Thursday, June 25, 2015

CANNIBAL FEROX (1981) (Grindhouse Releasing Blu-ray Review)


Label: Grindhouse Releasing
Region Code: Region FREE
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 93 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 1.0 Mono, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo, Italian DTS-HD MA 1.0 Mono with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: Umberto Lenzi. 
Cast: Giovanni Lomardo Radice, Lorraine De Selle,  Zora Kerova, Danilo Mattei, Perry Pirkanen, Robert Kerman

 They were cold, sadistic killers who thought they could hide from justice. But now they must face the harsh law of the jungle.  Shot on location in the savage Amazon wilds of South America, Cannibal Ferox is one of the most violent and shocking films ever made. There are at least two dozen scenes of barbaric torture and sadistic cruelty graphically shown. If the presentation of disgusting and repulsive subject upsets you, please do not view this film. They must now pay for their crimes with blood and pain. For what they have done, Make Them Die Slowly. 

Cannibal Ferox is a very clear knock-off of Ruggero Deadato's superior effort Cannibal Holocaust (1980), have no doubt about that. While it's true that Umberto Lenzi kick-started the cannibal cycle with Man From Deep River in 1972 it was Deodato who put the definitive stamp on it with hos own controversial and putrid classic -- a film that really puts the spotlight on who the real savages are, and it's not the indigenous people of South America, no, it is without fail the Westerners who come into a pure place and pollute it with their corrupt morality and exploitation of the indigenous people, which again without fail, comes back upon them in the most horrific of ways, and deservedly so. 

Umberto Lenzi's film amps up the gore and shock-value with out any of the more redeemable underpinnings of the superior Cannibal Holocaust, but that doesn't mean you cannot enjoy this slice of cheap jungle exploitation that it is. We begin with a trio of anthropological students headed to the jungles of South America to prove Gloria's (Lorraine De Selle) theory that cannibalism is only a myth --  which already sounds like a recipe for disaster. Gloria is joined by her cameraman/brother Rudy (Danilo Mattei) and promiscuous friend Pat (Zora Kerova). After becoming stranded in the jungle without a vehicle jungle the trio encounter Mike (Giovanni Lombardo Radice) and his partner Joe (Walter Lloyd), two American on the run from the mob and the law in New York City. A parallel story involving Lt. Rizzo (Robert Kerman) investigating Mike's time back in the U.S. plays out during the film, but you have to wonder why. 

Back in the jungle our five Americans band together but it comes to light that Mike and his friend are a pair of coke fiends who have enslaved a local tribe whom they force to harvest cocoa for cocaine and emerald riches. After killing several of the indigenous people, including the tribal leader's daughter, the tables have turned and the five Americans are now hunted by the indigenous people who are out for revenge against the murderous coke-fiend Mike. 

The movie is aggressive and gruesome with plenty of shocking atrocities committed, we really get an eyeful of awfulness with this one, including genital mutilation and some fun brain-eating. The film is particularly notorious for a scene of a women being impaled by two large hooks through her breasts and then suspended from ropes till she bleeds to death, it might me cheap but this shot is very well executed. Additionally we have some brutal amputation a piranha attack and loads more awful stuff, a lot of wince-inducing violence with this one, but it lacks the resonance of Cannibal Holocaust. 

Unfortunately that most regrettable of the Italian cannibal movies trademarks is fully intact - the onscreen death of animals. Like some nightmare version of Animal Planet a pig is stabbed to death onscreen, a jaguar kills a monkey, and an anaconda crushes a large rodent as cameras roll in the most exploitative way possible, unfortunately there is not animal-cruelty free version as we saw with Grindhouse's Cannibal Holocaust Blu-ray, that would have been a good alternative viewing option, maybe it lacks the visceral gut-punch of the slaughtering of the turtle but any death of an animal for the sake of entertainment is not justifiable in my opinion and that viewing option would be warranted and appreciated. 

The basic storytelling process is similar to Cannibal Holocaust, in fact quite derivative of it on many levels,, but this movie is way more exploitative and cheap, and that's saying a lot. This is probably due to the fact that director Umbert Lenzi set out to top Deodato's repulsive film by amping up the gore and violence, but in doing so he loses any of the resonance and deeper meaning that Deodato managed to infuse his film with, it's a cheap and gruesome cash-in, but as cannibal films go it's pretty potent stuff.

Audio/Video: Cannibal Ferox arrives on Blu-ray from Grindhouse Releasing as a massive 3-disc Deluxe Edition with a brand new 2K transfer from the original camera negative and the result are pleasing. The repulsive film is looking pretty sharp in HD, sure there's a ton of grain but it is nicely managed with more fine detail and clarity than we've ever seen before, which is both a plus and a negative -- this is some truly grotesque stuff, and the HD presentation puts it right in your face, more than ever before.  Sure, the jungle canopy greens pop but so too does the stomach-churning scenes of animal cruelty -- that pig killing is still awful. 

