Cannibal-main

Deep River Savages

deep-river-savages

Notoriety Deep River Savages was the first movie in the outrageous Italian cannibal genre, which may deserve a couple of points, but it has always been much easier to ignore than to find. 3/10

ManFromDeepRiverDVDDVD Edition The only uncut edition is from US company Shriek Show. Surprisingly, the film looks as good as most mainstream movies of the era. Minimal extras, though, notable only for director Umberto Lenzi’s tale of finding a prostitute. 3/5

Film Deep River Savages establishes the all the trappings of cannibal movies – jungle locations, dumb natives, graphic gut munching, killing animals, nudity and unusual sex as well as traffic queue pacing, laughable dialogue and gratuitous aeroplane footage. In a plot is culled from A Man Called Horse (1970) Western hardish man (Ivan Rassimov, dubbed to sound like Richard Harris) ventures into the jungle and is captured by a savage tribe, and after much posturing and ritual earns their respect and joins them;

“You man of tribe!”

The other main influence are the 1960s shockumentary or “mondo” films of Paolo Cavara and Gualtiero Jacopetti, which involved a camera crew going around the world filming various “sick and depraved” lifestyles, especially those of unwestenised tribes, then marketing the resulting footage as drive-in shock fests. Fictionalise, add a dodgy narrative and voila! 3/10

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Director Umberto Lenzi recruited this actress in a brothel

Shock and gore The OK-ish make up FX are sparse, with only one scene of limb chomping cannibalism, which may have been shocking in the early ‘70’s, but is lame compared with most of the other films here. The brief gang rape and ritual sex scenes are very much of the “actors with no clothes wriggling” type. Incomparably more troubling, are the numerous scenes of actual violence against animals, for food and otherwise. Possibly hardest to watch is a mongoose pitted against a cobra in what is presented as a local blood sport. The camera looks impassively as the poor snake’s head is repeatedly bitten into a bloody mess, intercut with a separate scene of Rassimov’s ridiculous soul searching. A true laugh or cry moment. 4/10

Soundtrack Competently made but minimal (as in not much of it) the score traverses the moods of “foreign trip” to “look at this –  shocking, isn’t it?” along with the occasional “wow – mysterious” and “CHASE!” 2/5

Prisoner of the Cannibal God

PRISONER OF THE CANNIBAL GOD

Notoriety Seeing off some stiff competion to become possibly the poorest of the cannibal films, Prisoner of the Cannibal God attempts to draw attention to itself by having original Bond girl Ursula Andress get her kit off, but even that couldn’t save it from obscurity. 2/10

mountaingodDVDDVD Edition The Blue Underground label always impresses for bringing us apparently commercially unviable DVD releases. Here we have a good looking transfer of the film complete with extra scenes “from the private collection of director Sergio Martino.” These include inexplicit footage of what appears to be a native attempting sexual intercourse with a huge pig. During an interview, Martino is contradicted for his untruths concerning the animal cruelty in the film, as well as for his claims that the Malaysian locals were unjustified in protesting against the film’s content, which was against their Muslim religion. It is against my religion, too – and I’m an Atheist. 3/5

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Prelude to one of the worst 98 minutes in cinema history

Film After just a few minutes, an overlong freeze frame established my film-long habit of glancing at the DVD timer. The tedium never lets up as the cannibal-ridden mountain of Ra Ra Mi is ascended by a talentless and greedy band of idiots in their lifelong search for an ever-present pile of shit. 1/10

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The Pooka tribe...perhaps Pooka is Malaysian for papier mache?

Shock and gore Some brisk editing attempts to disguise the poor makeup, and with the exception of one castration scene there is no satisfaction for gorehounds here. The animal footage is the most repugnant of any of these films. In an attempt to take no responsibility for their actions, the film makers either tie animals causing them to attack one another, or goad animals into unnatural fights and predations and film the results. Combined with the boredom of the rest of the film, the result is not at all shocking, but genuinely depressing. 2/10

Soundtrack The odd Jaws-alike opening music gives way to a plodding hippie colony of a main theme, featuring a poorly tuned brass section which sets the scene in an aptly shambolic fashion. Elsewhere, there are a couple of nicely discordant set pieces amongst the clichéd bongos and hollers. 2/5

