake, please!).

The Ruthless White Capitalists[that's they way the film depicts them] nuclear energy promoting interests who are contracted to displace the local [dirt poor] population to make way for a reactor. This was the era of Three Mile Island and THE CHINA SYNDROME, of course.

Maurice Poli delivers his usual solid performance as Vincent, the hedonistic, smug geologist working as a "company man" and ending up getting seduced to death by our anti-heroine Papaya rather than change like other main white character, Sara (Finnish sex star Sirpa Lane) to a more earth friendly, sympathetic to the plight of the natives agent. The late Ms. Lane does a nicely understated turn around as the action progresses and takes her sex scenes quite seriously.

As the titular PAPAYA DEI CARAIBI, Melissa Chementi is quite hot in the already humid locale, strangely ambiguous and emotionally layered. The only other of her five listed exploitation films on the IMDB I've seen her in is Renato Polselli's ultra-bizarre hardcore mondo Rivelazioni di uno psichiatra sul mondo perverso del sesso (1973), which I dare anyone reading this to retain their sanity while watching (and don't plan to EVER see it on a US DVD!). For a film which begins with our Caribbean princess biting off a visiting nuclear engineer's sex and then spitting it out on the dirt floor of a beach hut as he screams and bleeds to death this is a surprisingly engaging presentation both intellectually and politically. D'Amato was both literally and figuratively Green before Green was the thing to be. The seeming morale, stated by the now radicalized journalist played by Lane, that righteous violence is sometimes necessary to survive might not go down well considering the paranoid age we now live in.

This film has a lot in common with another Italian film featuring Signor Poli as a Capitalist exploiter stuck on a hostile island, Mario Bava's comparatively mild mannered FIVE DOLLS FOR AN AUGUST MOON (1970). An excellent electric guitar, sax and percussion driven score with samba and funk elements and a catchy vocal line by Maestro Stelvio Cipriani is alone worth the price, too bad they didn't feature it as an isolated option.

Severin's widescreen 1.85:1/16:9 presentation of CARIBBEAN PAPAYA [onscreen title] is fine considering the low budget soft focus lensing where D'Amato's blend of zip zooms, rapid focal changes, hand held interludes provide both suspense and cost savings. The journey to the secret voodoo ritual chamber makes terrific use of such basic props as an empty rocking chair, a horse drawn carriage and a doll to establish an uncanny sense of dread.

This is one I'll tend to prefer sometimes over the extended hardcore scenes in the later, similar EROTIC NIGHTS OF THE LIVING DEAD and PORNO HOLOCAUST, which D'Amato shot (competently, as always) on some of the same locations in 1980.

The Ceremony of the Round Stone chapter is worth replaying, merging nudity, gore, ritual dancing and voodoo rites, it exemplifies D'Amato at his very best and you get to see ZOMBIE's Dakar perform the film's only act of cannibalism, it happens quickly but it really makes you jump.

The English language theatrical trailer is included.

Kudos to Severin Films for finding a decent English language print of this obscure title and giving fans of Joe D'Amato and Italian Cannibal/Gore/Sexploitation from the the 70's something to satisfy their "appetites." Having seen an incomplete German
language version which omits the evocative opening with our anti-heroine emerging from the ocean to bask in the Caribbean sunlight in a nonlinear precredit sequence it was a nice surprise to see it restored in this print.

The 1.85:1/16:9 transfer features the best possible [considering the low budget filmmaking on difficult locations] representation of D'Amato's soft focus tropical palette, featuring numerous floral shades, sensuous aquamarine romps and the occasional flash of arterial splatter. Cipriani's memorable soundtrack is well rendered in stereo Dolby Surround.


(c) Robert Monell, 2008


Kaya Özkaracalar said...

Thnx for the tip on this movie. To save costs on shipping, I'll buy it in the same batch as Severin's Franco releases when they come up, but I will definitely buy it. I wish they had the Italian trach as well 'though. Does the English track sound right or does it sound like most Eng. tracks of Italian exploitation movies do?
I find D'Amato's output interesting and somehow undervalued in Euro-cult fan circles. His convent movie is something to see and deserve a decent DVD release (is there any?).
Even some of his hc stuff from 1990s are quite well, as far as hc movies go. His filmog at IMDb is very misleading in that regard. It lumps together most of his later stuff as direct-to-video, which is not true. We had quite a few of the movies which IMDb marks as V in theatrical release here in Turkey. I even have a poster of his hc Tarzan flick, which is a flawed (some scenes repeated as flashbacks) but quite decent hc movie, with the most beautiful Jane ever (Rose Caracciolo). It somehow appears right to make a Tarzan-Jane movie in hc!, considering it is a story of girl meets man in the wilderness. His hc takes on Marco Polo and Cleopatra are also quite watchable and entertaining. Anyway..

Robert Monell said...

well 'though. Does the English track sound right or does it sound like most Eng. tracks of Italian exploitation movies do?

It does sound like many Eng tracks of Italo exploitation of the 70's and you will probably recognize most of the dubber's voices from other dubtracks. But it works here. I have heard much worse voice casting. I agree that D'Amato/Massaccesi tends to be underrated to underdiscussed. And I do like his very well shot TARZAN and other subsequent hc efforts which were indeed shot on 35mm. I have Marco Polo as a prerecord and it really looks spectacular with impressive Far Eastern location shooting.

Anonymous said...

Sirpa Lane is dubbed by Carolyn de Fonseca and Maurice Poli sounds like he's dubbed by Ted Russof.

Robert Monell said...

Sirpa Lane is dubbed by Carolyn de Fonseca and Maurice Poli sounds like he's dubbed by Ted Russof.

Yes, it sounds like those very familiar voices doing the dubbing.
It certainly works better than the dubbing for the German language version. I've never gotten to listen to an Italian dub track.