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Cannibal Ferox (Blu-ray)

Review by: 
Head Cheeze
Make Them Die Slowly
Release Date: 
Grindhouse Releasing
Aspect Ratio: 
Directed by: 
Umberto Lenzi
Giovanni Lombardo Radice
Lorraine De Selle
Zora Kerova
Danilo Mattei
Walter Lucchini
Bottom Line: 
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Umberto Lenzi's Cannibal Ferox (aka - Make Them Die Slowly) opens with a panoramic shot of New York City set to some laughably inappropriate disco music as we follow what appears to be a strung out junkie to an apartment. Here he encounters some thugs looking for a guy named Mike (Giovanni Lombardo Radice), who stole a hundred grand from them and then skipped town. The junkie gets shot just for the hell of it, and the police come in to investigate his murder. Meanwhile, in the Amazon, an anthropology student named Gloria (Lorraine De Selle), her brother Rudy (Danilo Mattei), and friend Pat (Zora Kerova), are on an expedition to prove once and for all that cannibalism is a myth. The trio's jeep breaks down, and they hike up river to try and find help, but instead find the bodies of two Indios as well as the fugitive Mike and his injured friend Joe (Walter Lucchini). Mike tells them of their ordeal with a tribe of Indios who tortured and ate their traveling companion, and of the pair’s narrow escape. The group all return to this village because Gloria is determined to prove Mike wrong. When they arrive in the village, however, it is instantly apparent that Mike hasn't told the whole story, and when it is finally revealed who the real savages are, it is too late!

One of the most polished entries into the flesh-eating genre (one director Umberto Lenzi virtually gave birth to with 1973's Deep River Savages), Cannibal Ferox is actually very entertaining and not nearly as offensive a film as pundits would have you believe, and that’s actually why I enjoy it so much. While Ruggero Deodato’s infamous Cannibal Holocaust is a film many consider the benchmark for the genre, I much prefer Cannibal Ferox’s “lighter” take on the subject matter. Yes, both films are examples of lurid excess in terms of both gore and animal cruelty, but, while I do respect its contribution to not just this genre but also to the found-footage genre it inadvertently spawned, I find Deodato’s film vastly more offensive and difficult to stomach.

Grindhouse Releasing, who recently gave us the aforementioned Cannibal Holocaust in its own deluxe edition Blu-ray, give Cannibal Ferox the same loving treatment, offering up the film in an absolutely stunning new 1.85:1 2K transfer scanned from the film’s original camera negative. The image quality is so crisp and vibrant it looks like a brand new film, with sharp, defined edges, exceptional levels of detail, and a sense of depth and dimension that makes the film truly pop off the screen. The beauty of this transfer is that, as with Cannibal Holocaust, Grindhouse has managed to clean up the image considerably yet still maintain the filmic grain and vintage aesthete that fans hold dear, giving us the best of both worlds. The film is paired with a trio of excellent audio options, including an all-new 2.0 DTS HD English Stereo mix, as well as DTS HD Mono tracks in both English and Italian.

This 3-Disc set features two Blu-ray discs and a bonus audio CD featuring Buddy Maglione’s original soundtrack album. Disc One features the previously-released (and hilariously argumentative) commentary track with Lenzi and Radice, as well as a pair of deleted scenes (HD), and four international trailers for the film, but the big inclusion here is Calum Waddell’s excellent feature-length documentary, Eaten Alive! The Rise and Fall of the Italian Cannibal Film. This exhaustive look at the cannibal genre from its inception to its last gasps, with interviews with everyone from Lenzi and Deodato to Eli Roth, whose much-delayed homage to the genre, The Green Inferno, is also covered (albeit briefly).

Disc Two features an extended interview with Umberto Lenzi entitled Hooked on You, as well as a lengthy retrospective with the once-ubiquitous Radice called The Many Lives and Deaths of Giovanni Lombardo Radice, which covers his storied career in Italian horror cinema in oftentimes hilarious detail. We’re also treated to a sitdowns with stars Kerova (Zora in Cannibal Land),  Mattei (Danillo Mattei’s Amazon Adventure), and FX Artist Gino De Rossi (They Call Him Bombadore), as well as a vintage interview with Lenzi circa 1988.

Rounding out the bonus features is an comprehensive collection of ephemera ranging from stills galleries and promotional goodies to clippings from magazines and newspaper adverts. There are also several trailers for other Grindhouse releases (HD).

The whole kit and caboodle is presented in a gorgeous embossed slipcase and includes a lavishly illustrated booklet featuring essays by Bill Landis and Eli Roth.

All in all, Cannibal Ferox is one of those films you'll either despise or love, and I fall into the latter group. It's IS a cannibal film, it is very violent, and it's obviously not for everyone, but for this sub-genre, Lenzi’s film is, in my mind, the most polished and professional example. Grindhouse Releasing’s Blu-ray presentation is, as with all of their releases, an absolute gift to fans, offering a jaw-dropping transfer, an incredible assortment of extras, and put together with the sort of love only fellow genre fans could muster. This is the definitive edition of a cult-classic, and earns my highest recommendations. 

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