Severin continues their serious play to be the go-to company for Eurosleaze with this, one of Joe D’Amato’s better efforts. We first meet Papaya (Melissa Chimenti) as she luxuriates on the beach, makes love with a fellow in a cabana – and then orally castrates him, whereupon she walks away as two minions torch the cabana. Fantasy Island, this ain’t. The action then shifts to Sara (Sirpa Lane of The Beast fame), a journalist we first see revelling in a cock fight. She hooks up with Vincent (Maurice Poli), a nuclear power executive with whom she has had a casual fling before. The two of them are drawn into Papaya’s web of sex and blood ritual. She is, in fact, part of a political group fighting back against the power company’s expropriations and pollution by any means necessary.
Obviously, not your usual softcore romp, and a rather more interesting storyline than most of D’Amato’s Black Emanuelle series. The characters are still utterly without affect, which casts a vaguely surreal miasma over the proceedings. The sex scenes are pretty risible, but the film actually becomes quite watchable despite these scenes being its primary reason for being. D’Amato’s heightened interest turns up in the editing, in the careful creation of atmosphere, and most of all in the no-punches-pulled working out of the film’s ideas. Papaya raises, if rather clumsily, some hard questions about the nature of exoticism and the justifications for violence. Believe it or not, this is one to think about and discuss.
The case boasts a 2.0 soundtrack, but I’ll be damned if I could hear a peep out of the rear speakers. The vintage of the film, not to mention its budget, would suggest this is more likely mono. In any event, the music sounds good, which makes the big ritual scene (which is both silly and grotesque) quite the showstopper. The dubbing is, of course, pretty awful and pretty obvious, but that is hardly the fault of the transfer. The same is true for the degree of harshness present in the sound. The movie is a cheap bit of sleaze from 1978, and sounds every bit what it is, which is part of the charm.
The grain level is variable. It is quite noticeable in some scenes, but for the most part it’s under control. Otherwise, things are looking good. The print is in quite remarkable shape, with no speckling, splices or other damage, and the colours are very solid. The film’s age is apparent, but viewing it is hardly a chore.
Sadly, nothing but the trailer.
Can one say that there are two kinds of people in the world: Jess Franco people and Joe D’Amato people? If so, I’m one of the former. But this release has raised my appreciation of D’Amato’s work considerably.