Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death (1988) from Brainscan

If you track Shannon Tweed's career you find a few movies that were instrumental in her decision to become an oft-naked B-movie babe. The frequently capped Hot Dog, her second movie, was one of them. Her first movie, Of Unknown Origin, was almost as important because of two things:

1) It was a serious effort with some real pros in front of and behind the camera.
2) Shannon's part was meaty for a first effort, she did a good job, and had a brief topless scene in the shower.

That film seemed to have set her on the path toward at least some screen nudity.

Then there was a period in which Shannon did close-to-A movies and TV soap operas. In 1988 (according to the credits, IMDB says 1989) she did a movie called Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death. This was a plum role, broadly comedic and sexy, requiring that she and all others walk the thin line between serious parody and banal stupidity.

Shannon did an exceptional job, as did Karen Mistal, her right-hand woman. These gals were funny in the way that parody demands, but without treading into the land of the ridiculous. Both women are very sexy but neither gives up major goodies. The best you see from Karen is major cleavage, of which she seemed to have an abundant supply. Ms. Mistal went on to do several more movies but appears to have never gotten nekkid on-screen.

Shannon wears some interesting clothes and shows off wonderous cleavage in scenes where she looks incredibly edible. Really, she looks better in this movie than any place I've seen her. And in one scene Ms. Tweed shows that, whereas the focus of subsequent attention was on her upper body, she had a first-class pair of legs and a wonderful caboose.

Adrienne Barbeau is also on-screen as the evil feminist who has taken her converts off to Bakersfield, CA to live and play and eat captive men. She hits most of the right notes in her performance. You see her legs and some near-goodies in a native dress.

And the movie begins with the obligatory well-groomed red-headed native girls topless at the swimming hole. Marvelous looking, uncredited babes.

The movie would have worked with all these principals in place, were it not the fact the producers made one very big mistake. Along the way to the Avocado Jungle of Death, Shannon and Karen stop at an edge-of-the-wilderness bar to select a formidable male guide to accompany them. All the stereotypes of manly and deadly men are trotted out and rejected by our heroines. They wind up with a guide who is bumbling fool. That would be Bill Maher.

Now there is comedic gold to be mined from a character whose gifts and talents do not quite meet the demands of his mission. We've seen it work before. Harrison Ford plays the role perfectly in the first two Star Wars movies. Don't have a clue what happened in the third, but that's for another time. Bill Maher decides to play this, though, as if any hint of masculinity on his character's part, any patina of manly virtue on anyone's part, and any hint of professional restraint on his own part were anathema. Allergic to them all was he. We're talking anaphalactic shock.

So for most of the movie we are forced to suffer through what I think might be the single worst "comedic" performance since Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. Honestly I would rather watch Primitive Love again than sit through Maher's performance in this movie. He does manage one unintentionally humorous moment, however, as the camera catches him sneeking a peak at Karen Mistal's hooters. Fucking pathetic.

Maher doomed the movie. No one went to see it, no one but a few Shannon Tweed fans bothered to buy it or rent it. And so the last chance Shannon had to be regarded as a comedic actress went down in flames so hot it burned everyone attached to the movie. Of course, Shannon adapted and became the quintessential DTV babe of the 90's.


see the main commentary

DVD info from Amazon

  • no features, no widescreen.

I guess we should thank Maher, then, for blowing chunks as an actor. It's the reason we have seen so much of Shannon naked over the years. Okay, you can thank him... you didn't have to watch him in Cannibal Women. For those of us who have, the sight of Shannon's unclothed bod is of limited comfort to our wounded psyches.

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The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

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