Cannibal Holocaust

CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST VHS

The original VHS packaging, as inspired by Robertson's jam jars

Notoriety One of the few films where the UK ban is incidental to the film’s global infamy. Director Ruggero Deodato spent a few nights in prison, wrongly suspected of actually killing actors on camera, and a received a suspended sentence for obscenity under Italian law for the animal deaths. Intriguing tales of Columbian death threats also seem to have some foundation. Subsequent to its release, Deodato and many of the actors claim to have had trouble finding work, such is the universal loathing of Cannibal Holocaust. Around the time of the ban schoolyards were alight with tales of “they kill them for real,” which may have been false, but unlike most video nasties the actual film lives up to the lurid promise. Everyone I know who has seen the film remembers it well, and is normally regarded with much reverence along with any combination of love, fear or loathing. Always mentioned during any serious film censorship debate, Cannibal Holocaust almost earns it’s tagline of The Most Controversial Movie Ever Made. 10/10

cholocaustDVDDVD Edition Grindhouse Releasing’s double disc collector’s edition reaps the rewards of a painstaking restoration process, and is unsurpassed in the superb quality of picture and sound. The astonishing collection of extras will provide upwards of ten hours of top viewing for fans, who will consider themselves thoroughly infotained as many of the filmmakers are gathered to offer their opinions on the tirelessly interesting subject matter. 10/10

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Cleverly, a make-up girl sat atop a bicycle seat for the iconic impalement scene

Film Cannibal Holocaust tends to be dismissed as exploitive trash or hailed as a work of genius, and there is some justification for both viewpoints. The story of an arrogant and destructive team of documentary film makers, loosely based on Cavara and Jacopetti, is told in grainy 16mm “found footage” as they reek havoc in the Amazonian rain forest, abusing the natives for shocking footage. Back in the beautifully shot “real world”, anthropologist Professor Munro (Robert Kerman) follows their doomed trail, and the twin time lines and cinematic styles are deftly handled and mutually flattering. A third thread set in New York is less successful, as is the inserted wildlife footage and overacting from extras native to both continents. Deodato shows a genuine interest in the subject matter, and the elaborate tribal rituals seem to have some authenticity, or at least are believable enough to generate a compelling atmosphere. Unusually, the high nudity quotient adds a primal quality. With a bang on 93 minute running time, Cannibal Holocaust survives repeated viewings and is always glinting from the DVD shelf of anyone wishing to have their senses assaulted. 8/10

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Films are more violent nowadays, except this one.

Shock and gore The ingenious FX never overreach themselves, and what is shown  is generally very realistic. A DVD extra showing a recent screening of Cannibal Holocaust portrays typical shocked reactions from those expecting 70s kitsch. The truly brutal sexual assaults are much more likely to have one cringing in disgust instead of the sniggering that might punctuate a viewing of The Man from Deep River, or Deodato’s own Last Cannibal World (1976). Few films of any era are as persistent and enthusiastic in their bloodletting, and the grand set pieces of torture porn mainstreamers Saw (2004) and Hostel (2005) cannot compete. Only The Passion of the Christ (2004) shows a comparably sadistic nature. Indefencibly, archive footage of actual executions is shown, although presented as faked in the narrative. Animal deaths are rife, including a notorious 3 minute sequence in which a turtle is decapitated. Some of the main actors are involved in the butchering of the squirming body, and Francesca Ciardi is seen to vomit in disgust. Some may mistake the headless viscera to still be alive, however death is swift and Cannibal Holocaust’s animal cast are killed humanely, considering the time and place.  However, much thought and talent was employed to make all sequences as vile as possible, and the various components conspire to disorientate, giving the viewer a uniquely disturbing experience. 10/10

holoCDSoundtrack Once again the dual nature of Cannibal Holocaust reveals a sickly main theme from slush-meister Riz Ortolani before turning out musical genius in the piece known as “Adulteress’ Punishment” which contains a beautiful and sorrowful merging of strong early synth bass with mournful strings that are worthy of Samuel Barber. I’ve played the soundtrack CD so often that, corrupted by the experience, I even like the main theme now. Spot the mistake in the film where the projectionist showing the found footage claims to have “layed in some stock music to juice things up a little,” but the soundtrack is as the main film. 5/5

