3/1/10

Cut and Run [Inferno in diretta] (1985): Mr. Deodato Goes Back to the Jungle

If there’s one Italian director who can make people wary of his films just by having his name attached to them, them it’s Ruggero Deodato. I’ll admit that it took me quite some time to sit down with Cannibal Holocaust, and films like House on the Edge of the Park and Jungle Holocaust have been known to have as many (if not more) detractors than fans. Even his more innocuous fare like Raiders of Atlantis could scare people off, but that’s more a quality issue than anything (for more on that check out Episode IV of Sinful Cinema). When you enter into a Deodato film, you know there’s a good chance you’ll get extreme gore, rampant misogyny, animal violence, and the exploitation of native peoples. That’s just not some folk’s cup of tea and honestly, it’s not mine either. Yet I continue to watch his films because, for the most part, they are generally better than they have any right to be.

The movie I looked at for today is Inferno in diretta or, as it’s commonly known, Cut and Run (although the literal translation seems to be something to the effect of Directed in Hell). As Deodato states in the intro to the film included on the Anchor Bay disk, Cut and Run was the product of the many requests he got for a sequel to Cannibal Holocaust, and it completes the unofficial Jungle Trilogy that began with Jungle Holocaust. The only similarity between Cut and Run and the two Holocaust films is the jungle setting and the appearance of a camera crew. Other than that, there is no connection between the two films, and they barely seem like the product of the same director even though only five years separate the two films.

Cut and Run stars Lisa Blount as cable news journalist Fran Hudson. After getting a scoop on a drug-fueled massacre, she and her cameraman Mark (Leonard Mann) investigate the scene to get some shocking footage. While she’s poking around she finds a picture of Tommy (Willie Ames), her boss’ long missing son. After showing her boss the picture, he dispatches her to the Amazon jungle to find Tommy and report on anything she finds. She arrives in the midst of a drug war, and soon Fran, Mark, and Tommy are struggling to survive in the jungle. When Bob Allo (Richard Lynch), a former devotee of Jim Jones, captures them, they find that the true danger in the jungle may not be the natives at all.

From the first scene of the film where Michael Berryman, of The Hills Have Eyes fame, leads a band of natives to lay waste to a drug manufacturing camp, Deodato puts his stamp on the film. Unfortunately, within the first four minutes of the film, there’s a pointless gang rape of two women who are staked down and their heads are then severed. Later on in the film, there is an implied rape perpetrated in the same fashion, but it’s not as if it becomes a major plot point. It seems the opening was there solely for Deodato to pronounce that the maker of Cannibal Holocaust was back. There is one other rape in the film featuring Valentina Forte, Deodato’s girlfriend at the time. (I just can’t imagine why those two didn’t work out.) Thankfully, after that, the misogyny takes a backseat to gore, including a great scene of a man being torn in half, and attacks by the natives on our heroes.

Speaking of our heroes (and villains), Cut and Run did have a very strange cast. From the bit parts to the starring roles, there are familiar faces at almost every turn in this film. Lisa Blount, who plays Fran, should be recognizable to anyone who is a Carpenter fan from her role in Prince of Darkness, and Leonard Mann, who played the shrink in Silent Night, Deadly Night III, shows up here as Fran’s cameraman Mark. It doesn’t stop there though. As I mentioned earlier Michael Berryman makes an appearance as an assassin, Eric Le Salle, later of ER fame, appears as an informant pimp, Karen Black cashes a check as a TV exec, and John Steiner (Tenebre, Violent Rome) pops up as the leader of the drug manufacturers.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Willie Ames of Charles in Charles and Eight is Enough fame. I don’t know how he ended up in this film, but the future star of Bibleman probably doesn’t put this on his résumé anymore. I can’t see him impressing other former child stars turned religious zealots (Kirk Cameron I’m looking at you.) by letting them know he worked with a the same man who had to go to court to prove he didn’t kill his cast. Last but not least, Richard Lynch makes a big impression as the Jim Jones cult leader, but unfortunately, his Colonel Kurtz-esque performance is all too short. This is kind of the big problem with the film. The characters that are interspersing, namely Lynch and Berryman, get the least screen time while the other characters plod though the movie sans character development or personality.

One thing that I can say for this film is how great it looks. Cinematographer Alberto Spagoli, who also worked on Bava’s Shock and Castellari’s Shark, really impresses here. The jungle footage is stunningly photographed, and except for a few insert shots, the whole film is very well shot. Especially in light of mess that was his pervious film, Raiders of Atlantis, Cut and Run is quite possibly the best-looking film Deodato ever made. It’s just unfortunate that the visual flair so outshined the material that it was depicting. There is one last thing that makes Cut and Run stand out, and that is the soundtrack by Claudio Simonetti, formally of Goblin. While so many of the synthy scores that came out of early ‘80’s Italy verge on annoying, Simonetti managed to create an exciting, driving score that carries the film through some of the duller moments.

If you’re a Ruggero Deodato fan, then Cut and Run is a film that should be on your shortlist of films to see, and, overall, compared to many of his other films, Deodato reigns in some of his more graphic impulses. I could have done without the needless rape and misogyny, but as I said earlier, when you’re dealing with Ruggero then that’s kind of the status quo. While Cut and Run is an extremely good-looking film, it didn’t have the realized vision of Cannibal Holocaust or House at the Edge of the Park. In the end, I think this is one strictly for fans of ‘80’s Italian cinema, Deodato, or people who like dialog like this, “Think positive, look in two years calculators will be down to $9.95 apiece.” I know that made me feel much better about life in general.

Bugg Rating

3 comments:

  1. Back before I wrote as Nigel I used to write as herman at the Bloody Italiana blog- incidentally that one is about to be closed down when james has finished porting out the posts to his new blog. Anyhow around then my friend Joe D'Augustine was doing an interview with Leonard Mann. At the end he got in a quick question for me about CUT AND RUN

    there results are http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jd3Upe2L2Vg

    Leonard seems a really nice guy and does a full hour long podcast which is on Joe's Site here:

    http://www.filmforno.com/?p=735

    this one is career spanning and really fascinating to hear how this american accidentally becomes a film star in Italy.

    On the subject of interviews I once got to ask Barbara Magnolfi about this film- she has a small part in it and seemed willing to talk about that - as she is about Suspiria but I dont think she was particularly keen to speak at length about Sisters Of Ursula despite having a starring role. Unsurprising really cos the producers decided to switch the film to a more porn type feature in order to make more money after her and her hubby Marc Porel had signed up and began work on it.

    Cut and Run is a film close to my heart, a true exploitation gem!

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  2. I think you called this one right down the line, Bugg. The film does look great--visually Deodato's best, or at least is most professional looking film...whatever that means. There is something lacking overall, but it's still a trashy good time.

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  3. Great rap about CUT AND RUN.

    I've always been terribly partial to it, and never tire of its lurid pleasures.

    As you said, it's not as fully realized as HOLOCAUST or HOUSE, but it still delivers as a wonderful piece of genre filmmaking.

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