Movies You Can't Netflix: Journey To An Unknown World

(Having friends who spend their free time trading 8th generation dubs of obscure B-movies through the mail can have its priveleges. Sometimes you end up with real gems, like today's feature, a bizzaro "comedy" from 1971 Brasil written, directed and starring Flávio Migliaccio.)

Despite being a bumbling, irresponsible fool, Manuelo (Flávio Migliaccio) takes his three nephews on vacation every summer. He comes across as sort of a Brazilian prototype of Roberto Benigni. (And no, I don't consider that a compliment.) As for the kids, well there's the chubby one, the young one, and the other one. They all have different colored hats, which is helpful.

Manuelo and the children head into the Amazon, hoping to find adventure. They're also hoping to find Grandpa, who's been communicating with aliens. The kids' parents aren't too fond of this idea, as Manuelo's last two escapades have landed him on the front page of the newspaper. It isn't clear whether their father is upset that the kids were endangered or if it's just the idea of scandal that bothers him. Not that Father intervenes at all, mind you.

Manuelo and the nephews (Mario, Paco, and Diego) locate Grandpa's camp, but the old man is nowhere to be found. Luckily, a UFO lands and two animated (that is, they're cartoons) aliens tell them Grandpa has been kidnapped. As they explain, their race is held captive on a far away planet by a merciless gang of robots. The only thing that can free them is the Flower of Wisdom and Adventure™ that the robots have hidden in the rain forest. So, an advanced robot has been sent to Earth, kidnapped Grandpa, and is on a mission to retrieve the flower before the aliens can use it against their captors. I guess this was the inspiration for all those Terminator movies.

The four head into the rainforest hoping to intercept Grandpa and the robot. It isn't very long before they're lost, thanks to the less-than-brilliant idea of marking their trail through the jungle with flowers. As soon as they're lost Manuelo decides to abandon the kids and search for the robot on his own, proving himself the worst guardian in Brazil. His nephews wander the jungle for days, nearly dying of dehydration. The only thing that spares them is a sudden thunderstorm. This also affords them the opportunity to frolic naked in the rain, making this film a lot like Lord of the Flies, but with robots.

The boys are captured by a band of smugglers (I think) and locked into cages. But soon enough they not only escape but lead an insurrection among the natives to overthrow their slave masters. I'd say this is an obvious bit of foreshadowing but I don't think the filmmakers put quite that much thought into things. Meanwhile Manuelo has found Grandpa and his captor.

Grandpa sends Manuelo ahead to the location of the flower so he can warn the local villagers of the robot's plans. In the meantime he's going to figure out a way to defeat the robot. If you ask me, it looks like if you gave the robot a good shove he'd topple over and be rendered harmless, but what do I know?

Manuelo and the kids somehow manage to find one another, just in time to get lost again. They stumble around, dehydrating once more, hoping to find water. I always imagined the rainforest was a lush, damp place, but I guess it's not. Manuelo comes up with another dumb idea to follow a turtle around in the hopes he'll find water for them. When they do eventually find water (and it seems to take them a very long time), their swim in the river is rudely cut short by a fleet of hungry crocodiles.

They escape the crocs, shoot (and eat) a jaguar, and eventually make it to the village. Unfortunately the language barrier prevents Manuelo from effectively communicating with the natives, and they're unable to warn them of the impending doom. And when the robot does arrive, the villagers flee into the jungle.

So it's up to Manuelo, Mario, Paco, and Diego to defeat the robot. And just in the nick of time, Grandpa discovers that the robot's only weakness is a wire sticking out of his neck. One of the kids yanks it loose and the robot explodes. (And no, I have no idea how Grandpa got there.)

The aliens then land to claim the flower, and invite them all aboard the flying saucer. Well, everyone except Grandpa. I guess he's something of a buzzkill so he gets Left Behind. Stepping into the flying saucer turns everyone into a cartoon, and we're treated to a ten minute sequence of animated hijinks.

The saucer, with Manuelo and the boys onboard, returns to its home planet. One whiff of the fragrant flower empowers all the little aliens to rise up against the robots, and once again, the boys are leading a slave insurrection. Needless to say, the cute green aliens overthrow the robots, with plenty of help from Mario, Paco, and Diego. Uncle Manuelo mostly bumbles around, getting in the way.

Everyone lives happily ever after. Manuelo even made it through two sequels. I'm not sure I could do as much.

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