Thursday, July 10, 2014

CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST (1980)

CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST (1980)  
3-Disc Special Edition Blu-ray + CD 

Label: Grindhouse Releasing

Region: Region-FREE
Duration: 95 Minutes
Rating: Unrated
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio Mono, DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 
Video: 1080p widescreen (1.78:1)
Director: Ruggero Deodato
Cast: Robert Kerman, Perry Pirkanen, Francesca Ciardi, Carl Gabriel Yorke, Luca Barbareschi

Ruggero Deodato's CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST lures us in with a TV documentary telling of four American documentary film makers who have set off to the Amazon jungles to observe the indigenous cannibal tribes. The documentary team consist of director Alan Yates (Carl Yorke, IDLE HANDS), his girlfriend Faye (Francesca Ciardi, THE TUNNEL) and cameramen Jack (Perry Pirkanen, CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD) and Tomasa (Luca Barbareschi. CUT AND RUN). The four have gone missing while documenting the indigenous tries of the Amazon and The news reports spur NYU anthropologist Harold Monroe (Robert Kerman, DEBBIE DOES DALLAS) to form an expedition to find out just what happened to the group. With the assistance of a jungle guide with a penchant for snorting cocaine named Chaco (Salvatore Basile, COBRA VERDE) and his assistant Miguel they arrive in the Green Inferno and set about finding the missing documentarians. 

Not long into their jungle journey the professor and the group discover the worm infested corpse of Felipe who it turns out was the guide of the missing documentary crew - a discouraging sign to say the least. The crew set-up camp on a muddy river bank where Miguel captures and stabs a muskrat which lets out a terrifying death scream as the knife is plunged into it. Mind you this isn't some effect -- this is an animal dying onscreen and it's the first of several questionable artistic decisions made by the filmmakers. Further on the crew observe a tribesman who binds his wife to a stake with rope and proceeds to rape her with a phallic stone implement before packing her womb with mud before ending her life with several blows to her skull. The guide informs the stunned Prof. Munroe that what they've seen is tribal punishment for the woman's apparent infidelity. They follow the murderous tribesman to a village where they negotiate with the villagers for information pertaining to the missing documentarians, whom they are told caused great unrest among the local tribes.

The following day Munroe, Chaco and Miguel knowing their on the right path head further into the  jungle when they come across a macabre scene of warring cannibalistic tribes savaging each other. The group intervene with gunfire turning the battle in favor of the Yanomamo which earns them an invite to dinner back at the village. What could be for dinner you ask, human flesh of course. After dinner the villagers lead Munroe to the grotesque skeletal remains of the documentarian crew.next to the corpses are the canisters of films they'd shot prior to their demise. Munroe trades a cassette recorder for the canisters of film and next thing we know were in New York City. 


Back in NYC Prof. Munroe strikes a deal with a TV channel who want him to host a documentary program and here is the genius twist of the film - this is two films in one and quite possible the first found footage film of it's kind which pre-dates THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT and THE LAST BROADCAST by several decades.  Munroe and the TV execs  screen the documentary footage we are treated to a vile film within a film as the original documentary crew's journey from New York to Columbia in search of cannibalistic tribes and we discover the vile acts they committed which lead to their violent and unsavory deaths. 

I won't spoil any more of the film than what I've typed so far other than to say the images captured on film are unstintingly potent and grotesque - even for this seasoned gore hound.  Aldo Gasparri (MAD DOG KILLER) special effects work is astounding with grisly amputation, heads are chopped off, the expected cannibalism and sever graphic rape scenes plus the infamous impalement with a woman speared from anus to mouth - there's nothing decent about it. The effects work apparently so effective that after the film's premiere in Italy it was seized by the local magistrate and Deodato was arrested for obscenity and later charged with making a snuff film! Eventually Deodato produced the actors for the court and the charges were dropped but damn that's some potent stuff right there. 


The film is not so much infamous for the scenes of cannibalism and rape as it is for the actual killing of animals onscreen - even for an exploitation film this is pretty gruesome. Notable acts of cruelty perpetrated upon animals in the film include the death of a shrieking muskrat, a spider-monkey who's skull is chopped off and brains eaten while it's still alive and the brutal slaughtering of a love turtle which I found the most affecting, sickening stuff.  Layered on top of this are some painful stereotypes of the indigenous people portrayed int he film - this is a straight-up exploitation film at it's very worst.  It should be noted that many of the animals slaughtered were eaten by the indigenous cast of the film if that helps you sleep any better.


