Headshrinkers Of The Amazon Review: Mind-Numbing

July 22, 2009 by  
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HEADSHRINKERS OF THE AMAZON: Thursday 23nd July, Five, 8pm Alert Me

Probably best to finish your dinner before watching this one.

Channel Five continues its “Revealed? series, another one of those ubiquitous string of programmes blatantly engineered to shock.

Today, following previous outings Britain’s Nazi King, and Jack the Ripper: Tabloid Killer, it’s Headshrinkers of the Amazon, and if it isn’t about Brazilian psychologists (ho ho) it must be a study into those tribes of headhunters who vengefully reduce the heads of their enemies to render their souls powerless.

Ooh, chilling.

Our host, “author and explorer? Piers Gibbons has come across some “recently discovered? (always a tantalising phrase) footage of the ritual of head shrinking somewhere in the Amazon and he wants to know more.

He has a lot of land to cover. All he knows, from speaking to the son of the man who made the 1960s film, is that they’re somewhere in the north-west region of the Amazon rainforest. That’s a mighty large area.

We follow his journey through the region, picking up clues, and stopping off in cities to speak to people about the ritual. Eventually Gibbons ventures into the rainforest, hopefully for some first-hand accounts.

The problem with Headshrinkers of the Amazon is it’s a weak premise to begin with. The title says all you need to know, really. The focus of the show shifts several times as new (lame) developments happen.

Though he gave his mission statement at the beginning of the show – to find where the ritual took place, the people who took part, and to discover whether the dangers still exist – it’s still unclear what Gibbons wants to achieve.

Let’s face it, we’re only going to watch this to gawk at the tiny heads. The mission statement is disingenuous and ever-so-slightly offensive. Whether the “dangers still exist?? Is Gibbons going to go down and carry out Western justice? This all sounds very familiar…

It’s largely uncomfortable viewing, and that has nothing to do with the grainy headshrinking footage. Gibbons plays the condescending gringo, dopily grinning and nodding away at the locals as they confide with him about the brutal practice. It’s impossible not to cringe.

Don’t lose your head over missing it.

Leonie Mercedes