Al Tropico del Cancro (1972)

Anita Strindberg is in Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the KeyA Lizard in a Woman’s SkinThe Case of the Scorpion’s TailWho Saw Her Die?, The Two Faces of Fear, L’uomo Senza Memoria and Murder Obsession, but is never mentioned with the same devotion as Edwige Fenech or Barbara Bouchet. Well, she’s great in this and in nearly everything else I’ve seen her in.

In this film, she plays Grace, the wife of Fred (Gabriele Tinti, Endgame) and their vacation has led them to Haiti and Dr. Williams (Anthony Steffen, who mostly is known for Italian westerns, but also appeared in The Night Evelyn Came Out of Her GraveEvil Eye and An Angel for Satan), who has invented a new drug that can change the world. It’s so astounding that everyone from drug cartels to drug companies — which are really close to one another, when you really think about it — will kill for its formula.

There’s also a scene where the doctor takes our heroes to watch a voodoo ritual, all so this movie can have a bit of mondo* within it. Because it’s an Italian film, that means we’re about to watch a real bull really get killed and then lose its scrotum in gorgeous living color. The film then tops this with actual cows being slaughtered, so if you’re upset by the side of Italian cinema that doesn’t shy away from putting animal butchery right in your face, make a mark to avoid.

This movie leaves me with so many questions. What kind of doctor is Williams? He says he’s a veterinarian, then he makes a magical anti-venom drug and oh yeah, he’s also a meat packing inspector. And just what kind of wonder drug has he made? And did the filmmakers realize that the Tropic of Cancer is nowhere near Haiti?**

So yeah — most of the movie is spent wondering whether or not Grace is going to succumb to the lure of the native men***. And the best character in it is Peacock (Alfio Nicolosi, who was also in Goodbye Uncle Tom), who pretty much runs the island. Also, the murders in this go from high tech to voodoo-based death and faces getting melted right off, which is different for a giallo****.

And hey — that Piero Umiliani (Orgasmo, Baba Yaga) score is perfect!

It’s not a great giallo, but it certainly is weird, and sometimes, that’s good enough.

*One of the directors of this film, Giampaolo Lomi, was the production manager for perhaps one of the most notorious mondo films, Goodbye Uncle Tom. The other, Edoardo Mulargia, directed Escape from Hell, which was edited into the Linda Blair movie Savage Island. So with backgrounds like those, the scummy mondo nature of this film makes a bit more sense.

*Of course, we can assume that with the Henry Miller novel being such a big deal getting banned and causing controversy that the title itself seemed like a good idea to get curious folks into the theater. Better than Death In HaitiPeacock’s Place or Inferno Under the Hot Sun.

***The flower that poisons her takes her on an insane erotic fever dream that we all get to watch and the movie is better for this scene.

****There’s just as much — if not more — male than female nudity, too.

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