Based on an unmade Wes Craven script called "Marimba". The story goes that after financing for that film fell through, the producers refused to give Craven his script back and this film was what resulted.
This was originally filmed in direct-sound English. This was very rare for Italian movies at that time, but necessary due to the large number of American actors. When Anchor Bay released the uncut version on DVD, the scenes were dubbed into Italian with English subtitles. Apparently the original soundtrack could not be located. The scenes are in Italian because the English-export edition and the Italian edition were edited with different shots. The English-export edition (released in theaters in the US) used "cleaner" versions shot at the same time as the "gorier" versions. It was not a matter of cutting down the gorier shots to make them less gory, as the producers actually filmed two different versions of the same scenes. Anchor Bay was a bit sloppy putting together its release, as one shot with Karen Black dubbed into Italian can be found in English on earlier VHS releases.
The producers wanted director Ruggero Deodato to make a sequel to "Cannibal Holocaust". Deodato rejected the idea and decided to make this film instead.
Michael Berryman also had issues with Director Ruggero Deodato as he had to stay in the water for a particular scene for five hours straight in which the local people were stating that Berryman was "crazy" for being in the river for that long period of time. Berryman had asked Deodato prior to the scene in question, questions if there was anything in the water that would be dangerous to him physically and Deodato stated "No". Berryman discovered after getting out of the water after that long period of time that there were electric eels in the river and he then angrily grabbed and threw the director off the pier and into the water and telling him "Now you stand in it now".
According to Ruggero Deodato, actor Willie Aames was difficult to work with, claiming Aames was going through personal problems and eventually destroyed a hotel room during production.
Ruggeo Deodato claims the violent scene of the man being split in half was inspired by images of Vietnam.
The scene in which Willie Aames finds his abductor tied up and is eventually ripped apart by the two trees splitting in half had the props crew throw the pig guts that had been sitting there for two to three days after Aames had warned Ruggero Deodato not to throw anything at him during this scene. It hit Aames in the face around his mouth, he then angrily went after Deodato to beat the crap out of him and literally chased him into the jungle before the cast and crew had to subdue and calm Aames down.
Willie Aames bought and paid for six pairs of the Mickey Mouse shirt that he wears in the film. The reason he wore the shirt was because he felt his character needed something to remind him of back home and surprisingly, was never told anything by Disney in regards to the shirt.
The film was actually shot in the jungles of Venezuela in which the temperatures reached as high as a 110 degrees.
The scene where Willie Aames, Leonard Mann and Lisa Blount are crucified in the trees was also a frustrating experience for the actors because there were bugs flying on their faces and in Aames, his legs which bit him all over which were ant bites that took over three months to completely heal from. The actors were literally tied up for about an hour and the actors really voiced their displeasure to Ruggerio Deodato in which they were finally let down.
Until 2017, Willie Aames had never seen either version of this film because he wanted to forget about everything that happend on the film at the time and was starting to concentrate on "Charles In Charge" which had just been picked up as a series. He also didn't know when the film was actually released and had he known, he would've kept some props from the shoot as mementos.
The airstrip for the planes used in the film, which took place at Angel Falls was a very dangerous place to film for a few reasons and mainly because if you did not leave a certain time of day, the cast and crew would spend the entire night in the jungle. Willie Aames caught wind of this from the pilots who kept looking at their watches which was around two o'clock in the afternoon and talking in Spanish, which Aames understood in that they said it was "getting late" to leave the jungle because within the hour (at 3:00) the clouds would roll in and it would be difficult for the pilots to fly in with no radar and they would hit a mountain plateau. Aames angrily told both Ruggerio and the producer that "he was leaving and that he was not spending the night in the jungle. That wasn't going to happen." Ruggerio stated that Aames was overracting to his claims and eventually Aames did leave the set and back to the ranch/hotel that they were staying in. However Aames did not have his luggage or his personal belongings and was still in wardrobe waiting there for almost seven hours when they made radio contact and it was learned that the cast and crew were staying in the prop DZ-9 airplane because they couldn't fly and it was pouring rain. Aames also found out from the same transmission that Lisa Blount had left right after he did and had she arrived at the ranch. Blount was stuck with the pilot somewhere on the other side of the jungle and when she returned, she was "pissed off" according to Aames. The cast and crew eventually made it to a nearby Monastary where they were invited to stay until they could leave the next day. While waiting for the cast and crew, Aames had made friends with some Military attache' including the head of the Special Forces who was a fan of Eight Is Enough and recognized him, that were around the same area looking for a plane that had disappeared around there.
Despite all of the issues on the shoot, Willie Aames still considers this his own personal adventure with many memorable stories coming out of good and bad. He also respects Director Ruggero Deodato despite the hell he put him through.
According to Willie Aames, Valentina Forte his co-star and Director Ruggero Deodato were dating at the time. However, Forte would show up on set with bruises around her face and body because Deodato was physically assaulting her. Aames offered to help her and at one point tried to talk to Deodato about it to which Deodato slammed the door in his face telling him to go back to his room. Forte and Aames reconnected with one another on Facebook as friends.
Although many refer to this as a cannibal movie there is no cannibalism in this film at all.
Willie Aames, Michael Berryman and Richard Lynch were all very close during the shoot as they all hung out with each other. Aames and Lynch actually became drinking buddies and shared stores about the old Hollywood way and Lynch would give Aames advice as to not live that way any longer. Berryman and Aames are still close friends to this day.
When Willie Aames finds the guy tied up to the trees with his legs spread out and eventually ripped apart, the actor that played the part was buried in the dirt and a pig's carcass was used for his legs along with the pig's intestines which were left out in the jungle for almost three days to be used for this particular scene.
The cast and crew had to contend with very dangerous animals and conditions during the shoot which included venomous spiders, alligators, ants, and bugs.
Lisa Blount was going through some personal issues during the shoot that affected her performance on the film. She did get along with the cast but she was not all there emotionally according to Willie Aames.
During the film of this movie, Willie Aames learned that "Charles In Charge" had been picked up for series by CBS and after the filmed wrapped, he would go on to star in the series for seven seasons.