Written by: Michael Den Boer on June 4th, 2015
Theatrical Release Date: Italy, 1981
Director: Umberto Lenzi
Writer: Umberto Lenzi
Cast: Giovanni Lombardo Radice, Lorraine De Selle, Danilo Mattei, Zora Kerova, Walter Lucchini, Fiamma Maglione, Robert Kerman
BluRay released: May 26th, 2015
Approximate running time: 93 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Sound: DTS-HD Mono English, DTS-HD Mono Italian, DTS-HD Stereo English
BluRay Release: Grindhouse Releasing
Region Coding: Region A (Disc One), Region Free (Disc Two)
Retail Price: $39.95
Cannibal Ferox was written and directed by Umberto Lenzi, the self-credited godfather of the cannibal film cycle. He directed The Man from Deep River, a film that is widely credited as the starting point of the cannibal film cycle. Key collaborators on Cannibal Ferox include cinematographer Giovanni Bergamini (Hate for Hate, The Inglorious Bastards) and composers Fiamma Maglione and Roberto Donati who also composed the score for Lenzi’s Eaten Alive! When released in the U.S. Cannibal Ferox was released under the alternate title Make Them Die Slowly.
Italian cinema has long been known for taking successful films and exploit them for wall they are worth. So when in 1972 Umberto Lenzi made the very successful film The Man from Deep River, it was only a matter of time before the endless line of similar themed films started to flood the market. Surprisingly when it came time to make another film like The Man from Deep River, Lenzi decided to pass on the film which became Jungle Holocaust. Flash forward a few years and Lenzi would return to fray with the by the numbers Eaten Alive and around the same time his film would be upstaged by what is considered the apex of the cannibal film cycle, Cannibal Holocaust. Now with the cannibal film cycle in decline and on its last legs. It should not come as surprise that Lenzi would dive into the subject matter one last time and with Cannibal Ferox he comes very close to eclipsing what Deodato did a year before with Cannibal Holocaust.
Structurally this film follows the almost to a tee the blue print laid out by Cannibal Holocaust. Only this time around instead of their being found footage, there is a survivor who gets to tell the story of near fatal trek through the treacherous jungles inhabited by cannibals. The interesting addition to this film is how they incorporate two sadistic characters who are only in the jungle to exploit, cause harm and make money from the locals. Along the way this duo, crosses paths with the group lead by Anthropologist. And it is fateful meeting that ultimately puts Anthropologist and those with her in harm’s way. Also when it comes to said characters they are all well-defined and their motivations are crystal clear!
Though there are only brief glimpses of violence early. Just give the film time to settle into its groove and when the bloodletting erupts there is no way of containing it from there on out. And just when you thought that you saw it all, a man getting his penis chopped off or another act of obligatorily animal cruelty. The film manages to take the level of violence up a notch and then some. Needless to say with each new act of violence things become more gruesome. Of course one must not overlook this film’s most iconic image which is taken from a scene where a woman is hung by her breasts which have metal hooks in them.
Performance wise this is not an easy film to age and not because of lack of character development or just plain old bad acting. It has more to do with the actors are nothing more than mere props that they director strategically maneuvers for maximum effect. With that being said, the only performance that leaves any lasting impression is Giovanni Lombardo Radice (Cannibal Apocalypse, Stage Fright) in the role of Mike Logan, he is one of two sadistic characters that infiltrate the Anthropologist’s group. To say that his performance is over the top would be an understatement, but then that is exactly why it is so memorable.
Cannibal Ferox comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. For this release a brand new 2k transfer was created from the film’s original negative. Needless to say this was a film that needed an upgrade and the end result is superior to all previous home video releases for this film. Grain look natural, there are no issues with DNR or compression. A few areas of marked improvement include, image clarity, black and contrast levels.
This release comes with three audio options, a DTS-HD mono mix in English, a DTS-HD mono mix in Italian and a DTS-HD stereo mix in English. You really can’t go worn with any of these audio mixes which all sound great and more then get the job done. Range wise things sound robust when they need too, dialog comes through clearly and everything sounds balanced. Also included with this release are removable English language subtitles.
Extras for this release are spread over three discs.
