Friday, February 5, 2016

Carlos Tobalina - Jungle Blue (1978)


From director Carlos Tobalina comes one of the strangest hybrids of exploitation sub-genres ever released to the unsuspecting public. Combining the late 70s jungle movie craze with crime thriller and copious amounts of X rated action, JUNGLE BLUE tells the story of a group of sinister explorers hunting for fortune in the jungles of South America. Along the way they meet a tree-swinging wild man, his sex-crazed companion gorilla, and hoards of scantily clad natives. Filmed entirely in the jungles of Peru and Colombia. Vinegar Syndrome only released this one on DVD and it looks as good as it likely could. The transfer was made from the original 35mm camera negative, which is always a plus, and the colors are sharp and the source material doesn’t appear to be as damaged as it could be. Audio is mono and is a balanced track with everything sounding relatively clear and not much hiss present. I can’t imagine the presentation disappointing anyone and, from what I can tell, this is the first appearance of the film on home video in the United States which should be a cause for celebration in some circles.

Jungle Blue is a very awkward, erratic mix of crime cinema ( it gets plenty violent at times) hardcore porn, mondo wildlife footage and maybe even some Tarzan targeted parody. It’s this identity crisis that actually makes Tobalina’s film as enjoyable as it is. I started this review with saying how much I hate jungle movies, and I really do. Going into this one I thought that I knew what to expect and that changed in about thirty seconds, for the best. I certainly wasn’t ready to see people murdered being intercut with group sex and shots of monkey dicks. That all said, I’m still not sure if I like Jungle Blue. It caught me off guard, for sure, and I would absolutely show it to people but only the right people. It’s surprisingly mean spirited – though there are no scenes of animal cruelty – and the sex is usually just gross. The cover art talks of the ‘ball of the wild’ but there isn’t all that much fun to be had even when it is its most outlandish. There is absolutely an audience for this and when they discover it, they’ll be happy they did, but I’m not sure that I’m part of it. A hippie blonde is giving oral favours to a guy in a gorilla suit. Cut to a map of Peru and surreptitious footage of some girl with a fantastic ass walking the steps of Macchu Picchu. Welcome to the wonderful world of Carlos Tobalina’s Jungle Blue.
In fact, there’s quite a bit of travelogue style footage of Amazonian natives and such – as the surprisingly no-budget, who gives a damn anyway literal closeup pan back and forth across the film’s poster which serves as the credits. Our peripatetic Edith “Edie the egg lady” Masseylike pal Nina Fause is back from Tobalina’s Marilyn and the Senator, alongside a guy going by the name of “Big John” and some clown with the clever nom du guerre of “John Length”. Topping it all off is “guest star ‘Jannette’ Haven”. Our leading baddie Hank Lardner is essayed by none other than “Brad Harris”, who despite his Italian bodybuilder namesake is actually a pained looking California hippie type with a vague resemblance to Edgar Winter. He and Fause debark into a crowded city situation with dozens of folks who seem to have nothing better to do than stand around and stare at travelers. But forget them, it’s time for Fause and a bunch of hippies to try some local drugs (well, OK, Fause does, the others chicken out) and have the world’s most low key if not boring orgy involving a few of the pimply faced, Dutch Boy hairstyle sporting natives. Sadly, Fause comes off even worse than last time around, but there’s no real competition to get the viewer through all of this foolishness. “So tell me more about the legends of the jungle.” Our other female lead is one Kathie Kori as “Jane”, a butt ugly bottle blonde with a shag haircut and plenty of roots showing. When she relates to Fause some ridiculous pseudo-Biblical variation on Edgar Rice Burroughs, this prompts Fause, Harris and Kori to head downriver for some more gorgeous Cannibal Holocaust style travel footage. Did I mention the film’s few coital sequences…well, OK, 9/10 of it appears to be from that same endless orgy…are continually interrupted, dropped, or put off till much later points in the narrative? It’s a bizarre way to run a skin flick…“I took one look at Evor, and my pussy got wet. I hope it won’t show.”

Unlike Marilyn and the Senator, which barely passed muster on its dated political satire and the attractiveness of one or two of the incidental ladies involved, this time around, there’s a hell of a lot more going on cinematically…or given Tobalina’s often rather minimalist “direction”, should I say visually. There’s an obvious influence of the Joe D’Amato Black Emanuelle films here, with strong travelogue elements and interactions both standard and carnal between the protagonists and natives of the tourist locales they visit. “Jane is mourning her father. A perfect time to make my move.” As you can see from that classic, rather callous bon mot, Fause is just as stupid and obnoxious as she was last time around. While not by any means unattractive physically, her low intellect and unloveable persona shows just how desperate things can get sometimes in the adult film industry. Willing to perform the most intimate acts on camera for the delectation of rundown theaters full of bums, junkies and sociopathic perverts? So what if you’re ugly, stupid, or a wholly reprehensible excuse for a human being – sign right here on the dotted line! “Our plan is perfect. When we get to the tribe that has the jewels, we’ll give them poisoned candy. The 'candy' will put them to sleep, never to wake up. Then we’ll take off with the jewels. And noooo witnesses.”Just to put an even finer point on Fause’s intrinsic unlikeability, Tobalina casts her as a cynical, even murderous moneygrubber, who alongside her sleazy pal “Brad” plans to have Evor, Jane and company lead them to the rumored jeweled treasures of the jungle, only to poison everyone involved, leaving the two of them to scarper off with the goodies. While no masterwork by any stretch of the imagination (even grading on a curve given the limitations of budget, scripting and acting intrinsic to the genre), there’s enough about Jungle Blue to make it worth a spin. First, the soundtrack, which quite appropriately appears to pull from the standard Eurobeat/CAM Archives. What better accompaniment to all this travelogue style exotica? Secondly, with vague echoes of films like Tarzana, Kong Island and Piranha Piranha (while similarly prescient of Cannibals Ferox and Holocaust), just about the only things wrong with it involve the (rather middle of the road to dull) coitus and Tobalina’s erratic editing, marked by sequences appearing in bits and bobs scattered throughout the running time, interrupted by what appear to be endless repeated scenes of the crew wandering slowly through the same rather clear and unobstructed stretch of “jungle”. As ever with a Vinegar Syndrome release, the picture is crystal clear, brisk and crisp, with colors more pronounced than the sort of overprocessed CG junk that passes for cinema nowadays…and we’re talking a low end porno here, so that should really say something. Whether it says more about the commendable efforts of the folks at Process Blue or the sorry state of modern “entertainment” I leave to the reader to decide. While recommendations are somewhat guarded, the interested reader can consider this as a comparative thumbs up for the picture.
Never less than visually stunning and of sufficient interest to fans of Deodato, Lenzi, D’Amato et al in their uniquely European style travelogue-cum-adventure flick (with a dash of sex and violence on the side), Jungle Blue certainly merits its standalone release status, and even offers a measure of replay value in relation to its non-hardcore elements.