There are three audio options to choose from  - we have the Italian DTS-HD MA 1.0 Mono, English DTS-HD 1.0 Mono and a newly created stereo English re-mix by academy Award winner Paul Otterson. Of the three I preferred the new stereo mix, which is nicely balanced and free of the hiss of the mono presentation. The score from Budy-Maglione sounds fantastic, a strange mix or funk, winds and string instrumentation, synth and electronic noise, highlighted by the easily recognizable eerie "Jungle Theme" and foot tapping funk of "NYC Main Title" themes. 

The amounts of gut-munching extras on this three-disc set is just crazy, beginning with a great commentary from director Umberto Lenzi and star Giovanni Lombardo Radice, the commentaries are recorded separately and stitched together. These two hate each other and having them in the same room to record a commentary might have ended in a fist-fight!

Then we have the feature-length documentary  Eaten Alive! The Rise and Fall of the Italian Cannibal Film produced by Arrow Video ex-patriot High Rising productions, featuring interviews with Umberto Lenzi, Luigi Cozzi, Me Me Lei, Kim Newman, Giovanni Lombardo Radice, Ruggero Deodato, Sergio Martino and Robert Kerman - a fantastic watch and a great Cannibal 101 introduction to the genre. The piece is moderated by author Shelagh Wowan-Legg.  Finishing up the extras o disc one we have a variety of trailers for the movie, and footage from the 1997 Hollywood premiere of the film, which looked like a blast.

Digging into disc two we have a collection of interviews from Umberto Lenzo, a particularly venomous Giovanni Lombardo Radice, Danillo Mattei, special effect legend Gino De Rossi, and starlet Zora Kerova. There's an exhaustive amount of production stills, behind the scenes images and other promotional materials including video artwork, press clippings.

As of this review I have found five Easter Eggs hidden away on the various menus of both Blu-ray discs. revealing additional interviews material with Gino De Rossi and Danillo Mattei. 

Packaging extras include a fantastic embossed slipcover  with vibrant orange/red/yellow color scheme that leaps off the box. Inside the Criterion-style clear case we have a 12-page booklet with Liner notes by legendary Times Square historian Bill Landis (SLEAZOID EXPRESS) and director Eli Roth with stills and behind-the-scenes photographs, plus the reverse side of the sleeve includes a extensive Umberto Lenzi filmography ranging from '58 through '92 with selected poster art inserted. Separate from the Blu-ray discs we have the original motion picture soundtrack by Budy-Maglione housed in a separate slipcase of it's own, just like we saw with the Grindhouse Releasing deluxe editions of Lucio Fulci's The Beyond and Ruggero deodato's Cannibal Holocaust, a very nice addition, and a fantastic soundtrack to boot. We have the original 20 track score plus an additional 28 tracks of bonus material and alternate takes, this is a fantastic supplement. 

Disc 1 Special Features (Blu-ray) 

- Original uncensored director’s cut
- Spectacular new 2K transfer - scanned from the original camera negative
- Candid and shocking audio commentary by director Umberto Lenzi and star John Morghen
- Shocking Deleted footage - Lost for Over 30 years! "Killing Pig (2 Mins), "Pirahna Scene"  (1 Mins) 
- Eaten Alive! The Rise and Fall of the Italian Cannibal Film (86 Mins) 
- International Trailer  (3 Mins) 
- German Trailer (3 Mins) 
- U.S. Trailer (4 Mins) 
- Mexican Trailer (4 Mins) 
- Hollywood Premiere - February 15th 1997 (5 Mins) 
- Easter Egg - Still Gallery (9 Mins) 

Disc 2 Special Features (Blu-ray) 
- Umberto Lenzi: Hooked on You (20 Mins) 

- The Many Lives and Deaths of Giovanni Lombardo Radice (51 Mins) 
- Zora in Cannibal Land - Interview with Zora Kerova (25 Mins) 
- Danillo Mattei's Amazon Adventure (21 Mins) 
- They Call Him Bombadore - Iterview with Gino De Rossie from May 2011 (25 Mins) 
- Umbert Lenzi Interview - May 1998 (8 Mins) 
- Production Stills (56 Images) 
- Behind the Scenes (35 Images) 
- Promotional Materials: Italy (13 Images), Germany (37 Images), France (15 Images), Spain (16 Images), US (26 Images), Various (9 Images) 
- Video Releases (41 Images) 
- Ferox Fever - Press Clippings (58 Images) 
- Grindhouse Releasing Previews (32 Mins) 
- Easter Egg - Gino De Rossi (3 Mins) 
- Easter Egg - Danillo Mattei (1 Mins) 
- Easter Egg  - Danillo Mattei (1 Mins) 
- Easter Egg - Gino De Rossi (1 Mins) 

Cannibal Ferox (1981) is a truly vile and repulsive cannibal entry, that on a surface level is on par with Cannibal Holocaust, though one I would be cautious to recommend to the average movie fan fr fear it might have the more casual horror fan spewing chunks. This is hands-down the definitive version of the infamous cannibal classic for what will be a very long time, I cannot imagine anyone topping this stunning three-disc set, a very high recommend to the strong stomached cannibal connoisseurs out there. 3/5