The Mob vs. The Militia vs. … Fashion Models?
While not quite as insane as RAW FORCE (1982), 1984’s JUNGLE WARRIORS features its own brand of nuttiness, and includes CHAINED HEAT (1983) alumni Sybil Danning and John Vernon, not to mention Paul “Bluto” Smith (from 1980’s POPEYE live action film). By the time the film had unreeled it’s first 20 minutes I was engrossed despite the nagging from a friend who insisted we should’ve gone to another film. Nonsense!
My junior year of high school was only a couple months in, but like so many films before it, JUNGLE WARRIORS’ ad in the NY Daily News infected my brain early one Friday morning and was all I could think about. The school day dragged, dinner time dragged, but by the time my friends and I hit the (now defunct) Fox Twin Theater I was about as excited as anyone could be over a film I knew little about. And being a Friday night, the theater was quite packed for a film that to the best of my memory had no TV ad campaign.
It should be noted that the opening theme song (which I found out just recently was sung by a popular Italian singer named Marina Arcangeli) is so outrageously bad, those of us in attendance didn’t know if we should laugh, cry, cover our ears, or all three. I was expecting any glass inside the theater to explode at any second as this voice penetrated my ear drums. Yes, it is that bad and were the song released today, it would instantly be considered a YouTube joke. To make matters worse, the film’s end credits features the same damn song! But, onward…
A bunch of American fashion models travel to South America for an exotic photo shoot. But during one of their flights around the country (Peru? Chile? You tell me!) their plane is shot down by a private militia who guard a secret cocaine plantation. They survive the crash but are taken prisoners of drug lord Cesar Santiago (Smith), who happens to be in an incestuous relationship with his sister Angel. Cesar spends his days counting his money, throwing orders at his army and oil massaging his sister. So, yeah, this guy is the epitome of a sleazy coke dealer if there ever was one (and remember at this time, SCARFACE (1983) was only a year old and still in film fans’ minds). Cesar certainly made Scarface look competent and in control, but the audience at the Fox Twin howled with laughter nearly every time he was onscreen. Maybe it was his voice? Maybe this suburban crowd had only heard about incest through racy jokes and were nervously giggling as he did the horizontal mambo with his sister? Whatever the case, he’s convinced one of the alleged fashion models is a cop looking to shut down his operation, so he has his goons lock them in the basement and try to get info out of them.
As the models worry, wondering if they’re going to be killed or used as sex slaves for the private militia, a woman who works for Cesar helps them escape. Of course, they manage to find guns and help the film’s title become a reality.
Meanwhile, Mafia kingpin Vito (Vernon) arrives to talk business with Cesar. It doesn’t take too long into their meeting before things go awry.
JUNGLE WARRIORS is a terrible film, yet one that will appeal to exploitation film fans. It’s part rape/revenge, part women’s prison, part mafia, and the last twenty minutes is all action as the cocaine militia, the mafia, the local police, and our models (a.k.a. the Jungle Warriors) attempt to survive as bullets fly in every direction, fist fights break out, and one of Cesar’s henchmen, armed with a crossbow, causes unnecessary pain among the gunfire. And when Cesar attempts to escape the chaos in a helicopter, one of our models manages to thwart his plans.
The audience seemed to enjoy the film well enough, but there were plenty of laughs over the sub-par acting. One rape scene is a bit intense (and I’ve read over the years it was cut from some versions in an attempt to appeal to mainstream action film fans) and fans of the aforementioned actors will love seeing them in this (still) mostly unseen film.
With overtly racist dialogue, a militia member strutting around in an E.T. T-shirt (!), and a way too slow pace for today’s audiences, JUNGLE WARRIORS is the perfect time capsule for low budget 80s action films. And while everything explained above may sound a bit risqué for the time, the film isn’t as violent or as sexual as it could’ve been. Guess the budget for FX and nudity just wasn’t there?
For action, mafia, jungle, women’s prison, and crossbow completists only.
Danning, Vernon, and Smith head an incredible psychotronic cast in JUNGLE WARRIORS
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