Thursday, April 12, 2018

EATEN ALIVE! (1980) (Severin Films Blu-ray Review)

EATEN ALIVE! (1980) 

Label: Severin Films
Region Code: Region-FREE
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 93 Minutes
Video: 1080P HD Widescreen (1.66:1)
Audio: Italian, English, Spanish DTS-HD MA Mono 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Director: Umberto Lenzi
Cast: Robert Kerman, Janet Agren, Ivan Rassimov



It was infamous Italian director Umberto Lenzi who brought the cannibal film to prominence with Man From Deep River (1972), but it was Ruggero Deodato's Cannibal Holocaust (1980) a few year's later that left the biggest bite mark on the flesh-eating sub-genre. Lenzi himself would take a bite out of that film with his own knock-off Cannibal Ferox (1981), but before that he returned to the land of the cannibal tribes with this sleazy slice of exploitation, a film that borrowed footage from other cannibal films from Ruggero Deodato, Sergio Martino and even himself. The gruesome tale is stitched together with a tasteless story line ripped from the headlines, the tragic Jonestown Massacre of 1978. 

The film opens as a lot of these cannibal films do, in New York City, where a decidedly tribal looking man is poison darting people with a blow gun on the busy streets. Enter a young woman named Shelia (Janet Agren, Lucio Fulci's The City of the Living Dead) who arrives in New York searching for her missing sister Diana (Paola Senatore, Salon Kitty), she seeks the help of Professor Carter (Mel Ferrer, Nightmare City), who shows her a 8mm reel of film found on the person of the tribal man (who was killed by a passing truck earlier. The footage contains images of Shelia's sister during a tribal ritual, the professor informs her that the footage is from New Guinea, and that the tribe is most likely cannibalistic, which leads Shelia to the jungles of New Guinea where her sister has apparently joined a cult known as the Purification Sect, under the spell of enigmatic cult-leader Jonas (Ivan Rassimov, Man From Deep River). 


Travelling to New Guinea she hires American jungle-guide Mark (Roger Kerman, Cannibal Ferox) who guides her through the jungles on a trip loaded with stock footage of various animal atrocities, running the gamut from a live crocodile being eviscerated, to an anaconda crushing squeezing the life out of a monkey (which was horrifying), plus a mongoose versus cobra fight, a komodo dragon tearing at the carcass of a snake and a bird of prey tangling with yet another snake - snake's never fare well in these cannibal films. All of it is awful and reprehensible, but I will say that for the most part the animal deaths appear more like a nightmarish episode of Animal Planet than what we typically see, with the exception of the crocodile slaughter and the forced mongoose v snake battle. While this sort of animal-cruelty is par for the course for Italian cannibal movies they're never easy to watch, and they shouldn't be. It's disgusting, serving no story purpose other than to get the stomach-acids churning, making for a wholly unconformable watch. Notably a few of these scenes are lifted from other Italian cannibal films that came before it. 

Travelling by canoe the pair journey deeper into the jungles in search of the cult compound, along the way a native guide is dismembered by a crocodile, and they find the torso of a man torn to pieces, eventually coming under assault from the local cannibal tribe who are in league with the cult-leader. Arriving at the compound the duo find the missing Diana but also the nightmare that is the Purification Sect cult, witnessing a funeral-pyre wherein the widow (Me Me Lai, Man From Deep River) is gang-banged by men in the tribe as part of some ludicrous purification ritual.  


The film is littered with lurid thrills, from multiple decapitations to drug-addled ceremonies involving Agren's character nude and covered in gold body-paint - sort of like Jill Masteron in Goldfinger (1964). The despicable film comes to a close with the sympathetic Me Me Lai character leading the Americans out of the camp through the jungle, an escape fraught with rape, disembowelment, ear-eating and tit-tearing, plus a recreation of the Jonestown Massacre poisoned kool-aid suicide pact, only this time laced with deadly cobra venom. 

