Papaya: Love Goddess of the Cannibals (1978)

Author: Brett H.
Submitted by: Brett H.   Date : 2008-06-24 12:54

Directed by: Joe D’Amato (Arisitide Massaccesi)
Written by: Roberto Gandus
Starring: Sirpa Lane, Melissa Chimenti & Maurice Poli

Reviewed by: Brett H.

“And, so, once he died, he thought that it’d be a good idea to come to your room so you could learn how
they done him in, right?”

Italian horror fans are no strangers to the name Joe D’Amato. Otherwise known by his real name, Arisitide Massaccesi, D’Amato directed many softcore and hardcore films spanning three decades in his extensive repertoire of smut, exploitation and horror. The man churned out films at such a furious pace that even Jess Franco would give his filmography a second glance. When you have so many kicks at the can, you’re bound to strike gold and with that, you’re bound to fail. The excessively gory and necrophilia brimmed Beyond the Darkness stands as my favorite D’Amato flick to date and splatter fans probably remember him most from the wonderfully offensive flesh chomper, Anthropophagus. The misses? Well, let’s just say that his hardcore horror porn, Erotic Nights of the Living Dead and “Zombie 5:” Killing Birds aren’t worth tracking down unless you’re an absolute Italian horror fanatic. Papaya: Love Goddess of the Cannibals combines elements from nearly all of the genres D’Amato is known for, there’s gore, there’s mucho softcore sex, exploitation and of course, cannibals. Sort of. Will this be another D’Amato lemon, or will we get something more akin to the juicy fruit mentioned in the title?

The film opens with a lovely lady named Papaya (Melissa Chementi) walking out of the ocean on a bright and sunny day before lying down and relaxing topless in the sand. After a little stroll, she heads back to the hut of her lover where he lies waiting for her. Frisky gal that she is, Papaya cuts up the fruit in which she shares her name and rubs it all over her squeeze before going all the way with him. Soon enough, she decides to go down on the man and his pleasure soon stops. Papaya gets a little carried away and viciously bites his manhood clean off before spitting it out and onto the floor! After she leaves the scene of the crime, we are introduced to Sara (Sirpa Lane), a sexy, blonde reporter who just happens to enjoy a good cockfight. While cheering on her favorite rooster, an old flame named Vincent (Maurice Poli) shows up and they decide to renew their acquaintance. The lust is short lived, after having some touchy-feely action in Vincent’s shower, Sara discovers a corpse in his wine room.

It turns out that Vincent is a geologist who plans to erect a nuclear power plant in Santo Domingo and the stiff in his room just happens to be a co-worker. While out driving, the two stop and pick up a local girl whom Sara recognizes as the maid from her hotel. She introduces herself as Papaya and informs the out of towners of the “Fiesta of the Round Stone’ going on in her town, which just happens to be where the nuclear reactor will be built. Although brushing it off as hocus pokus, Vincent decides to attend the festival after taking a liking to the lovely Papaya. After witnessing a faux, fun festival on the street put on for tourist display, the two are led to the real ritual. And, thus, the ‘disco cannibal blood orgy’ begins! But, why were these two interlopers allowed to witness such a private ritual? And just why does Papaya seem to like her men of the American, nuclear energy-obsessing scientific type?

Papaya: Love Goddess of the Cannibals doesn’t really feature any cannibals, to get that out of the way right off the bat. It does, however, consist of a similar routine and morality-based structure as your average cannibal film. You have your typical Americans in a foreign land and one of them not giving an ounce of validity to the customs of the people, nor their feelings regarding his construction of a nuclear plant right in their former village. The villagers had all been moved from their homes into new ones and they devise a plan to use Papaya’s sexual prowess to off all those involved and use the kind journalist Sara as a tool to report their situation and the atrocity being committed towards the people. That, and there’s a severed penis, a sure-fire example of the blissful atrocities covered in Italian cannibal exploitation. It shares some of the non-redeeming qualities as well as the cockfight is real and two real (but dead) pigs are gutted during the ceremony.

What makes the film most interesting is the combination of this standard cannibal fodder, sans-cannibals, and its striking resemblance to the essential horror classic, The Wicker Man. If you ever wondered what Robin Hardy’s classic would be if combined with softcore sex, poor dubbing, exploitation and “social commentary” rather than religious, that’s pretty much what you’ll get here. Many will be curious as to the amount of gore in this film, and compared to nearly any cannibal soiree, it’s incredibly tame. A bloodied, penis-less midsection and a nice gush of blood from a ritualistic sacrifice (along with the token eating of the heart; so there's one instance of cannibalism to warrant the title!) are about all you’ll get. It’s definitely nothing to sneeze at and without a doubt there’s a cornucopia of the most appealing bits of the human anatomy on display at all times. Ladies aren’t even left out this time, as Joe D’Amato calls for equal rights with quite a few men showing what they got.

The film itself is decent, it’s pretty predictable, but it remains a mildly fun ride. At times the pacing slows, particularly in a long scene involving Sara and Vincent walking around town in search of the site of the true, more sadistic fiesta. The dubbing is pretty weak and gets to be quite entertaining. It’s not bad ala Bob from House by the Cemetery, rather it simply lacks proper emotion in some scenes. But, no one is here to watch Papaya for anything other than what it is; softcore horror/exploitation. The scene that is most oddly out of place (and just happens to be the most entertaining scene in the movie) is when the sacred ritual actually begins and all of the sudden the locals use their drums and instruments to create a disco vibe and everyone begins to strip down from the mask and gowns to dance nude. The scene has undeniable cheese Eurotrash appeal. Prom Night has some interesting competition on the horror disco front.

Severin Films unleashes yet another Euro rarity to the world and does so with a widescreen transfer that features a bit of grain and is a tad dark in some scenes with an English dubbed stereo track that hisses a bit when turned up. Joe D'Amato is a pretty good director/cinematographer and he makes the best of the tropical setting with a lot of nice scenery and thankfully we're able to see it all in widescreen. The presentation is nothing this reviewer would get upset about (especially dealing with such an obscure title), and the film’s lone supplement is a trailer, which is essentially a montage of nude scenes from the movie set to music. Papaya: Love Goddess of the Cannibals falls short of sweeter fruits of the D’Amato tree, but it definitely should please its audience. If you’re into mushy papaya handjobs (the papaya is a commonly used meat tenderizer!), penis severing, whips, masturbation and a funky disco voodoo ritual, you’ll find yourself right at home. Rent it!

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