Controversial Blus: Massacre In Dinosaur Valley

We're back with #2 in 88 Film's Indiegogo restoration series, or #22 in their Italian Collection if you pay attention to that stuff.  This one is the most cheerful and upbeat film in the set, which is surprising when you consider the fact that it's also a lurid cannibal film.  But that strange dichotomy is the charm of Massacre In Dinosaur Valley.  It's quirky and happy, while still being a nihilistic, gruesome film full or gore, rape and hopelessness.  Even if you've seen all the other entries in the cannibal film subgenre, you still haven't seen one quite like this.  And now we can all finally wallow in it in HD!
So I suppose the best way to begin is by telling you no, there are no dinosaurs in Massacre In Dinosaur Valley.  Just cannibals, slave traders and the the deadly traps of the deep, Brazilian jungle.  This film's also known as Cannibal Ferox 2, but of course there isn't any connection to Lenzi's film either.  But don't get hung up on what you don't get in this picture, because it has plenty to offer.  Our hero, and yes, we get a real through-and-through hero in a cannibal flick for once, is Michael Sopkiw, star of Blastfighter and 2019: After the Fall of New York.  He's a rogue, American paleontologist who manages to con his way with a professor on an illegal expedition into the titular Dinosaur Valley.  Along with them is the professor's beautiful daughter, an embittered Vietnam vet and his ultra-suburban wife, a fashion photographer and some gorgeous models.  It's a recipe for wackiness; and as you'd expect, their tiny plane crashes into the jungle, leaving our cast lost and desperate to escape the ol' green inferno.
This film is lower budget than its more famous peers by Deodato and Lenzi, but the locations manage to put most of it over the top.  There are just a few moments with the plane crash and the native tribe where the seems really show.  The first thing that actually really strikes you in this movie is the music.  There are a few moments where it gets suspenseful and traditional, but for the most part it's super upbeat and catchy.  It starts right at the opening credits as if to let you know, no matter what happens, this film is a party and you shouldn't take anything you see too seriously.  You can tell this film has different goals than your classic cannibal film, even if superficial trappings are just like all the others.  At first it might seem like they're setting you up for a big change in mood when the characters get thrown into the thick, but once you see them imitate the famous heel chopping scene from Romancing the Stone, it's obvious they're just using the established cannibal market to as an excuse to stage their own idea of a film.  And it's pretty entertaining so long as you're not put off my the more extreme, graphic elements.
A shot only included in the English Version.
So now we've got to talk film versions.  As with Absurd, this blu offers us the choice between Italian and English Versions.  And once again, they differ in more than just their audio tracks, though it's a little simpler this time.  The running times are close, but the Italian version is missing a little over a minute's worth of footage at the 1:11:18 mark: the lesbian rape scene.  Everything else is identical, apart from the audio and the language of the opening credits (including the onscreen title Nudo e Selvaggio); but I'm pretty sure that's a scene exploitation fans aren't going to want to miss.  So be sure to check out the English Version.
A shot included in most DVDs, but absent from 88's blu-ray.
But we also have to discuss the cuts.  Yes, unfortunately, this is a censored version of the film.  But on the plus side, we don't lose a lot.  Most of the sex and violence is here untouched; they were just unable to get a few quick moments of authentic animal violence past the BBFC.  It really is just one scene, early on in the picture, where they're having a cock fight in the hotel.  Now a lot happens during this scene, and most of it is still in the picture.  It's only really the cutaways to the actual cockfight that's cut.  All the dialogue and everything is still here.  Still though, it's always disappointing when a film is released cut.  And actually, I'm a little surprised the footage didn't pass, because it's not terribly graphic.  You don't see one bird pecking the other's eye out or anything bloody like that.  They're just flapping their wings at each other and clucking like the cock fights you've seen in a million other movies.  But the BBFC is touchy about that sort of thing, so there you go.  If you absolutely insist on all the films in your collection being 100% completely uncut, which to be fair I think is a pretty reasonable stance to take, then you should know this isn't the release for you.
So Massacre In Dinosaur Valley has been released on disc a few times before, most notably by Shriek Show in 2004.  But there had also been previous junkers by usual suspects Vipco and Dragon, plus a 2006 DVD by Shameless.  There was even a German blu-ray earlier this year from XT Video under the title Amazonas, though I don't believe they had the benefit of 88's new 2k scan of the original camera negative.  But we'll come back to that blu in a bit.  For now, let's look at what we've got.
88 Film's 2017 blu-ray English Version top; and their Italian Version bottom.
So once again, 88 seem to have used exactly the same master and transfer for both versions, but I've included caps of both just to be thorough.  It's worth noting, though, that the English subs seem to be burned into the Italian cut.  Anyway, the image looks pretty great.  It's slightly matted to 1.85:1, the colors look very natural and except for a couple very rare dollops of damage, quite clean and stable.  Grain is a little uneven here... the top set of shots is very heavy, where it's more muted elsewhere.  This could be how the film was shot (i.e. mixed film stock or just low light issues) or maybe 88 had more success tinkering with some shots than others.  But it all looks pretty good.  Grain levels rise and fall fairly subtly (I purposefully picked one of the the most extreme instances up top), so it's not distracting while watching the film.  And while I don't have the Shriek Show DVD on hand, I saw it years ago and can say with confidence that this is a huge upgrade.

Again, we're given the option of the English and Italian languages, both in lossless LPCM 2.0 tracks.  As I said, the English subtitles seem to be burned into the Italian cut, but they're not on the English Version, so it's a minor imperfection if you want subs for the lesbian scene.
And I wouldn't call this a jam-packed special edition, but we do have some special features here.  First we have a nice collection of roughly ten minutes worth of deleted scenes.  Most of these are in Italian with English subtitles, but a couple moments are missing audio (and subs).  There's one bit where the bartender seems to give Sopkiw a little fish(?), and I really wish we knew what he was saying there.  For the most part, all the deleted scenes take place in the opening act, before anybody gets to the jungle, and there's one comic relief moment that I'm glad was cut.  But it is cool to get a glimpse of some other material intended for this film.  These scenes are also on the German blu, and they seem to have also composited them back into a second, extended cut of the film for an alternate, limited edition set.  I'm not sure, however, how much adding these scenes back to the film would really improve matters.
The other main feature is a roughly 20-minute talk by critic Calum Waddell, where he gives a pretty damn interesting and informative critical analysis, including the importance of the film's real versus fictitious locations, the political backdrop in Brazil at the time and how it influenced the picture, and some connections to Eli Roth's Green Inferno.  He also takes a moment to stick it to naysayers of his upcoming book because, hey, why not?  Speaking of books, there's no booklet this time around, but we do also get the original theatrical trailer and reversible cover art.  Also, supporters of the indiegogo campaign got a very attractive slipcover.
Massacre In Dinosaur Valley's an engaging, little entertainment; but it's hardly a favorite.  So, for me, it was fun to get in the set and I probably will revisit it, but it's not a title where I'm particularly fussed about owning the perfect version.  And that's good, because if you're a dedicated fan of this film, you're in a bit of a quandary right now.  Do you go with this new restoration, or the uncut blu from XT Video?  On top of that, you'll still want to hang onto your Shriek Show DVDs, because that had exclusive interviews with Sopkiw and the director.  If you're just in the mood for a quirky Italian trash experience, by all means, this will please.  I had nothing but a good time watching 88's new blu.  But I'd advise serious fans to watch and wait.  With a little luck, maybe a label in another region like Severin or Umbrella will swoop in and release a definitive edition in another part of the world with the restored uncut footage and the legacy special features.

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