Cannibal Holocaust
By: Michael Helms on May 3, 2006  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Siren Visual Entertainment (Australia). All Regions, NTSC. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 2.0, English DD 2.0 Mono. 96 minutes
The Movie
Director: Ruggero Deodato
Starring: Robert Kerman, Francesca Ciardi, Perry Pirkanen, Luca Barbareschi, Salvatore Basile
Screenplay: Gianfranco Clerici
Country: Italy
Year: 1980

After an opening disclaimer the credits proper roll over grainy aerial shots of thick South American jungle and snaking brown river tributaries. Riz Ortolani's gentle string laden score almost lulls you into a National Geographic coma. A final block of text warns that the following events are necessarily presented in their complete filmed versions.

Cut to a TV news reporter working from the top of a New York skyscraper who invokes the terms cannibalism and Green Inferno as he sets up the story of four young documentary filmmakers who ventured off to Amazonia looking for cannibals and have so far failed to return. A mission headed by New York University Anthropology Professor Harold Monroe (well played by moonlighting porn star Robert Bolla acting under the name Robert Kerman) is mounted to find the errant doco team. Out in the jungle shots of cannibals feasting on flesh hanging off human bones give way to a scene involving the party being crashed by soldiers who promptly machine gun all the guests. The survivors respond with a volley of poisonous darts delivered through their trusty blow-pipes. A Yacumo prisoner comes into the new team's care and is described by the main guide as, "a passport into the Green Inferno." In sharply realised footage it's observed that the young Yacumo man is actually the son of a shaman. Wading across part of a river the leader exclaims that it's okay to do so because, "there are no piranhas here" — although he fails to warn about leeches. The group then literally stumble upon a bunch of decaying bodies that are well on their way to becoming worm farms. The professor vomits. The leader's right hand man excitedly returns to camp with a live muskrat. "We'll be eating meat tonight", he yammers as he slits the squealing animal's stomach and throws some of the contents to their captive cannibal who cheerfully gobbles the guts. Besides a few leeches that are largely killed off-screen this is the first traumatic scene of live animal slaughter that wasn't faked. Given no time to digest what's just occurred we then view a naked woman being dragged ashore from a small canoe by a native male. Dumping the squirming woman in the mud he raises a ritual dildo to the sky before raping her with it and then manufacturing a bowling ball of mud covered in short sticks that he proceeds to ram between her legs. With Ortolani's string motif trilling along the native man then bashes the woman to death and sets her body afloat on the canoe they rode in on. The leader's right hand man then gets naked and with their native "guest" in tow (on a rope) sets off to negotiate with a tribe. After blow darts are proffered at speed he's invited back to the village where the team is eventually indulged with a ceremonial feast involving the ingestion of gluggy white liquid that's been pre-prepared in the mouths of several females. Later the cannibals smoke an enemy out of a tree. A small scale cannibal war breaks out between two tribes which is cut off when the search team pull out their guns. Hanging out with the tree people it's noted that they are acting strangely towards the team. The professor decides to go native and as soon as he's dropped his daks finds himself up to his knees in naked nubiles who soon lead him to the sacred site where they worship the now obviously long dead doco crew. The professor has to negotiate further to get the footage the first team shot. This involves the exchange of a cassette recorder allowing the second half of the film to evolve into a true atrocity exhibition.

Back in civilization or rather back in the editing suite of the TV station funding the good professor's expedition, executives want to examine their footage. Interviews are then interspersed with original material that includes the horrifying turtle mutilation (Ortolani's strings support again) before total mayhem and worse as the atmosphere in the screening room gets frosty. Nude clowning, and large spider and snake trauma escalate into the panic removal with an axe of the leg of their guide. A croc and a water snake are shown before a monkey has the top of it's skull removed with a machete and the contents served up hot and fresh. A pig gets shot. The gang then set fire to a village and force the natives back into their shelters as they burn. A lot of people running behind close-up flames without anyone actually catching fire leaves one sizzling corpse. Buoyed by his success the megalomaniacal lead filmmaker screws his gal metres from what's left of the tribe who have gathered around a fire. Cut to a pregnant woman strung up by rope on tree branch frame who has her foetus forcibly removed. The body is buried in the mud before the mother is bashed to death with rocks. In the screening room the professor protests vehemently seeking destruction of all the footage. On the next reel the girl protests when her boyfriend and the second last man standing take turns to gang bang and film a Yamamomo girl. This leads to the infamous girl on a stick imagery and the inevitable cannibal revenge. A scene sure to creep out John Wayne Bobbit at the very least, and a native revenge rape (featured on the back of the slipcase) decimate the doco makers as the brash leader speaks his last words into the camera from a prone position when the film runs out.

