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Eaten Alive (Shriek Show)
09-16-2005, 06:15 AM
Review Date: September 15, 2005
Released by: Shriek Show
Release date: 11/26/2002
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: Yes
http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/a-m/eatenss/eatenss_shot0s.jpg (http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/a-m/eatenss/eatenss_shot0l.jpg)While so many worthwhile genre films remain available on DVD only on sub-par releases, if at all, Umberto Lenzi's Eaten Alive seems somewhat of an odd title to receive multiple remasters, but after Europe's EC Entertainment released the film in seperate editions in 1999 and 2001, Media Blasters' Shriek Show label has weighed in with this domestic release. Is this the definitive red meat ultimate edition of Eaten Alive, or must fans of Italian cannibal films still hold out hopes for yet another release? Keep reading and find out.
A series of three murders has authorities baffled. One man was murdered at Niagara Falls with a dart dipped in cobra venom. Two other men were murdered in downtown New York City by the same assassin, an Asiatic man who was hit and killed by a truck while fleeing the scene of his third crime. The only clue the police have is an 8mm film reel found on his body, addressed to one Diana Morris, a woman who had gotten involved with a crazy religious leader named Jonas and who has since disappeared. They send for Dianaís sister, Sheila (Janet Agren), to ask for her help, and she takes the film to Professor Carter (Mel Ferrer), an anthropologist. The film contains footage of Diana (Paola Senatore) taking part in a bizarre ceremony where people are hung up on hooks by their skin.
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Carter suspects the film may have been shot in New Guinea, where such religious ceremonies still take place. A street woman who knew Jonas confirms that he and his followers have relocated there to build some sort of settlement in the jungle. Sheila decides to go after her sister. Upon arriving in the country, the local police chief introduces her to Mark Butler (Robert Kerman), an American who deserted from the U.S. Army in Vietnam, and now makes a living (somewhat) arm wrestling in local bars. After she offers him $20,000 for his help, he reluctantly agrees to lead her to the village in the jungle where the film was shot.
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The two arrive to find that Jonas and his followers have since moved on, and are now living in some sort of community much deeper in the jungle. They hire several guides to take them upriver into the tropical wilderness, but their canoe is attacked by a crocodile, which eats one guide and forces the others to go on by land. Then their second guide promptly runs out on them, but heís devoured by a tribe of cannibals. The flesh-eaters go after Mark and Sheila, but they are rescued by a patrol of men out of Jonasí village.
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Jonas (Ivan Rassimov), as it turns out, is more than just a loony religious fanatic. Heís also a sadist and a pervert, who rules the community through brutality and mind control tricks. Sheila is reunited with Diana, but there is no way for the two of them and Mark to leave. Not only will the cult not permit it, but the jungle is thick, and the countryside is crawling with cannibals. However, Jonas begins drugging Sheila and, as he has done to Diana and many other women, sexually molesting her. It becomes clear to Mark that they only have one choice - take a risk on becoming cannibal food and flee the village.
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Eaten Alive is a bad movie, make no mistake about that. In fact, itís probably one of the worst movies that director Umberto Lenzi has ever made, and is definitely the worst of the cannibal films. The story itself is an amalgamation of jungle and horror elements, with a strong nod towards the real life Jim Jones mass-suicide tragedy that had taken place in Guyana two years earlier. With this mishmash of a plot, itís not surprising that the film contains holes in logic big enough to sail a battleship through - including the nagging question of why, if the jungle around the compound is surrounded by cannibals that prevent anyone from leaving, then how were the cultists able to build the compound in the first place? Very little of the movie is ever given an adequate explanation.
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However, if youíre like me - a fan of atrociously bad, cheesy films - you will be able to get some enjoyment out of the film. Eaten Alive manages to rival Lenziís insane City of the Walking Dead/Nightmare City in unintentional humor. Exploitation fans will have fun picking out all the footage lifted from earlier cannibal movies, and the dialogue is rife with quotably bad lines ("Instead of buying frozen meat in the supermarket, they get theirs fresh from people like you."). The dubbing adds further insult to injury - the characters of both Sheila and Diana are described as being "from Alabama", which results in some hilariously bad on/off Southern accents.
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In the end, though, whatever "camp" qualities the film possesses are undone by itís grim sexual violence and graphic scenes of animal mutilation - familiar sights for viewers of cannibal films. If the movie itself was better, such spectacles would be bearable, but itís not, and I can really only recommend Eaten Alive for the most tolerant horror fans out there.
http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/a-m/eatenss/eatenss_shot7s.jpg (http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/a-m/eatenss/eatenss_shot7l.jpg)Before delving into the image quality of this release, I must add a caveat - even though screenshots from the two prior EC releases are provided side by side with screenshots from this one, this review should not be taken as a comprehensive comparison between the three discs. As I no longer have access to the prior two EC releases, such a comparison would be impossible, and to attempt one would be unfair to both companies involved. The screenshots from the three releases are displayed here in order to help readers make their own comparisons (and I would also recommend you view the reviews of the original EC disc and the remastered release).
