Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death falls into being both a clever satire on feminist politics and also a really stupid exploitation film. It was directed by J. F. Lawton who was the writer of PRETTY WOMAN! and the Steven Seagal Under Seige films, an eclectic CV if there ever was one. It also stars a pre-Political Correctness Bill Maher who also starred in Lawton’s other film Pizza Man which is probably forgotten in some box of VHS tapes stuck in a warehouse after never being rented from the video store.
The film is a spoof of Heart of Darkness/Apocalypse Now but instead of a rogue agent/general it’s a feminist academic named Kurtz has went into the Avocado Jungle of Death and has gone missing. The government enlists the other feminist academic Margo Hunt (Shannon Tweed) and she brings along a dimwit student of hers and picks up Maher’s chauvinistic guide on the way. They need to find out what’s going on and try to get the cannibal woman move out of the jungle so they can save the nation’s Avocado supply. Naturally Kurtz is now the leader of the woman and wants to enlist more woman to kill and eat men.
The film plays fast and loose from going from some astute satire on feminism to moments of broader slapstick comedy. The cast is pretty decent for a late ’80s low budget B-Movie, Adrienne Barbeau best known for her work with Carpenter earlier in the decade plays Kurtz to great effect and has some of the best lines. Maher is fundamentally a political stand-up comic and he is certainly having a blast with the his role of a stereotypical chauvinistic pig of a man. The film’s illusions to other films like Indiana Jones, 2001: A Space Odyssey and it even references the work of Akira Kurosawa and none of these ever forced and are amusing which is a skill.
It’s certainly not gonna win any awards but it’s a very entertaining satire which isn’t quite as clever as it thinks it is but is clever enough to be engaging. Over the years probably partly due to the sensational title it has grown a minor cult following. Esteemed film critic Mark Kermode is known to reference the film often and even has a quote on the back cover. The disc sadly doesn’t have any features, an interview with a Maher or introduction by Mark Kermode would have been a nice addition.
Comedy, Horror | USA, 1989 | 12 | 88 Films | Dir.J.D Athens | Shannon Tweed, Adrienne Barbeau, Karen Mistal, Barry Primus, Bill Maher | Buy: Cannibal Women In The Avocado Jungle Of Death [Blu-ray]