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Old 10-08-2004, 12:01 AM
 
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Default Cannibal Ferox (Grindhouse)




Reviewer: Styx
Review Date: June 25, 2000

Released by: Grindhouse Releasing
Release date: July 18, 2000
MSRP $29.99
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: No



Umberto Lenzi's controversial cannibal film, Cannibal Ferox, has now made its way to DVD in region 1 courtesy of Grindhouse and Image Entertainment. Made in 1980, Ferox was Lenzi's answer to Ruggero Deodato's Cannibal Holocaust, but unlike Ferox, Deodato's Cannibal film was considerably better made. Lets take a look at Grindhouse's release of Cannibal Ferox, in what looks to be a straight port of their laserdisc release.

The Story

inline Image Three tourists from New York - Gloria Davis (Lorraine De Selle), her brother Rudy (Danilo Mattei) and her friend Pat (Zora Kerova) - travel to South America and into the depths of the Amazon. Gloria is attempting to track down a village where suspected cannibal activities took place. Seems Gloria believes cannibalism as an organized practice in human society does not exist and has never existed. Instead, Gloria believes the myth of Cannibalism was conjured up by settlers as excuses to exterminate the native population. Gloria hopes to travel to the village to prove the incidents of cannibalism reported by a magazine never happened so she can finish her thesis on the subject and be through hearing about cannibals.

inline Image En route through the narrowing roads of the jungle, Rudy's jeep hits a mud pool and the engine blows out. Now with their mode of transportation gone the three must hike on foot through the savage jungle. While traversing the thickening jungle they bump into the corpses of two natives and two men, Mike Logan (Giovanni Lombardo Radice) and his wounded friend Joe (Venantino Venantini). Joe and Mike tell Rudy, Gloria and Pat that they were captured and tortured by a cannibal tribe while attempting to gather a fortune in emeralds. They barely escaped with their lives but unfortunately their third companion, a "Portuguese", wasn't so lucky and he was tortured, murdered then eaten. Seems as if Gloria's theory about cannibals is untrue and in fact they do exist after all. The five agree that they should escape the jungle and get back to civilization. The five of them camp for the night and in the morning Gloria mysteriously disappears. Rudy and the others set out to search for her and run into the native village.

inline Image In the village Rudy discovers the decaying corpse of the "Portuguese" tied to a pole. However, the village looks abandoned and only frightened old natives are there to great them and not savage cannibals. As Joe's condition deteriorates he explains to Gloria and Rudy that the story Mike told was a lie. In reality Mike tortured and murdered the "Portuguese" and terrorized the natives. Both Gloria and Rudy now know their lives are in grave danger, as should the native warriors return they'll pay along with Mike. Before Rudy and Gloria could get away the natives do return and they are all captured. Now for their crimes they'll be savagely tortured and punished bringing new meaning to the phrase "Make Them Die Slowly".

inline Image Well, here is where I should probably mention I'm not a fan of cannibal films. I love Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but films like Cannibal Ferox and Holocaust are quite different, and take a more realistic approach to cannibalism by depicting it in a more savage and primitive way. I also hate animal violence and I find it simply cruel and not watch able. I love to watch horror films to be entertained and watching some poor furry creature get hacked up and gutted is not my idea of a good time. Sure you can say it's a cruel reality of nature, but when you put it on film and chain a small animal to a pole and watch as an anaconda crushes (you folks who have seen it know what scene I'm talking about) it your exploiting and murdering something for the pleasure of certain sick individuals who find it "entertaining". In the commentary contained on this disc we hear that the snake actually let the animal go, but Lenzi wanted it to be otherwise.

inline Image Cannibal Ferox pretty much strives for one thing and that's to shock the audience. It accomplishes this in a couple ways including showing the native's primitive customs. There are plenty of animal killings, which are the hardest to watch. The film slows down to a halt for these killings, as they become the main attraction and they really don't fit into the storyline at all. The film's alternate title, "Make Them Die Slowly", is an accurate description of what awaits the films group of americans who wind up getting maimed in various fashions all graphically depicted. In fact, if you can think of any body part it's probably been dismembered, eaten or pierced in this film. Unfortunately, not all these effects are convincing and many look very phony, like the castration. Still, Cannibal Ferox manages to relay a feeling of hopelessness and the film definitely holds your attention once the "good guys" are captured.

inline Image One thing I have learned to love over time oddly enough is Cannibal Ferox's soundtrack. I bought the Zombie/Cannibal Ferox soundtrack (for the Zombie tracks) a while back and have been listening to it and somehow Cannibal Ferox's score has grown on me. If anything, doing these reviews has taught me to be more objective and not dismiss a film regardless of its content, but having watched Cannibal Ferox again, I can't find much good about it. I'd rather spend the 90+ minutes watching something worthwhile. And to me, Cannibal Ferox isn't.

Image Quality

Grindhouse presents Cannibal Ferox letterboxed at 1.85:1 in a non-anamorphic transfer. I'm a bit disappointed this release is not 16x9 enhanced, as I had heard otherwise when the disc was first announced...oh well. The image, like Grindhouse's laserdisc, is good to fair quality overall with a few problems, undoubtedly stemming back to the film's production. The transfer has some moderate grain, which is very noticeable in the opening scenes in New York and the interiors of apartments and later on in the police station. The transfer is also a little on the soft side with wide and medium shots lacking in detail and definition. Close-ups faired a bit better but occasionally appeared soft as well. The print used for the transfer was surprisingly in exceptional shape I noted only a few nicks, scratches and specks on rare occasion.