Extras on disc one (a Blu-Ray) include, footage from the film’s Hollywood premier February 15th, 19997 (5 minutes 17 seconds), a stills gallery with music from the film playing in the background (9 minutes 7 seconds), four trailers for the film, International trailer (2 minutes 47 seconds), German trailer (2 minutes 53 seconds), U.S. trailer (4 minutes 20 seconds) and Mexican trailer (4 minutes 23 seconds), two deleted scenes – Piranha (1 minute 29 seconds – 1080 Progressive) and Killing Pig (1 minute 38 seconds – 1080 Progressive), an audio commentary with director Umberto Lenzi and actor Giovanni Lombardo Radice and a feature length documentary titled ‘Eaten Alive! The Rise and The Fall of the Italian Cannibal Film’ (85 minutes 34 seconds – 1080 Progressive, In Italian and English with English subtitles) with comments from filmmakers Umberto Lenzi, Ruggero Deodato, Sergio Martino, actors Giovanni Lombardo Radice, Robert Kerman, actress Me Me Lai, screenwriter Antonio Tentori, film critic / author Kim Newman, author John Martin and Shelagh Rowan-Legg.
The audio commentary track has been ported over from Grindhouses previous release for the film. This track is known for its two participants offering up contrasting point of view about the film. Lenzi defends the films and provides much needed information about the various areas of this film’s production, while Radice takes the opposite route.
Topics discussed in the documentary include, how The Man from Deep River was the film that started the cannibal film cycle, how Deodato got involved in the cannibal film cycle due to Lenzi refusing to make the Jungle Holocaust, animal cruelty and other dangers that cast & crew often faced while making these films in the jungle, how Cannibal Holocaust as the definitive film from cannibal film cycle, Lenzi’s return to the cannibal film cycle Eaten Alive!, Cannibal Ferox is cover in depth and Eli Roth’s tribute to the cannibal film cycle titled Green Inferno.
Extras on disc two (a Blu-Ray) include, an extensive Stills Gallery that is broken down into categories – Production Stills, Behind the Scenes, Video Releases, Ferox Fever (Advertisements) and Promotional Materials which is broken down into several sub-categories – Italy, Germany, France, Spain, USA and Various. Other extras on this disc include, a Grindhouse Releasing trailers gallery and six interviews, the first interview ‘Umberto Lenzi Hooked on You’ (19 minutes 42 seconds, in Italian with English subtitles), ‘The Many Lives and Deaths of Giovanni Lombardo Radice’ (51 minutes 12 seconds), ‘Zora in Cannibal Land’ (25 minutes 1 second, in Italian with English subtitles), ‘Danilo Mattei Amazon Adventure’ (20 minutes 52 seconds), ‘They Call Him Bombadore’ (25 minutes 9 seconds, in Italian with English subtitles) and an interview with Umberto Lenzi from May of 1998 (7 minutes 58 seconds, in Italian and Engllish with English subtitles).
Topics discussed in the interview with Umberto Lenzi include, how the film came from an idea he had about colonization, Leticia the main location used in this film because that was also were Cannibal Holocaust was shot and both films share the same production manager, difficulties faced during filming, the cast, how they were able to pull off the special effects that appear in the film, animal cruelty and this films lasting legacy, especially on home video.
Topics discussed in the interview with Giovanni Lombardo Radice include, how he studied ballet before becoming an actor, how he got discovered as an actor and his favorite character is Charlie Bukowski from Cannibal Apocalypse. He also talks in depth about actors and directors that he worked with and his thoughts on these films, House on the Edge of the Park, City of the Living Dead, Cannibal Apocalypse, Cannibal Ferox and Stage Fright.
Topics discussed in the interview with Zora Kerova include, her first meeting with Umberto Lenzi and how he immediately cast her for the film, working with the indigenous people who appear in the film, difficulty learning and remembering her lines in English, her thoughts on the cast and working with Lezi.
Topics discussed in the interview with Danilo Mattei include, how after years of working on larger more prestige films that he wanted a challenge and that is why he agreed to do Cannibal Ferox, working with Umberto Lenzi, his thoughts on the cast, how a drug smuggler tried to buy Zora Kerova and various other difficulties that they were faced with while making the film.
Topics discussed in the interview with Gino De Rossi include, the special effects that appear in the film and how he was able to make them look so real.
Topics discussed in the 1998 interview with Umberto Lenzi include, how he is surprised by the success of this film, how violence causes violence, Leticia the film’s location and how the film has been banned in 31 countries.
Extras on disc three (a CD) include the complete twenty track score for the film, plus an additional twenty eights tracks in the form of outtakes and alternate takes.
Rounding out the extras is Umberto Lenzi’s filmography on the inner sleeve (opposite side of the cover art) and a twelve page booklet with two essays about the film, the first essay titled ‘Make Them Die Slowly’ written by Bill Landis and the second essay titled ‘In the Hands of a Master’ written by Eli Roth. Overall Cannibal Ferox gets an exceptional release from Grindhouse Releasing, highly recommended.