Massacre in Dinosaur Valley (1985)

If you’re hoping to actually see dinosaurs in this movie, then I have to apologize now. Dinosaur tracks? Yes. Dinosaur bones? Sure. But actual dinosaurs? God no.

A paleontologist, his attractive daughter, and an American adventure seeker/archaeologist/two-fisted tough guy decide to make an illegal flight to the dinosaur valley, a protected area of the Amazon inhabited by an uncontacted cannibalistic tribe. Unfortunately, turbulence causes the plane to crash, and now our hero and the hot daughter are joined by an angry Green Beret who spent too much time in Vietnam and apparently has erectile dysfunction, his alcoholic wife who apparently never met a plastic surgeon she didn’t like, a fashion photographer who doesn’t have good ideas, and two hot models…one of whom had sex with the hero and of course dies in the crash. The Green Beret decides to assert his authority and tries to get the survivors to the nearest river and away from the tribes but ends up arguing with the hero and cutting losses.

Then the natives show up, everyone dies, and the movie undergoes a slight tonal shift as our hero rescues the hot daughter and the one surviving hot model from the cannibal tribe. They go on a scantily clad rowboat ride, the hero kills the cannibal chief, and then the movie undergoes another tonal shift. Now our hero and two hot ladies are caught by illegal emerald miners. The hot model is forced to engage in lesbian foreplay and then killed, the hot daughter is raped, and the hero takes his time freeing the slaves and then killing the evil mine leader. He then takes out everyone else and steals the miners’ helicopter, where he and the hot daughter engage in witty banter despite just having escaped the jungle, him having a bullet in the leg, and her having been raped less than 12 hours ago. But hey, it’s an Italian cannibal film that felt humor was the way to go, so…yeah.

If you have not yet guessed, yes, Massacre in Dinosaur Valley is a sleazy Italian cannibal exploitation film, though it tries and fails to hide some of that sleaze with bad jokes, an Indiana Jones-wannabe hero, and about as close to full frontal nudity as it can get. While there is a little gore, it’s nowhere near the level of something like Cannibal Ferox, which Massacre in Dinosaur Valley was occasionally distributed as a sequel for. No, here it’s much more about the nudity and sexploitation, with our two female leads spending about half the movie in loin cloths or less. They exist with only the barest of plots and personalities pretty much solely for male audience members to ogle them.

It’s also a movie that never knows what it wants to be. We get survivalism, and we get running and shooting cannibals, but at an hour in, we’re done with those, and I was honestly wondering how this film was going to spend the next half hour. And then it decided to throw in all the slavery and rape, because I forgot what kind of movie I was watching. It literally ends with the hero flying a helicopter despite not knowing how, and when the attractive daughter tells him to fly straight, he says he is but the helicopter is swaying because it’s Brazilian and “has rhythm.” God, I wish I had made that up.

It’s worth noting that Michael Sopkiw was the lead here. In fact, it was his last starring role in a feature film. Sopkiw appears to have gotten fed up with making exploitation movies for directors like Lamberto Bava and Michele Massimo Tarantini and instead went on to study medicinal plants. Was it Massacre in Dinosaur Valley that made him finally decide? Well, the movie is awful enough… The situation probably wasn’t helped any by the movie reusing music from another of Sopkiw’s films, Blastfighter, which just further compounds how silly one might feel about one’s career when confronted with it. Either way, Sopkiw gave up cinema after this and moved on. As someone who’s seen his movies, he should have gotten a better chance, and I hope he found the success he deserved.

Unfortunately, there really weren’t any success stories with this movie. Most everyone involved took long breaks or quit entirely afterward. Or in some cases, they were never actors to start with and only did the film because they were offered a few bucks and were bored. For example, the cannibals are primarily played by Brazilian soldiers who were on leave. All they had to do was run around a jungle in a loin cloth for a day, and hey, easy money. The most successful person here was probably Joffre Soares, a Brazilian actor who notched over 100 acting credits before his death in 1996.

Massacre in Dinosaur Valley was a joint Italian-Brazilian production, though it represents the dregs of both countries’ film industries. At the time of this movie, Brazil had only been in the horror film game for 20 years, but you’re better served going back to 1964’s At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul with Coffin Joe than watching this. The only real reason to check out this movie is if you are a massive Italian cannibal film fan or you’re trying to complete seeing all of someone’s film oeuvre, which, yeah, I have done with certain B-movie actors who were around in the 1980s. Both angles brought me here, and I was sorely disappointed. Sopkiw is still at his best in 2019, After the Fall of New York.

If you want this movie summed up in one scene, there is a particularly nasty moment where piranha mangle a guy’s leg, so the Green Beret kills him. This causes the hero to fight the Green Beret, and they end up wrestling in the same water where this guy was just attacked by the swarming fish. And you know what? There’s not a single piranha around, despite the dead body and the blood flowing in the water. Yeah, it’s that kind of movie.

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