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Cannibal Ferox (1981)

aka: Make Them Die Slowly

Cannibal Ferox coverStudio: Grindhouse Releasing

Theatrical Release: April 24th, 1981

DVD Release: October 31st, 2006

Rating: UnRated!

Directed by Umberto Lenzi

Review by Craig Sorensen

Certainly one of the most notorious, if not particularly the best, examples of the Italian cannibal film genre (Including the much better Cannibal Holocaust and Man from Deep River), Cannibal Ferox is at least ridiculously sleazy enough to keep your attention.  Filled with wall to wall, latex rubberized gore and bad surly dialog, it’s hard to take the film all that seriously.  And that probably works in it’s favor, because if this was serious, it’d be a hell of a lot harder to watch.

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We start with the prerequisite New York footage to make this seem like a more expensive America production.  Tim (Dominic Raacke of The Most Beautiful Breasts in the World) wanders around for a while (got to get your money’s worth out of the New York shoot) and eventually ends up at the apartment of his friend Mike.  He’s not home.  There are a couple of real New York style drug dealer/gangster types rummaging about however.  Seems that Mike has stolen something and they want it back.  And poor Tim pays the price for being in the wrong place at the right time.

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Anyway, enough with New York.  The movie cuts to South America where we meet grad student Gloria (Lorraine De Selle of Emanuelle in America) who is working on getting her PhD in, I don’t know, anthropology or something.  So, she’s there to prove her thesis, that cannibals don’t exist.  It seems that she thinks that the idea that natives can resort to cannibalism is dehumanizing and racist (let that one sink in a bit).  She’s accompanied by her photographer and brother Rudy (Danilo Mattei, Tog in Ironmaster) and, for some reason, Pat (Zora Kerova of Anthropophagus).  They go wandering out into the jungle searching for a village that is purported to be home to a group of cannibals.  While on their way they happen to run into Mike, yes THAT Mike from the opening of the film (Giovanni Lombardo Radice of City of the Living Dead), and his partner Joe (Walter Lucchini, also a veteran of Ironmaster).  Joe has been badly injured and Mike tells the story of how they just barely escaped their deaths at the hands of CANNIBALS!  Of course, things may not be what they seem (ladies, don’t trust guys who refer to you as twats) and the real ‘savages’ might just be the white man.  Sure.

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So this is a pretty blatant rip-off of the previous year’s hit Cannibal Holocaust.  Of course, Lenzi, as much as I enjoy his films, is not nearly the filmmaker that Ruggerio Deodato is and it’s very obvious when comparing the two.  While I wouldn’t say Cannibal Holocaust is a very subtle film, by comparison with Cannibal Ferox, it’s a relative example of restraint.  And whatever complaints may be thrown at Cannibal Holocaust, it is a film that has a very definite message, not only about the cruelty of more ‘civilized’ cultures towards native populations but the nature of truth in filmmaking in general (I know, high minded shit for a movie about eating people).  Cannibal Ferox is mostly interested in grossing you out.  Sure, Lenzi shoehorns in a message cribbed from the previous film but you can tell that no one’s really all that interested in making a message film.  And I can’t blame them I guess.  No one was really looking to get preached at when they saw this thing.  And Lenzi, with about 20 years worth of directing experience (he made everything from Hercules films, 007 rip-offs and giallos), certainly knew how to give an audience what they wanted.  You get wieners chopped off (and one of the least convincing fake dicks in cinema history), brains eaten, hooks through boobies, limbs chopped off, eyes gouged and natives chowing down on internal organs.  I’ll give Cannibal Ferox some credit at least, it does have some of the most creative gore in the genre, even if it’s less than convincing.  And if it wasn’t for that, and the ridiculous dialog, this would be mostly a bore.  You’ve seen it done better in Cannibal Holocaust.  I prefer Lenzi’s previous cannibal films Eaten Alive or Man from Deep RiverEaten Alive’s got the sense to at least ape the Jim Jones craze for a different take on the familiar genre and Man from Deep River is kind of the film that starts the whole cannibal film craze.  It’s full of crazy native rituals and nudity as well.

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 The transfer here is really showing it’s age.  First of all, this is non-anamorphic so get ready to use your display’s zoom option.  Of course, that’s just going to exasperate the problems with the transfer.  Everything here is soft and covered with grain (or possibly video noise).  The print itself looks like it was in good shape but we’re talking about a six year old transfer so some of these problems are probably unavoidable.  Hopefully Grindhouse will be updating this with a new high definition transfer at some point (and a new Blu-Ray).  I don’t think that this looks terrible for what it is however, just be aware of it before you track down a copy.

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Of course, while they might stumble in the transfer depart, Grindhouse always delivers with the extras.  First of all you get three trailers for Italian, American and German audiences.  You also get an audio commentary with Umberto Lenzi and star Giovanni Lombardo Radice.  There is also a separate interview with Lenzi squirreled away in the biography section.  There is also an easter egg (you really don’t see enough of them these days) showcasing a revival screening of the film along with Lucio Fulci’s City of the Living Dead.

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[Rating: 3 Stars]

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