Eaten Alive! is a ripe piece of trash, even by the lowly standards of a cannibal

film this is fairly awful, but it is fast-paced and entertaining, a gruesome slice of exploitation with some downright sickening moments of gore that while not impeccable are stomach-churning - and you definitely won't forget a snake-blood lubed dildo being rammed into a woman's lady parts, yeah, it's that sort of film, so bring a strong-stomach, this one is gleefully gory and over-the-top. 

Audio/Video: Eaten Alive! (1980) arrives uncut and uncensored on Blu-ray from Severin Films in 1080p HD framed in 1.66:1 widescreen.  The source while not specified looks to be a beat-up 35mm theatrical print that got some use. There's plenty of grindhouse patina by way of image softness and fading, dirt, the occasional hair, debris and scratches throughout, but it is an upgrade when compared to my old Shriek Show DVD. Grain is mostly uniform with some exceptions, the film is comprised of mixed film elements in addition to the use of cropped stock footage from other films, so it has some consistency issues. The colors are decent but not great, the greens of the jungle looking more authentic than previous versions but son't really pop, the the reds of the gore-scenes come through nicely. 



There are three audio option, we get a choice of English, Spanish or Italian DTS_HD MA Mono with optional English subtitles. The dialogue isn't what I would call crisp, with some minor hiss and slight dropouts, but is does the job just fine. The disco-tinged score from Roberto Donati (Cannibal Ferox) and Fiamma Maglione, featuring some recycled cues from Ferox, but they sound great. The English-dubbed track is my preferred option, with the dialogue and music coming through crisper and more robust, optional English subtitles are included. 

Severin offer up a nice array of extras beginning with a 17-minute interview with the late director, plus a 13-min interview with production designer Antonello Geleng, both in Italian with English subtitles and both produced by Freak-O-Rama. The highlight for me was an eighty-minute documentary highlighting the career and life of actress Me Me Lai who appeared in several notable cannibal films before dropping out of the biz to pursue a life in law enforcement! It's a great High Rising Production produced doc featuring interviews with director Eli Roth and High Rising's Calum Waddell in addition to others, including the star herself who speaks about discovering via the internet that she was something of a cult-star, also detailing how when she was in law enforcement she ended up confiscating some video nasty-era VHS, of which her films were included, which must have been surreal! The disc is finished-up a pair of vintage interviews with Actors Ivan Rassimov and Robert Kerman, a trailer for the film, and a 2013 Q/A With Lenzi from the "Festival of Fantastic Films, UK moderated by Calum Waddell. 

The single-disc Blu-ray release comes housed in a black Blu-ray keepcase with a sleeve of reversible artwork, the a-side featuring the what looks to be a new mock-up featuring a still of Me Me Lai with a knife to her throat, the b-side featuring a one-sheet of the alternate title 'Doomed To Die'. The disc itself featuring the a-side image of Me Me Lai and the logo. 

This release is also available through Severin Films as a Limited Edition  Blu-ray/CD soundtrack version with an exclusive slipcover, or a part of the "CanniBundle" featuring the limited edition release with the slip, CD soundtrack, t-shirt and an enamel pin. These are only available to order directly from www.severin-films.com


Special Features: 
- Welcome To the Jungle - Interview With Director Umberto Lenzi (17 min) HD
- Me Me Lai Bites Back - Feature Documentary on "The Queen Of Cannibal Movies" (80 min) HD
- The Sect of the Purification - Interview with Production Designer Antonello Geleng (13 min) HD
- Archive Interviews With Actors Ivan Rassimov and Robert Kerman (12 min) HD
- 2013 Q/A With Umberto Lenzi from the "Festival of Fantastic Films, UK" (12 min) HD 



Eaten Alive (1980) is par for the course for the Italian cannibal cycle, a heinous watch offering all the bloody gut-munching and vile human behavior we've come to expect. If you're in the proper mood for some gut churning cannibalism and can tolerate copious amounts of animal cruelty and rape you need look no further. While not on par with Lenzi's own Cannibal Ferox he comes through with another slice of tasteless cannibal exploitation that's sure to entertain a certain sick-seeking subset of horror fans. The Severin Blu-ray offers a nice A/V upgrade and a wealth of extras, if this is you're sort of thing this is the version to own. 

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