Savage Island

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There is something amazing about the art of the VHS box…especially in the 80’s. As long as your flick had box art that looked cool, you could get a lot of rentals even if the movie was crap. The box didn’t even need to reflect what actually happens in the movie! For example, our film today had box art featuring a painting of Linda Blair in a jungle setting wearing torn lingerie and carrying a machine gun. You want to see that movie, don’t you? No, you don’t! No such image appears in the actual film. In fact, Linda Blair has little more than a cameo in our film today…1985’s Savage Island.

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Now usually I try to give an overview of the film’s plot…but I was just plain lost. The film, as best I can determine, deals with an emerald mine tucked away in a South American jungle. The nasty guy who runs the place uses female prisoners to find the jewels for him. Then we have a guy named Laredo (Anthony Steffen) who heads for the camp with some new lady prisoners and some other unsavory guys to steal the jewels…or free the women…like I said, I’m not exactly sure what was happening.

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For most of the film we just see the ladies being roughed up by the guards. We do at one point start to focus in on two of the prisoners, Maria (Ajita Wilson) and Muriel (Christina Lai), who start to organize a revolt…that is when they aren’t fighting naked with the other prisoners or sneaking off to take a bath in a pond. Somehow, Delgado and the ladies join up to attack their captors and escape into the jungle.

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Now, you’re probably wondering where Linda Blair fits in all this. First, let me say that most of this film is pieced together from bits of two other films: Hotel Paradise (1980) and Escape from Hell (1980). The two films feature many of the same actors, but in different roles. As for Blair, she bookends the film as a woman who was once a prisoner at the mine taking revenge on the slimeball that owns it. She also ends up providing the sometimes-there narration for the film. Her screen time is less than 10 minutes, though she does get to shoot Penn Jillette square in the forehead early in the film…which may be the highlight of the flick.

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Savage Island is definitely in the running for worst movie I’ve ever seen. It makes absolutely no sense. I was never clear on who were the good guys and who were the bad guys. In fact, some of them even seem to jump from side to side. One actor, who looked a bit like makeup artist Tom Savini, starts the film as a part of Delgado’s gang, so we figure he’s there to help the ladies out. Later, though, he’s spying on them as they bathe and threatening to beat the ladies up. During the big battle, however, Tom Savini guy is a part of the ladies’ effort…blowing up water towers and everything. A few minutes later, though, he’s leading a gang of soldiers as they pursue the women into the jungle!?!  This is probably all a result of mixing a matching two separate films to make one.  I’m sure that’s also why we see the same female prison guard drowned midway through the film, but killed again later during the big battle.

Of course, the movie is very crudely shot. Most of the film looks like it was shot through a dirty piece of cheesecloth, that is, when it’s not too dark to actually distinguish what is happening on screen. The camera crew obviously wasn’t too concerned with putting any artistry into what they were doing…they were to busy slowly tilting the camera up and down the naked bodies of the inmates as they showered.

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Like many really bad movies, though, there is still something that can be appreciated about them. In the case of Savage Island it’s the amazingly awful English dubbing. It goes without saying that there are moments where the dubbing doesn’t come anywhere close to matching the lip movements  There are even a few moments where words come out of mouths that aren’t moving. That kind of stuff is par for the course, though. What’s magical is the overly enunciated delivery of the voice actors which provides many unintentional laughs.

There are a few crazy moments peppered throughout the film. Topping that list is seeing Pam Grier wannabe Ajita Wilson being threatened by a guard shoving a poisonous snake in her face. She then diffuses the situation by biting the head off the snake and spitting it out!? Okay, I wouldn’t have thought of that, but whatever works, I guess. Had we gotten a few more bat guano moments like that, the film might have been slightly more bearable. Instead, Savage Island is just mind-numbingly bad. At least Linda Blair can claim Captain Howdy made her do it.

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