Reviewed by Chris Poggiali
Arthur Davis, known as “Mr. International Showman” in the film distribution world, was a familiar face to people who read Variety during the 1960s and ‘70s. The son of a Florida movie theater owner, Davis followed in his father’s footsteps as an exhibitor before landing a job as a publicist for the film import company Mayer-Burstyn. He ran his own film import business in the States for several years before relocating to Tokyo in the early 1960s and establishing The Arthur Davis Company, a distribution outfit that provided Japanese TV stations and movie theaters with Italian and French movies. After more than a decade in Japan, Davis expanded his operation to Hong Kong and formed The Arthur Davis Organization -- “The leading independent showmanship group in Japan, Hong Kong and all the Far East,” according to the ads that frequently appeared in Variety (accompanied by a photo of Davis, always smiling). He also widened his scope to include the handling of German, British, and some American films, and by the mid-1970s his company was distributing over 22 titles a year throughout Asia. Logically, the next step for Davis would be the production of his own films.
“All scenes whether actual or simulated represent actual truth.”
– Jaime hanging out of a tree with a “hidden camera,” filming the sacred Turtle Wedding ceremony of the Uru tribe. Please note that there’s nary a leaf in sight, let alone a whole tree, during the entire sequence (which was seemingly shot from about 10 different angles, all medium shots or close-ups, none above shoulder height)
– All references to Jimatl, the Inca Empire’s version of Hugh Hefner
– The legend of Ixlanta and Omonga, which explains the origin of cocaine
– A masturbating monkey in a tree strafing Cedric’s head with semen
– Said monkey getting blasted out of the tree five seconds later
– Davis being accosted by cocaine distributors interested in hiring him to smuggle a package back to Miami for $15,000
– Almost all references to Viracocha, the lord of all things, father of men, creator of lightning, rain, and the sun, and the reason the people living around Lake Titicaca chop a llama to pieces every once in a while
– All references to Llampa, which happens to be llama lubricant (I swear I’m not making this up)
– All references to chica, a highly potent whiskey distilled from berries and the leaves of coca plants
– All references to Manuel, one of Davis’ tour guides, who drank too much chica on the night of the llama mating ritual, insulted Viracocha, and promptly perished with a knife in his chest
– Davis stalking the elderly night watchman from the Museo Rafael Larco Herrera (“The Erotic Inca Museum”) and bribing him with 1 thousand pesos in order to obtain footage of the erotically illustrated soup bowls and drinking glasses in the museum’s collection
The home video boom was soon in full swing, and product was needed to fill rental store shelves. MPI Home Video released a 92-minute cut of BRUTES AND SAVAGES -- presumably from the Aquarius theatrical print, since FACES OF DEATH was also a popular MPI title -- and it’s this version that circulated in the U.S. for nearly 20 years. In the second issue of his great, long-running fanzine Ecco, Charles Kilgore erroneously described Davis the Floridian as “an Italianate Emo Phillips lookalike” and the film itself as “a 1983 Italian pseudo-documentary,” but the crux of his review was right on the money: “From its opening credits set to a fourth-rate imitation Philly disco track to its final segment on a llama mating ritual, BRUTES AND SAVAGES squeezes all of the worst mondo elements together into one stinking cinematic turd. A segment on human cranial surgery provides the only evidence that a brain was involved in this entire sorry enterprise” (Ecco, vol. 1, no. 2, March/April 1988).