Eaten Alive (1990)
By: CJ on January 16, 2003  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Shriek Show (USA). Region 1, NTSC. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 2.0 Mono. 87 minutes
The Movie
Director: Umberto Lenzi
Starring: Robert Kerman, Janet Agren, Ivan Rassimov and Paola Senatore
Screenplay: Umberto Lenzi
Music: Carlo Maria Cordio and Maria Fiamma Maglione
Tagline: They have a never-ending hunger for human flesh! Country: Italy
AKA: Mangiati vivi; Doomed to Die; Eaten Alive by the Cannibals; Emerald Jungle; Mangiati vivi dai cannibali

Eaten Alive is Umberto Lenzi's second entry in the sub-genre of the cannibal film. It ups the ante, in terms of violence and sleaze, from his 1972 film, The Man From Deep River/Deep River Savages (which played more like A Man Called Horse in the jungle), but is nowhere near as brutal or vicious as Cannibal Ferox which followed. For Eaten Alive, Lenzi borrows heavily from the Reverend Jim Jones scandal, and throws in some cannibals for good measure.

The rather flimsy plot begins with a guy (who looked like an Eskimo to me, though I'm sure he's meant to be Polynesian) assassinating three people; one at Niagara Falls and two in New York. Whilst fleeing the scene of the last murder in New York he is struck down dead by an oncoming truck. The police discover on his body an 8mm reel of film, which is addressed to a woman named Diana Morris. Morris had been involved with a religious fanatic named Jonas and who had since mysteriously disappeared. In order to try and solve the puzzle, they contact her sister, Sheila (Janet Agren), who then takes the film to Professor Carter (Mel Ferrer), an anthropologist; in order to get some clues as to the whereabouts of her missing sister.

After some investigation and quizzing of some of her sister's former associates, she discovers that her sister went to New Guinea with Jonas to found a religious community. Sheila jets off to New Guinea and once there is introduced to Mark Butler (Robert Kerman), who we first see decked out in a yellow headband in a scene reminiscent of The Deer Hunter (in a Lenzi kind of way). Mark initially refuses to help, until a sizeable amount of money is offered for his assistance. And so our intrepid pair set off into the jungles to locate Diana, but also find Jonas (Ivan Rassimov) and his community.

Jonas turns out to be quite a perverse character, who rules with fear and brutality. It is up to our heroes to rescue Diana from the clutches of this madman, as well as having to contend with the local cannibals whilst making their escape.

The irony, however, is that having travelled all this way, Diana is eventually caught and devoured by cannibals whilst Jonas evades capture following his encouragement for all his followers to commit suicide. So, all in all, it was a pretty disastrous mission with Mark and Sheila failing on all counts. Perhaps they should have planned this expedition with a little more care and attention to detail.

This is not a good film by any means, and probably the most inept of all the Italian cannibal outings. And, as with most cannibal films, it contains the obligatory animal violence, which many find offensive. But, if you're a tolerant film viewer, this can also be good, cheesy fun. The film is full of appalling dialogue, excessive gore and bad acting, with some gratuitous nudity added to the heady mix. As I say, not a good film, but hugely enjoyable if you like this sort of thing.

However, don't try and apply any reason or logic to the film, as the plot holes are just too big to be patched up effectively. As ever, Robert Kerman is on fine form, Janet Agren is pleasant eye-candy and Mel Ferrer just looks embarrassed.

A film I would recommend highly for sheer cheese value - but with reservations. If situations of sexual violence (handled badly) and animal cruelty upset you, then steer well clear. There's no shame in admitting distaste at such material. I guess I'm just more tolerant than most, because I really enjoyed this potent cocktail of sex, violence and men in bad wigs!

Great fun for the most part - but approach with caution if you are unfamiliar with the genre.
Presented at a ratio of 1:85:1, Shriek Show have done a fairly respectable restoration job on this film. However, it's certainly no match for the majority of Anchor Bay's output in terms of video quality, but it's still perfectly acceptable. The print is clean and free from damage and there was very little to complain about. The framing looked a bit tight in places, though I couldn't quite decide whether this was due to over-matting or Lenzi's inept direction. Overall it's a very pleasing presentation on the video side of things.
The disc boasts an unspectacular Dolby Digital mono audio track, which is perfectly workable. It's free from any hissing or popping and has a decent fidelity to it and the funky music is reproduced adequately (spot the tunes Lenzi 'borrowed' for Cannibal Ferox!). Nothing special, but acceptable.
Extra Features
There are three cast and director interviews provided; one with director Umberto Lenzi and two with cast members Robert Kerman and Ivan Rassimov. The most entertaining of the three is with Kerman, who comes across as a thoroughly nice chap and willingly gives his thoughts and recollections on working as an actor within the cannibal genre, with special attention to Eaten Alive, obviously. Next up is Ivan Rassimov, who is equally charming and very laid back. And finally dear old Umberto Lenzi, who looks as if he's a character straight from Carlito's Way! He gives an enthusiastic interview but is rather economical with the truth when it comes to the subject of 'borrowed' footage. Nevertheless, it's a good interview and Lenzi talks freely. Also to be found on the disc is the trailer for a handful of other Shriek Show releases. A good effort from Shriek Show and these extras certainly boost the value of the package.
The Verdict
This is as an undeniably bad film, and is certainly near the bottom of the pile within the cannibal sub-genre. However, for fans of this kind of thing, this disc is a definite 'must-have'. It has all the classic trappings of the genre; Robert Kerman (of course), gratuitous sex and violence and some graphic cannibal gut-munching. Unmissable entertainment for fans of Italian exploitation films.
Movie Score
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