Review: Love Slaves of the Amazons (1957)
From Curt Siodmak, the man behind the screenplays of many 1940s Universal monster movies (The Invisible Man Returns and The Wolf Man, to name just two) comes this spectacularly-silly jungle picture that feels as if it's been ripped from the pulpy pages of a men's adventure magazine. From the very first frames of the film when we meet a jungle girl (Brazilian actress/singer Yara Lex in her debut) painted in green as she looks at the viewer and sings wordless soprano notes over a menacing score, we know what we're in for: this is the world of exotica, where danger and beauty and intrigue coexist. It's a Martin Denny album come to life. The ritual of the savage awaits!
The plot, thin though it may be, concerns an expedition into the far reaches of the Amazon in search of a secret tribe of mighty women who are told to guard untold riches in gold and jewels. One man, the aged and alcoholic Dr. Crespi (Eduardo Ciannelli), has seen the women and touched their treasures, but that was decades ago. He wants to lead a trek to the secret location of the tribe if only someone could fund his efforts. But who would throw money at such a fairy tale? As it turns out, Dr. Peter Masters (Don Taylor) would, but trouble begins almost immediately: upon the Amazon river, pirates pursue our explorers, who must flee into the nearby jungles for safety. It's there that the Amazon women find them, capture them, and intend to use them as their love slaves to continue their society. Once these warrior women have used up their donors, certain death looms. With the alluring Gianna Segale at his side, our hero must escape his captors and avoid the many perils of the jungle if he is to survive.
Love Slaves of the Amazons is tremendous fun. It feels much bigger than it actually is, thanks to a bombastic score, lush jungle cinematography, and a cast of glamorous 1950s bombshells that look like they stepped right out of a pin-up photo. There's even a choreographed dance number! The sets were built at Universal Studios, but the outdoor scenes were shot on location in Brazil, lending real production value to what was likely a modestly-budgeted affair. Some of this footage (10,000 feet of color film, according to Siodmak) was left over from the director's 1956 jungle monster movie Curucu, Beast of the Amazon, and this film even uses some of the same cast. It was released in 1957 on a double bill with another Universal genre classic, The Monolith Monsters.
Love Slaves of the Amazons is quite a title to live up to, but the movie does actually come pretty close to hitting the target. In addition to the bounty of beautiful ladies who dominate the captured men in their secret lair--which is awash in a kaleidoscope of colors--there are the usual jungle perils like snakes, crocodiles, and other wild predators. An extensive fight scene between our explorers and the pursuing pirates takes place in the muddy shallows of the river that is unlike anything I've ever seen before. It's incredible, and the menace and danger feels real as we watch so many actors and stunt performers struggle to keep their heads above the thick muck and flounder their way back toward the boat. You can't do that with CGI.
Kino Lorber brings Love Slaves of the Amazons to Blu-ray in what I believe is the film's home media debut, at least for the disc age. Even though the transfer comes from a new 2K restoration, viewers should keep their expectations in check, as this is a low budget movie with lots of optical shots that soften the image and add a layer of dirt that is inherently baked into the source. Still, the colors are bold and the film grain is on full display. The disc features trailers for this and similar films as well as a conversational audio commentary by Bryan Reesman and Max Evry.
Love Slaves of the Amazons is certainly not for everyone, but for those that love mid-century kitsch, exotica, pulp adventure, and the kind of jungle adventure that Hanna-Barbera would bring to the small screen years later with Jonny Quest, it's a feast. This Universal picture was a surefire draw to get people out of the house and away from their TV screens, and nothing on the small screen in 1957--not even the two-season adventure series Soldiers of Fortune--could compete with the full-color exploitation appeal of this film. In fact, for all its cheese, it seems to have been quite an influence. I can spot several notable connections to both Star Trek (the soprano vocal and a woman painted green) and to Lucas and Spielberg's Indiana Jones character. It's not to be taken seriously, but certainly is meant to be enjoyed. If you're reading this review, Love Slaves of the Amazons comes recommended.
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