The picture is variable because it's meant to be, ie. an element of style. Ranging through all sorts of handheld sloppiness to clear and sharp footage lit by natural light, Deodato even provides a practical example of the correct use of a filter!
Surround stereo and original mono. This is one of the best audio reproductions of a film from this era (1980) that you could ever slip into a DVD player. Loud, punchy, always present and well-balanced, whether it's presenting dialogue, sound effects, Ortolani's sometimes mawkish music or combinations of all three, the sounds of Cannibal Holocaust will haunt you as much as the imagery.
Extra Features

While a few DVDs offer two versions of the same film as a point of comparison, Cannibal Holocaust presents a second version of itself without the animal mutilation footage because some people may need it. There's no doubt even some hardcore gorehounds might have trouble with Cannibal Holocaust. A further version of the film intercuts commentary (filmed in a formal interview situation) made by Deodato and Kerman (the professor) as they view the film. This commentary is also available as a direct audio track that runs with the uncut version.

Other extras amidst a plethora of material includes a collection of trailers (would've loved to have seen the Japanese sell), and neatly ordered text devoted to The Green Inferno that profiles the filmmakers, the search team, and even the various cannibal tribes involved. There's also an alternate version of Last Road To Hell, the film the team had shot previously to The Green Inferno.

A second disc houses In The Jungle: The Making Of Cannibal Holocaust which is a neatly ordered (and recently assembled) behind the scenes documentary that runs for just over an hour and is credited as an Alan Young Pictures Presentation. On screen interviewees include Deodato, actor Luca Giorgio Barbareschi, DOP Sergio D'Offizi, production designer Antonello Geleng, stills photographer Paolo Cavicchiolo and composer Riz Ortolani. Separate interviews are also presented with Robert Kerman (35 minutes), Riz Ortolani (5 minutes) and Gabriel Yorke (Alan Yates) (51 minutes). There's also a DVD-Rom copy of the script and a stills and poster art gallery backed by soundtrack music and biographies for Deodato, Kerman and Gabriel Yorke. Several of the films mentioned in the various filmogaphies are linked to their respective trailers. Speaking of which, Grindhouse Releasing who put together this superb release, also present several trailers for further projects including The Tough Ones, Cat In The Brain, Scum Of The Earth and Gone With The Pope. There's also a number of relatively easy to find Easter Eggs that lead to further interviews and the Jim Van Bebber directed music video for Necrophagia's version of Cannibal Holocaust that utilises many scenes from the film.

The Verdict
Although imported copies of Cannibal Holocaust had been sighted as close to hand as the local Video Sleazy, it's great to see SVE have persevered with the hard titles to give this film its first legit uncut Australian release. The only letdown to this otherwise excellent presentation is the extremely poor packaging. The two discs will not sit properly in their plastic digi-pack housing, that is if you can get off the way too tight slipcase without tearing it apart. Printed with a heavily muted almost completely black version of the key ad art, at least the triple threat consumer advice of high level sexual violence, high level violence and animal cruelty, stands out against its white background. In short, if you need instant access to this set you're not going to get it from the packaging as presented. However, that's a minor detail that shouldn't detract from the fact that Cannibal Holocaust put the term hard into hardcore and virtually stands alone as a benchmark test of anyone's mettle, let alone jaded gorehounds. Highly recommended and deserving of the spot on your shelves right next to SVE's Cannibal Ferox.
Movie Score
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