Fashion photographer Joanna Quinn (Nina van Pallandt) and studly pilot Ben (Kai Wulff) are at the airport to welcome coke-snorting producer Larry (Marjoe Gortner) and a gaggle of chatty American models for a jungle photo-shoot in an unnamed South American country. One of the models, Pam (Suzi Horne), thinks she recognizes a former boyfriend named Nick (Alex Cord). Which proves unfortunate because Nick is a gangster in town with mafia boss Vito Mastranga (John Vernon) for a meeting with dangerous drug lord Cesar Santiago (Paul L. Smith) and his sultry but psychotic sister - and incestuous lover! - Angel (Sybil Danning). When the fashion crew fly too near Santiago's drug den he shoots down their plane. Led by bow-wielding henchman Luther (Woody Strode), Santiago's private army capture and abuse the women until Joanna decides enough is enough.
Jungle Warriors a.k.a. The Czar of Brazil a.k.a. Euer Weg führt durch die Hölle (Your Path Leads Through Hell), the original title of this West German co-production, boasts one of the all-time worst theme songs. As shrieked by Italian pop diva Marina Arcangeli ("I want your heat! I'm in your reach! Give me your heat!"), it more or less does to your ears what the slobbering cartel scumbags do to the hapless models. That aside this is an undistinguished fusion of Euro exploitation tropes: the women-in-prison genre, jungle terror and commando action-adventure. Filmed in an antiseptic manner with a cast of trash film staples it comes across like an uncommonly lurid episode of an Eighties TV show.
If the film is remembered for one thing it is that one of its original stars, Dennis Hopper, was arrested by Mexican police for wandering naked around a village near where the film was shooting. For his part Hopper recalled his drug problem was so bad at the time he did not remember being arrested let alone fired from the movie. He was swiftly replaced by Marjoe Gortner who, despite a mini-arc as a self-loathing coke-head seizing a chance for redemption as a gun-toting action hero, exits just as swiftly. In fact several actors make abrupt exits including Kai Wulff, later the sharp-shooting German villain in Three Amigos (1986), whom the film establishes initially as a low-rent Michael Douglas from Romancing the Stone (1984). It is like they were embarrassed to appear in a trashy exploitation picture. Imagine that.
On the other hand, Paul L. Smith, an actor more familiar for minor roles in major movies, evidently relished a chance to strut his stuff centre stage. Smith proves a real hoot as cultured, urbane though naturally psychotic drug lord Cesar Santiago. He gets to portray an unstoppable badass and massage a naked Sybil Danning who also camps it up something chronic. Ineptly paced by producer-director Ernest von Theumer (whose filmography overlaps with actor-director Mel Welles to the point where some sources claim they are the same person), awkwardly edited and riddled with continuity errors, Jungle Warriors squanders screen-time on an unnecessarily elaborate plot. It takes a ridiculously long time for the lead characters to reach Santiago's lair. Mostly because the film keeps pausing for Joanna to deliver another meaningful monologue about her melancholy past. In real-life Nina van Pallandt was one half of folk duo Nina & Frederick (with her ill-fated aristocratic husband Baron Frederick van Pallandt) as well as the woman that exposed hoaxer Clifford Irving for his phony biography of billionaire Howard Hughes. Much as van Pallandt was more accustomed to working with classy directors like Robert Altman, Orson Welles and Paul Schrader (her American Gigolo (1980) co-star Richard Gere went on to portray Clifford Irving in The Hoax (2006)), co-star Woody Strode must have wondered how he went from working with John Ford and Stanley Kubrick to crap like this.
Despite the largely kitschy tone, Jungle Warriors treads a very fine line between campy nonsense and unpalatable nastiness. Along with the wince-inducing casual racism (Teutonic macho man Ben calls Woody Strode's character: "an ape who needs his trainer" while Nick refers to Latin Americans as "greasers"), scenes where hairy slobbering soldiers gang-rape the screaming women are hard to take. Even so the film has very, very faint feminist undertones. Rather than rely on any men, the women band to together to save themselves aided by a feisty old servant woman. One of them even turns out to be a federal agent. Although the action only erupts in the last fifteen minutes or so and the editor cuts away during more extreme violence because the budget clearly could not accommodate any splatter effects, viewers may draw some satisfaction when the scantily-clad heroines start blasting machineguns. It is a sight to make you sing along with Marina: "I'm in your reeeeeeeaaaaaaach!! Give me your heeeeaaaat!!!"