Welcome to the Jungle of Death, and lunch!
Welcome to the Jungle of Death, and lunch!

Cannibal Holocaust (1978)
Italy
Director, Ruggero Deodato.
Cast, Robert Kerman, Francesca Ciardi.

It’s the close of the 20th century, and a group of four documentary filmmakers are going deep into the Amazon jungle in search of the last cannibal tribes of the world.  Hidden from the world for thousands of years passed by, by modern life and living, a few tribes practicing cannibalism and living in the dark ages still exist.

The documentary filmmakers fail to return from their expedition.  The job of finding out why they did not return is allocated to Dr Monroe (Robert Kerman) and his guides.  They eventually locate the hidden villages that the filmmakers went to and return to New York to review the footage the filmmakers shot, ready to expose to the world the brutality of the ill fated expedition.

GORE WARNING:-  A forced abortion, rape of savages, rape by savages, decapitations, dismemberment’s, impaling, real animal mutilations, adultery punishment consisting of brutalized genitals, worm ridden corpses, and obviously cannibalism.  You have been warned!

This is it!  This is the zenith!  This is the granddaddy of all Italian gorefest movies of the 70’s.  Cannibal Holocaust is the most notorious film of this bloody film making decade.  Gut churning beyond belief, awe inspiring in its realism, disturbing in its brutal depictions of violence and more moving than you’d expect a supposed “exploitation” picture to be.

Cannibal Holocaust is a film that if watched, is only watched a few times in one’s lifetime, it is not watched as an entertainment vehicle; and even those watching it for the gore, surely cannot be oblivious to it’s power?  It’s watched  because you’re either a writer/filmmaker/film historian/philosopher/gore fiend, or any other similar professional.  This professionalism of course helps to create a barrier for you to detract yourself from the horrific scenes you’re watching.  Allowing you to view the film objectively.  A viewing of the film stays with you for a long time.  It’s very powerful.  Its haunting score creates a feeling of unease rising from your subconscious and the gory scenes are brutal and unrelenting.  The real animal killings are disturbing, but are obvious realities in this world.  You want to survive in the jungle you have to kill to eat, kill to survive.  We do not live in a jungle and in our nice little bourgeoisie western world all of this animal killing is done for us.  So it’s all out of sight out of mind, and pre-packaged delivered to our kitchen tables.  So we can fool ourselves into believing it doesn’t go on.  So next time you buy a nice clean pre packed chicken remember the turtle soup scene from this movie!

Beyond the animal mutilations, are the murders and the abuse of the cannibals (“The Savages”) perpetrated by the documentary team.  Documentary of course meaning passive observer, not active manipulator, a meeting this quartet of filmmakers obviously missed!  But that’s the whole point of this story.  Us the civilized western population go deep into Amazonia in search of “Dark Age – cannibal savages” and the only savages we find are ourselves!  The cannibals live as they have for thousands of years, the only way they know how.  But then we arrive and throw their world into chaos by  torturing, raping and killing them.  Manipulating their supposedly savage worlds for the benefit of our film-making, which causes them to retaliate the only way they know how.  With us having shown them no alternative, civilized people that we are!

The producers and the director were prosecuted for making and distributing the film.  The director also spent some time in prison for doing so.  The problem is that all documentary footage in the film was claimed (at the beginning of the film) to be real causing allegations of this being a real “snuff” film the creation of which is illegal in most countries.  Of course all footage in the film is FAKE, it is all acted and scripted.  But it does carry an unnerving visceral power, capable of making you believe otherwise.  Which of course was the filmmaker’s intention.

And there is your story there is you film’s point, way beyond gore and mutilations the underlying fallacy that we are civilized beings.  That we are the highest life form in the food chain.  When all we are the only ones that can create weapons with which we can subjugate other species and our own;  bend them to our will.  Civilized aren’t we all?  And for the greatest ramming into our brains of our inhumanity in decades we jail the director!

Cannibal Holocaust is a gory and gross film more than a scary horror film.   The structure of the whole film is absolutely brilliant, cutting back and forth between the documentary footage that the four filmmakers shot, and the footage of the main film, couldn’t have been constructed better in my opinion.  The haunting Riz Ortolani score, is ever present, and always enhancing the mood of the visual’s of the film.  The gore is well, very gory, and once the film gets into it continues from about halfway through right to the end.  It truly is a masterpiece if film making, its just a pity that it will be inaccessible for most people as the gore in the film will stop a lot of people from, watching it.  Obviously the director was making a point (and boy does he ram his point home) and this wasn’t just a straight forward exploitation flick.

Also a supposedly “amazingly scary and very original horror film ” called The Blair Witch Project (1999), copied this idea of passing off a scripted film as found footage of true life events.  Twenty odd years after Cannibal Holocaust, and failing to do the job anywhere near as good, with nowhere near the visual power or even delivering anywhere near the scares it promised in it’s press.

Movie Facts:-
Deodato estimates the film made $200 million at the box office and cost only $100,000 to produce.
The crew shot for five weeks in the Amazon jungle, and one week shooting in New York and Rome.
Riz Ortolani who composed the eerie score for this also composed the music for Mondo Cane (1962)
The missing Piranha scene the director says it’s missing because the piranha “were not willing to take the director’s instructions”.
Ruggero Deodato’s favourite Directors include: – Spielberg, Kubrick, De Palma, Bernardo Bertolucci, Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci.

DVD info Uncut widescreen deluxe special edition with tons of extras including interviews with the director, brilliant picture and sound quality.  Version we got eleased by EC (European Cinema) Entertainment.

Review by Giovanni Pistachio, Giovanni can be contacted at: –

email:-  giovannip@pistachio-films.com
© Owned Giovanni Pistachio 08/03/2004

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