Amazon Jail (Oswaldo de Oliveira, 1982)
I guess it should be obvious to anyone who's seen a few that you don't go into exploitation flicks looking for good filmmaking. If you've wandered around the edges of the genre enough, however, you can certainly look for the strange and shocking (Emmanuelle and the Last Cannibals immediately comes to mind, or Cannibal Ferox). I'd had a few bugs put in my ear about Amazon Jail, a (supposedly) particularly sleazy effort from Oliveira (Bare Behind Bars), so I figured I'd hunt down a copy and see what all the fuss was about. Well, I've done so, and I'll go back to my beloved cannibal movies, thanks. At least they have storylines.
Amazon Jail starts off being about a supposed cult of devil worshipers (though I missed any depictions of unchristian rites or the like...which would have probably made the movie more interesting) who kidnap local girls and immigrants to whatever the nearby big city is, promising them work. When they get to the compound, though, they're tossed into a big cage where, inexplicably, they all like to spend a lot of time naked. The leaders of this supposed cult, Sergio Hingst (Awakening of the Beast) and South American exploitation superstar Elizabeth Hartmann (Palace of Venus), are actually running a sex-slavery ring, selling the girls to rich overseas clients, who get to sample the wares before buying in a series of badly-shot orgy scenes. There's a silly romantic subplot between Hartmann's wastrel son and one of the prisoners, but you can safely ignore it.
If that were all there were to it, this would be your basic barely-watchable exploitation flick, but Oliveira couldn't even pull that off here. About two-thirds of the way through the movie, the story ends, and we're left with twenty of thirty minutes of screen time. So we get episode two in this farce. Seriously, I think Oliveira and co-writer Alfredo Palacios, who had previously collaborated on Oliveira's best-named movie, Bruce Lee vs. Gay Power, were writing the script for the last third of this movie as they went along. It's that stupid. Oliveira abandons any pretense of storytelling, as well as (mostly) abandoning the nude scenes that people actually watch exploitation movies for, and tries to make this into an adventure movie. But it's an adventure movie as if it had been made by Godard, if Godard had been so stoned out of his mind that he completely forgot how to direct. Maybe that was intentional, and Oliveira was going for existential adventure (a la Breathless). If so, he missed the mark so entirely that even the comparison has to stand as nothing more than a curiosity.
Terrible, terrible movie, though if you like your exploitation films awash in full frontal, the first half or so of this will fulfill your needs for such things. Just keep the sound muted so you don't have to listen tot he unbearable dialogue. *