Jungle Holocaust (1977)
By: Julian on October 9, 2007  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Shriek Show (USA) Region 1 NTSC, 2.35:1 (16:9 enhanced), English DD 2.0 Mono. 88 minutes
The Movie
Director: Ruggero Deodato Starring: Massimo Foschi, Ivan Rassimov, Me Me Lai
Screenplay: Tito Carpi, Gianfranco Clerici, Renzo Genta
Music: Ubaldo Continiello
Country: Italy
AKA: Last Cannibal World, The Last Survivor, Ultimo Mondo Cannibale, Carnivorous, Cannibal
Ruggero Deodato is one of my favourite Italo-exploitation directors and is a man who is as famous as his uber violent, squalid films. His polizia picture Live Like A Cop, Die Like a Man is one of the best examples of its genre; House on the Edge of the Park was arguably the most reviled video nasty ever produced and remains banned in Australia to this day, and Cannibal Holocaust has long been the pivotal point of comparison for any Italo-cannibal movie ever made (it comes out trumps every time). Jungle Holocaust (known in its native Italy as Ultimo Mondo Cannibale) was one of the earlier films in the Italian cannibal cycle after Umberto Lenzi's 1972 effort, Man From Deep River. Equal parts Indiana Jones and disturbing gore film, Jungle Holocaust showcases some early examples of the directorial flair Deodato became well known for in cult cinema circles.

Co-written by Gianfranco Clerici (who was the brains behind other exploitation masterpieces like, New York Ripper and Cannibal Holocaust), Jungle Holocaust stars Massimo Foschi in his most well known role. Foschi plays Robert Harper, an oil prospector, who is flying over the jungles of New Guinea in order to meet a group of colleagues. Also on the trip is Harper's business partner Rolf (Ivan Rassimov, a mainstay in the Italian exploitation genre), the pilot Charlie and Charlie's girlfriend Swan. Things take an unexpected turn for the worst when they make a bad landing, dislodging one of the plane's wheels. Harper and Rolf search for help and stumble across their co-worker's deserted camp. More horrific, however, is the discovery of one of their corpses, seemingly chewed to the bone. Their fears are confirmed when they see a jungle tribe engaging in cannibalism. The duo decides to keep their discovery from their companions however, and as night falls, Swan is kidnapped by one of the cannibals. Morning breaks and the remaining three set out to find Swan and the rest of their group. This adventure quickly turns into a disaster – Charlie is killed by one of the native's booby-traps and Harper and Rolf are separated in the jungle. Harper is captured by the cannibals, taken back to their tribe and subjected to a series of tortures and humiliations, including the taunts of cannibal children and having his genitals fondled by the tribesman (which Harper seems most disconcerted with). Pulan (Me Me Lai), a young cannibal girl, takes pity upon Harper's plight and frees him, with the rest of the tribe hot on their trail.

While it may not be nearly as powerful as Deodato's second cannibal feature Cannibal Holocaust, Jungle Holocaust remains one of the genre's most intelligent and well-made films. Like its successors, Jungle Holocaust doesn't play for scares, but shocks – and it succeeds. The juxtaposition of real animal violence adds to the staged violence to humans, which is presumably how Deodato got into legal hot water with Cannibal Holocaust. The animal violence is more graphic than some of its successors, with the most notable example being a crocodile flayed in a particularly explicit fashion, in a scene that clearly echoes Cannibal Holocaust's turtle killing. A few lashings of sexual perversity (Pulan gives Harper a hand job in his prison cell to, er, alleviate the pain of imprisonment) are unwelcome, and add a comic touch to a picture that certainly didn't need it. It's clear that Deodato didn't really know what to do with the film, and seemed torn between making a violent thriller, a jungle adventure or a black comedy. These issues are straightened out in the last third of the film when the events take a decidedly nasty turn. Deodato is more comfortable working in such grisly, quasi-nihilistic territory, and the picture is far better off for it.

Another interesting issue regarding Jungle Holocaust is its claims of authenticity, as an opening title card professes the content's real-life basis. It is safe to assume that these allegations are entirely false. Calling the sensational content genuine has been one of the cannibal genre's main conventions, and this in turn was derived from the Mondo film's assertions of authenticity.

Violent and perverse, with moments of downright weirdness, Jungle Holocaust shows Deodato clearly honing his craft in the genre until the cannibal cycle reached its zenith with his 1980 follow-up feature. It may not be as powerful as Cannibal Holocaust, but Jungle Holocaust is nevertheless a fine example of the development of a fledgling genre.
Shriek Show has certainly left room for improvement with this release. Presented in its original 2:35:1 aspect ratio, Jungle Holocaust displays frequent film artefacts and periods of grain. The colours are dull and there are moments when sweet FA is visible. That said, this is the best release out there and it's unlikely as to whether the picture quality will get better in a hurry.
Another mild disappointment, but beggars can't be choosers. We're treated to one English Dolby Digital mono track.
Extra Features
This is where things get better, and Shriek Show has equipped Jungle Holocaust with a deserving set of special features. Fans would be delighted to know there is a feature length commentary by Deodato, which is in Italian with English subs. The film can be played with an interesting introduction by the director.

A featurette makes up the bulk of the special features and wears a little bit thin after a while. Titled Memoirs of the Jungle, this half-hour retrospective features interviews with stars Ivan Rassimov and Massimo Foschi, as well as a poster gallery set to Ubaldo Continiello's score.

The mandatory director and actor bios are all there, as well as the original Jungle Holocaust theatrical trailer, and trailers for other Shriek Show releases (Eaten Alive, Beyond the Darkness and Burial Ground: Nights of Terror). Shriek Show has also provided ten German lobby card reproductions and these are particularly special for the collectors.
The Verdict
While it may not be as good as Cannibal Holocaust, Jungle Holocaust is an immensely worthy entry into the Italian cannibal cycle. The acting is surprisingly decent in a genre notorious for deadpan performances, and the gore will please those who love their celluloid drenched in claret – a particularly grisly scene was so crowd-pleasing that Lenzi used it in his 1980 film Eaten Alive. A definite winner for the fan of Italian exploitation film.
Movie Score
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