Eaten Alive gets a little bit wider with every release. The first EC disc was 1.66:1 and the remaster was 1.78:1. This one is 1.85:1, and it is enhanced for 16x9 displays. In general, the framing is fine, but there are some instances when the tops of people's heads or other wanted visual information will be cropped off.
As far as the transfer itself goes, all I can say is...WOW! The colors look wonderful, very bold and vivid (though this results in noticeable oversaturation of reds and oranges). The image is wonderfully sharp, bringing out details I hadn't noticed before. Film element damage is light, with relatively few specks or scratches visible. The film has always had a grainy appearance to it (primarily the result of it being shot on 16mm) and there's grain present here; however, rather than being the type of heavy and intrusive grain that can distract, it is a finer type of grain, the kind that gives the image a distinct texture. It would seem that the third time is indeed the charm for Eaten Alive on DVD.
The sound, in English 2.0 Mono, is acceptable, but not without issues. Everything is clear and loud. Dialogue is understandable, and sound effects are accurately reproduced without any noticeable distortion. However, there is some very distinct popping and crackling noticeable throughout the film, as well as some low-level hissing audible in quieter scenes. A decent presentation, but not perfect.
In contrast to the two EC releases, which only had minor supplements like trailers and still galleries, Shriek Show has put together a nice package of extras, the highlight of which are video interviews with director Umberto Lenzi and stars Robert Kerman and Ivan Rassimov.
http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/a-m/eatenss/eatenss_menus.jpg (http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/a-m/eatenss/eatenss_menul.jpg)The men responsible for Shriek Show's supplemental material always do a good job of tracking down the participants in these films for interviews, for which they are to be commended. The subjects often provide fascinating and invaluable insights into their work and into themselves. However, at the same time those same interviews are often criticized for being poorly shot and edited, and generally looking and sounding unprofessional. The three interviews featured on this release are typical of this problem. From a personal standpoint, I am divided over this issue; my educational background is in video production, and I have shot numerous interviews and edited a number of short documentary features. I know full well that this kind of work is far harder than many suspect. At the same time, I can also attest to the fact that these interviews really are of sub-professional quality, with choppy editing, bad lighting and framing and sometimes tinny sound recording. But they are informative, and in the case of Ivan Rassimov, who died in 2003 at the age of 64, it's likely the only audio/visual record we'll ever see of his thoughts on the film.
The first interview, with Umberto Lenzi, is interesting. Clocking in at approximately fourteen minutes, Lenzi discusses, amongst other things, the influence of real native rituals upon the depiction of indigenous peoples in his cannibal movies, his views of the graphic violence depicted in them, as well as what inspired (or, as some would say, possessed) him to make a movie mixing a Jim Jones-type religeous cult with cannibals. The second interview features Robert Kerman, who is the most endearing of the three subjects. During his interview he talks about what it was like to work with Lenzi, his thoughts on the cannibal genre and his own work on it, his memories of working on location and with his co-stars, as well as how much he is enjoying being re-discovered by new generations of fans who enjoy his Italian films. The last interview on the disc only runs about four and a half minutes, and in it a cigar-chomping Ivan Rassimov admits that he doesn't remember very much about the film, but still provides some reminiscences about working with Lenzi and with his co-stars.
The other extras are minor. There's a still gallery featuring lobby cards, posters and video covers of the various releases Eaten Alive has had over the years. The film's original English language theatrical trailer is included, as well as trailers for Zombi 3, Zombie 4: After Death, Zombie Holocaust and Jungle Holocaust. Lastly there are some brief liner notes on the film which include a short bio of Umberto Lenzi.
Eaten Alive is amongst the least notable films of the Italian cannibal cycle. It lacks the compelling narrative of films like Deodato's Jungle Holcoaust or Lenzi's own Man From Deep River. It lacks the raw power of Cannibal Holocaust, the technical polish of Mountain of the Cannibal God and the infamy of Cannibal Ferox. As for this DVD release of the film, this may be as close to a definitive version of Eaten Alive as we'll ever see. Whether that's a good thing or not I'll leave for you to decide.
Movie Ė D+
Image Quality Ė B+
Sound Ė B-
Supplements Ė B
Running Time - 1 hour 32 minutes
English 2.0 Mono
Umberto Lenzi interview
Robert Kerman interview
Ivan Rassimov interview
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