A real obscurity even for the likes of a specialist label such as Mondo Macabro, Kostas Karagiannis’ sleazy little potboiler, DANGEROUS CARGO (1977)—for those who might have seen it prior to MM’s Blu-ray— is best-remembered for the creative casting of former Miss America (and at that time, aspiring actress) Deborah “Debbie” Shelton. Long before she became more widely-known for her role opposite Larry Hagman as J.R. Ewing’s girlfriend Mandy Winger on the long-running TV series DALLAS (1978 – 1991), Shelton appeared in a trio of largely-forgotten Greek films from the mid-’Seventies, of which the nautical-themed DANGEROUS CARGO is, fittingly enough, the high watermark. Hitting all the right notes, director Karagiannis maintains great economy for this fast-paced—and exceedingly skeevy!—sexploitation opus, but it’s Shelton’s daring, no-holds-barred performance that really sets it apart from other like-minded films.
Milto (Nikos Verkalis) is the new skipper of a cargo ship about to set sail for the Far East, but when his bosun is found murdered during a routine stopover in the U.S., Milto is assigned a new officer (Kostas Karagiorgis) who is pulling double-duty for a shady—and apparently very powerful—businessman (played by the film’s U.S./Greek producer James Paris, who surreptitiously ‘directs’ many of the film’s unexpected twists and turns). Unbeknownst to the captain, the ship’s cargo is illegally transporting a vast amount of weapons and nitroglycerin (hilariously emblazoned with a hand-drawn skull-and-crossbones logo!) bound for some sort of terrorist organization plotting to snuff-out some middle eastern oil wells. Amidst all this subterfuge, the captain has foolhardily brought along his wife (Shelton)—who is the sole woman aboard the ship, natch—and as it turns out, she also ‘just happens’ to be the former girlfriend of the vessel’s first mate, Avgeri (Giorgos Hristodoulou), who is likewise complicit in all the crew’s peddling of black market goods and knows full well that (quote) “death is hanging over their heads!”
Tensions run high throughout the picture (“Nitroglycerin is no joke!”) with its pulpy, film-noir inspired storyline, and in spite of the exceedingly low-budget (the single firearm smuggled onto the ship’s deck is obviously only a kids’ toy!), it zips briskly along even as it takes frequent pause to deliver a number of lengthy sex scenes around every ten minutes or so. Outside of a few establishing shots and some brief flashback sequences, the entire films takes place within the claustrophobic confines of the cargo ship, close quarters that further aggravates the mounting hostility of everyone onboard, resulting in the expected in-fighting. Miss Shelton is not only highly attractive, but she acquits herself supremely well while holding her own against a whole tubful of sex-starved males eager to get their grimy hands on her. Karagiorgis oozes all the necessary sleaze and venom as the film’s two-faced primary villain, who forces Debbie to become his plaything because he likes (quote) “Cats that scratch!” But she proves to be far more cunning when she sneakily manipulates the situation to her advantage, proving she may very well be the ‘dangerous cargo’ of the film’s title.
Never theatrically released outside of Greece, DANGEROUS CARGO comes to Blu-ray in a fine-looking transfer taken directly from the original negative, which retains the film’s original 1.37:1 aspect ratio, and despite a preceding disclaimer about how the picture quality falls below MM’s usual standards, it all looks quite impressive given the film’s obvious obscurity; there is really nothing to complain about here at all. The Greek Dolby Digital 2.0 mono audio also sounds sufficient enough, boasting clearly-audible dialogue and with Giorgos Theodosiadis’ easy-listening, lounge score sounding just fine. Optional English subtitles are also provided, of course. Extras are limited to MM’s always-fun promotional reel (11m10s), but the Limited Edition ‘Red Case’ (sadly, now out-of-print) also includes ‘Debbie’s Greek Adventure’, a 12-page booklet with writing from Pete Tombs, who not only details the film’s rather confusing history, but discusses many of the personnel involved, including Miss Shelton’s brief, but entirely memorable, sojourn into Greek exploitation cinema. Order the standard retail edition directly from Mondo Macabro or from DiabolikDVD.