The colors don't fare so well and seem very washed out and muted. Overall this is a fairly good transfer of a film, which supposedly had a history of bad transfers. I've compared this new DVD with Grindhouse's previous laserdisc release and the two transfers are virtually identical. I did note the DVD had a slightly sharper look to it but that's about it the two transfers are the same in every other respect. I've never seen Sazuma's DVD of Cannibal Ferox but judging by the screenshots Sazuma's transfer has an ugly yellowish tinge to it. To see what I'm talking about, check out Dave's review for the Sazuma DVD and compare the third screenshots of the two reviews. Of course, comparing screenshots is no way to justifiably compare transfers, but you can get a good idea of what I'm talking about.

Sound

Presented in Dolby Digital Stereo Cannibal Ferox sounds fairly good with s ome nice directional effects. The score, which I've grown to love, sounded very good here. Dialogue was clear and I didn't hear any background noise throughout the presentation. Also included in this release is an Italian Language track.

Supplemental Material

inline Image Well Grindhouse obviously loves this film and have included numerous extras to quench your cannibal thirst. The cover art is very nice and colorful and thankfully although being distributed by Image Entertainment, the disc comes packaged in a keepcase as opposed to Image's crapper snappers. There is also a complete filmography for Umberto Lenzi on the reverse side of the cover art. When you pop in the disc you're greeted to some animated menus, which are quite cool. There's also a hilarious animation in the "Biography" section.

inline Image The feature supplement on this DVD is the audio commentary with Director Umberto Lenzi and Actor Giovanni Lombardo Radice (John Morghen). The commentary is described as "amazing" on the disc's packaging and although I wouldn't call it that exactly, it is very good. Umberto Lenzi has a thick accent and is sometimes hard to understand but he has a lot to say about filming Cannibal Ferox. He talks about shooting in New York a nd his experiences in the city. He also talks a lot about the actors and actresses and explains their backgrounds. John Morghen relays a funny story about changing his name from Giovanni Lombardo Radice to John Morghen and how one side of his family was upset that he used their last name. Overall John Morghen doesn't think too highly of Cannibal Ferox and puts down some of the film and the animal violence. Speaking of animal violence, both Umberto Lenzi and John Morghen explain those scenes like the anaconda scene and how the snake didn't want to eat the small animal and let it go while Umberto Lenzi wanted the snake to kill it, which is pretty lame and reinforces my initial feelings on this director.

inline Image Overall the commentary is very good and will undoubtedly dispel some of the myths and rumors surrounding the production, especially in reference to the animal violence and what was stock footage and what was real. Also contained on this DVD is an extensive still gallery montage-featuring scenes from the film as well as poster and promotion artwork accompanied by the film's score. There's also a lot of cover artwork of the various video releases and stills of the Grindhouse staff posing with Umberto Lenzi. In addition to the still gallery there are Italian, German and U.S. theatrical trailers of varying quality. The U.S.trailer really gives a lot of the films goriest scenes away. Finally, included on this DVD is an interview with Director Umberto Lenzi. The interview is located in Umberto Lenzi's Biography.

There's also an awesome Easter egg on this disc which is hidden in the "Grindhouse releasing" menu. You have to select the circle icon "Banned in 31 Countries". This will take you to the Grindhouse theatrical re-release footage of City of the Living Dead and Cannibal Ferox. The footage is taken outside the theater and features interviews with some of the audience members after they've seen the film. There are also shots of audience reactions in the theater to some of the films more interesting scenes. This is a really cool supplement that was also on the LD and I was afraid at first that it didn't make it onto this DVD, but it did in Easter egg form. For those of you who are wondering, Grindhouse's laserdisc of Cannibal Ferox came with a cool 45 featuring tracks from the film's score. The LD release also came with a cool "barf bag". Neither of those has made it into this release, but that's not surprising. It also came in a nice gatefold package and it's probably because of all these goodies that I've kept the LD .

Final Thoughts

Cannibal fans rejoice! Grindhouse has released the definitive version of Cannibal Ferox on DVD. Although there are other releases of Cannibal Ferox on DVD, none of them feature the audio commentary or the interview with Umberto Lenzi that are contained on this disc, which makes this a much better value for your money. For those of you who have never seen Cannibal Ferox, this DVD is ideal, as the commentary will help you understand what was going through the mind of its director and star.

Rating

Image Quality - B-
Sound - B+
Supplements - A-

Technical Info.
  • Running Time - 1 hour 33 minutes
  • Color
  • Not Rated
  • 1 Disc
  • 50 Chapter Stops
  • English Dolby Digital Stereo
  • Italian Dolby Digital Stereo

Supplements
  • Audio Commentary with Director Umberto Lenzi and star John Morghen
  • Italian, German and U.S. Theatrical Trailers
  • Still Gallery
  • Interview with Director Umberto Lenzi

Other Pictures

 

 

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