Very few slice of exploitation cinema are as notorious worldwide as CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST and with very good reason, there's no other film quite like it and very few go to the extremes this one dares go for better or worse. Taking off where the MONDO CANE films left off director Deodato infuses the film with an unnerving sense of realism. The found footage stuff is shot on 16mm  and is executed superbly -  you are complicit in the act unable to stop what's happening before you and it's gut-churning. CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST is a film that still has the effect of deeply troubling you and may have you questioning your taste in films at the end. .

The acting is top notch from a cast of inexperienced unknowns. Carl Yorke is particularly effective as the charismatic and cruel documentary filmmaker as is Francesa Ciardi who is quite possibly the only character you can align yourself with if I can dare say that about anyone in the nasty film. 


This edition from Grindhouse Releasing is a thing of cruel beauty arriving in a nice thick-papered embossed slip cover - inside are 2 Blu-rays Criterion-style clear case with a reversible sleeve of artwork. The alternate option is a nude variant of artist Rick Melton's cover illustration.  There's a nice thick 24 pg. booklet with writing on the film from director Eli Roth, legendary horror journalist Chas. Balun, Euro-music expert Gergely Hubai and Italian exploitation film authority Martin Beine plus it features a gruesome centerfold. 


Onto the disc we have the main feature presented in the original widescreen aspect ratio with a new hi-def restoration of the original director's cut which looks amazing. A definite upgrade from the previous release from Grindhouse and quite an improvement over the UK Blu-ray from Shameless Screen Entertainment which was a cut version as the BBFC will not pass the film uncut. We are given two options for viewing - the original theatrical version or for the squeamish amongst you an animal cruelty-free version. I haven't watched the animal cruelty free version yet but I think it's a great addition because it's nauseating stuff plus we still have the option to watch the uncut version so you can have it both ways. 

There are two audio commentaries with director Ruggero Deodato and star Robert Kerman,
plus a second track with stars Carl Yorke and Francesca Ciardi. Both are great commentaries but when watched in conjunction with the interviews there's a lot of the same ground covered. Other bonuses include an Alternate Version of Last Road to Hell plus a trailer gallery. 
Audio includes the choice of the original mono mix or a new DTS-HD Master Audio Stereo remix which sounds great with Riz Ortolani's genius score coming through like never before. This score is amazing, the juxtaposition of those gorgeous string arrangements and the violent imagery punctuated by gurgling electronics is still such a punch to the gut and it sounds great. Also included on this set is a CD in a separate slip cover that has been remastered from the original studio master tapes.

Onto disc two we have a massive set of extras including vintage interviews and extras carried over from the previous release though a few are hidden away as Easter eggs in the menu options - a total of nine are sprinkled throughout the discs! so far the eggs I've uncovered include script ages for a lost scene, the Canadian World Premier for the Re Release, a music video and the Search for Alan Yates plus more. 

There are nearly three hours new interviews  with Ruggero Deodato, Francesa Ciardi, assistant director Salvo Basile and cameraman Roberto Forges Davazat. There's some great commentary on the animal violence in the film and Ruggero's directing style onset from everyone. Robert Kerman is particularly haunted by the death of that muskrat is is not a fan of Deodato direction onset and insists during the interview that Grindhouse should remove the scenes of the animal cruelty.

Other extras include a Cinema Wasteland panel with Deadato who is joined onstage by David Hess, Francesa Ciardi and Carl Yorke among others plus extensive still galleries, video reunions of Deadato with Carl Yorke and Robert Kerman. There's so damn much on this set to pour through! - there are over 8 hours of bonus features to accompany this nauseating cult-classic. So much behind-the-scenes information and commentary on the making of this nasty little film. This release from Grindhouse will be the definitive document of CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST for quite some time.  

Coming soon from Grindhouse Releasing are Blu-rays of Lucio Fulci’s THE BEYOND, Duke Mitchell’s GONE WITH THE POPE, and S.F. Brownrigg’s SCUM OF THE EARTH.

No comments:

Post a Comment