Cannibal Ferox

cannibal ferox videoNotoriety Cannibal Ferox will always be Cannibal Holocaust’s poorer brother, and it tends to be brought up when viewers haven’t seen the latter, or have exhausted conversation about it. However, while it may not be “banned in 31 countries” it has seen its share of bans, cuts and outrage. 7/10

cannibal ferox DVDDVD Edition All DVD prints of the film have a washed out look suggesting the film stock is in need of restoration, or wasn’t great in the first place. The letterboxed Grindhouse edition distinguishes itself with a commentary, where director Umberto Lenzi and star Giovanni Lombardo Radice supposedly argue out the merits or otherwise of killing animals in the jungle, however their vocal tracks were recorded separately. The Sazuma release has a better picture frame, but no commentary. 2/5

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Lorraine de Selle and an opposum. One of these cuties will be hung from a jeep and fed to a snake...

Film

“Just stay put, shitface!”

A risible NYC drug plot kicks off Cannibal Ferox, and is revisited throughout the film as a few disembodied Cannibal Holocaust refugees act abominably. More hilarity ensues in the main jungle plot as an over-overacting Radice and his dubbing accomplice get the cream of the diabolical lines, adding an extra layer of mania to the wacky plot, and the film rock n’ rolls apace, despite a lack of violence in the first half. The cannibals themselves are worth a mention for their ever present  bewilderment and disinterest. Cannibal Ferox is consistently “so bad its good,” a rare trick that is impossible to pull off intentionally. It quickly becomes clear that Lenzi is not into humour when corkers like;

“The mythical lie of cannibal ferox was only an alibi to justify the greed and cruelty of the conquistadors!”

pass without a hint of a smirk. 6/10

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“Hot pussied little whore” Zora Kerova in her infamous death scene that defies the laws of both physics and biology

Shock and gore

“Do you get off on ecology, eh, twat?”

Funny it may be but Cannibal Ferox proves itself to be something of a wife beating clown when it comes to the numerous acts of violence against animals. With the vegetarian natives employed as amateur slaughtermen, a poorly shot turtle scene attempting to emulate that of Cannibal Holocaust is not such a horrific spectacle, but is pointlessly cruel as the wretched beast’s flipper is dismembered prior to decapitation. The animal scenes also tend to have poorly conceived links to the plot, which would be funny, were not the punchline a needless and painful death. Back in the comforting world of actors and red paint, there are numerous nicely bloody set pieces, well done for the low budget but not in the same league as the arresting standards set by Cannibal Holocaust, with the old “long arm with no hand” trick used for one of Radices’ several amputations. 7/10

cannibalferoxCD

Cannibals, zombies and synthesisers...can't go wrong

Soundtrack The toe tapping hummable funk of the main theme complements the naive bleeps and synthetic grinds that accompany the gore scenes in a score that is the essence of video nasties. It is so enjoyable that one worries that the fun police might turn it off. Highly recommended is Blackest Heart Media’s CD, which contains the restored Cannibal Ferox score, as well as that of Zombi 2 (1979) and some humorous cover versions by the CD’s producers, interspersed with some choice dialogue from the film. One particullar favourite;

“There’s something I can’t figure out.”
“What’s that?”
“I don’t know!”

5/5

Cannibal-scores

What a bunch of reprobates we’ve had this round, with Cannibal Holocaust being an easy winner, a true classic of confrontational cinema that munches up the embryonic, the inept and the copycat joker to become Battle of the Nasties highest scorer ever. A cannibal viewing session is watching a little window of history, as the format would be unfilmable nowadays. The portayal of natives as dumb savages would be seen a racist untruth, as opposed to naive folly, although it is worth noting that the Westerners are generally shown as hostile invaders, at a time when such forward thinking was often the preserve of the bearded and beaded. Thankfully, the animal violence would also not be tolerated – although it is somewhat ironic considering society permits industrial scale cruelty of modern intensive farming, as well as the televisation of such entertainments as the Grand National. There is talk of Deodato making a new cannibal film, but it will certainly be a different experience as these jungle jollies are safely buried away in the archives.

Comments
  1. Joep says:

    People really should give Cannibal Holocaust credit as just a very good film. Sometimes to a trained eye that’s its downfall as some of these “real” shots are just so beautifully framed that the coincidence of a falling camera just doesn’t work 😉
    Still I find it very hard not to admire Cannibal Holocaust. it really hasn’t aged as a film at all. which is very surprising. If anything sometimes against the faux violence we get these days it seems very very daring.

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