Cannibal Ferox (Grindhouse Releasing)
Director - Umberto Lenzi
Cast - John Morghen, Lorraine DeSalle
Country of Origin - Italy
Discs - 1
Distributor - Grindhouse Releasing
Reviewer - Scott MacDonald
Date - 05/23/2015
The Film (4/5)
OK, so for those not in the know the Italian Cannibal cycle (in very brief terms) went something like this. Umberto Lenzi kicked things off with his film Man From Deep River, this 1972 film was inspired by the Mondo Cane series of films by Franco Prosperi and Gualtiero Jacopetti. A few years later Ruggero Deodato would make an unofficial sequel to the semi-popular Man From Deep River, this would be known in it's early release days as Last Cannibal World, but would eventually be retitled Jungle Holocaust to cash in on the popular success of Deodato’s later cannibal epic. Lenzi would respond a few years down the line with Eaten Alive,but not before Deodato would blow the walls off the genre with his film Cannibal Holocaust (1980).
Although not the first film in the cycle Deodato's Cannibal Holocaust was very likely the film that made the largest genre impact. It’s blend of cinema verite style, real animal violence, savage brutality, and sexuality would land Deodato not just in court, but permanently land the director a spot on the list of most notorious horror films of all time. Lenzi would follow the lead of Cannibal Holocaust with his own grisly addition to the Italian Cannibal cycle, Make Them Die Slowly or as the title of the DVD indicates Cannibal Ferox.
Cannibal Ferox has basically two intersecting narratives. The first starts in the streets of New York. A druggy is looking for a fix, and goes to the apartment of his dealer, Mike Logan (Giovanni Lombardo Radice/John Morghen). Unfortunately, he is not there but a couple of mobsters looking for the AWOL dealer are. They shoot him dead, and leave the apartment. It turns out Mike has split having run off with 100,000 dollars in the mobsters cash. The story picks up when a trio of students lead by Gloria (Lorraine DeSalle) head into the Jungle to work on Gloria's thesis that cannibals no longer exist. They meet up with Mike soon after, who claims to have been attacked by Cannibals, which is incorrect. Mike has attacked the local tribes, turning them against the foreigners, and disproving Gloria’s theory by showing the party that cannibals DO EXIST.
Cannibal Ferox is essentially Lenzi attempting to one up what Deodato did years before with Cannibal Holocaust. The film has a similar split narrative going between the streets of New York and the jungles of South America, and both feature extreme violence. That being said, Lenzi’s film lacks the depth of Cannibal Holocaust, but makes up for it with an atmosphere of sleazy sadistic fun. This is assisted by a career defining performance by Giovanni Lombardo Radice who goes marvelously over the top in a way that can is equal parts gleeful, sadistic, and sleazy. This is a performance that cannot be missed by fans of the genre.
The soundtrack is more appropriate to the era in which it’s set, and helps set that sleazy tone, similar to the way Jimmy Page’s Death Wish II score helps give off the same vibe in that film. The gore is completely over the top, and it is delivered in spades. This is a film for true fans of sleazy, dirty, over the top horror.
Audio/Video (3/5 (DVD), 4/5(BLU))
It has been more that a few years since I've watched the Grindhouse DVD of Cannibal Ferox. Now to be clear although they very rarely release product into the marketplace, Grindhouse have a very high standard for their DVD/Laserdisc products. The transfer was a letterboxed 1:85:1 transfer. Granted, this release is nearly a decade old when HDTV's were less common, but nonetheless I was quite surprised. However, after I zoomed in on it, I was pleased to discover the transfer on Cannibal Ferox holds up quite well. There is a nice amount of detail on screen, colors pop, and flesh tones are accurate. I did not detect any artifacting issues, although there was some minor production related softness, and print damge. However, the print damage should be expected with a film of this vintage.
Grindhouse has presented Cannibal Ferox with 2 audio options an English and an Italian 2.0 track. Both tracks work nicely, dialogue comes through completely clear and audible as do the music and gut munching sound effects.
Grindhouse Releasing put out the DVD of Cannibal Ferox early in the DVD cycle. It has been well over a decade since that DVD’s release and those masters of cult film restoration have gone back and restored the film for Blu-ray. The Blu-ray is presented in an unbelievably gorgeous 1:85:1 AVC encoded 1080p transfer that preserves the films natural look. There is excellent fine detail, colors, and accurate skin tones, and a healthy, but never intrusive level of grain present.
There are 3 audio options on the disc (as far as the film’s main soundtrack is concerned). 2 English tracks one is a DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo track, the other is DTS-HD Mono. There is also an Italian track in DTS-HD Mono. Now with Italian films of this vintage I never feel the need to listen to the native language track, as in Italy films were recorded without sound on set, and then post-dubbed. The English dub track for Cannibal Ferox is simply one of the most fun in any Italian horror movies of this period, and not to be missed, and thus I stuck to these 2 tracks for my viewing. Both of them sounded quite excellent with dialogue coming through loud and clear, with the films iconic score also sounding excellent.
Extras (3/5(DVD), 5/5(BLU))
The primary extra on the disc is a commentary track with director Umberto Lenzi with actor John Morghen. The track is quite informative, and is quite a treat for fans of the film. There are also 3 international trailers, a still gallery, and some text bios.
For the Blu-ray release Grindhouse has brought over the commentary, which this should be mentioned is almost too good to leave off. I’m not usually a fan of commentaries with the participants are recorded separately, and thus don’t interact, but it’s too interesting to hear Lenzi heap praise on his film one moment, and then hear Radice tear it down the next. This is on the first disc alongside some footage that was deleted from the film. These 2 sequences include an extention of the pig killing, and piranha attack, and through the process of seamless branching, can be reintegrated into the film. We also get on this disc an 85 minute documentry called Eaten Alive that traces the history of the Cannibal subgenre, that is almost worth the price of the disc alone. Further, we get footage from the film’s 1997 American premiere, and 3 trailers for the film.
Disc 2 contains a tremendous amount of interviews with the participants in the film. We are treated to a 25 minute interview with director Umberto Lenzi, a nearly hour long interview with Giovanni Lombardo Radice, a 25 minute interview with FX master Gino De Rossi, and even more lengthy interviews with the cast on the film. We get another interview with Lenzi, this one is archival from 1988, and is rather short running less than 10 minutes. The disc is rounded off by stills galleries, and trailers for other Grindhouse releases. The third disc is the CD soundtrack. There is also a booklet of liner notes included.
Cannibal Ferox is essentially the sleazier, dirtier, more violent cousin to Cannibal Holocaust, but in many ways I enjoy this one on more of an entertainment level. The Blu-ray upgrade from Grindhouse Releasing is another feather in the cap of this great company, with excellent A/V and a slew of extras sure to please any fan of the film. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.