Ruggero Deodato's first foray into cannibal country, Jungle Holocaust, is one of the finest examples of Mondo cinema, deftly juggling shocking violence with social commentary and still managing to be consistently entertaining. It's not a film for the squeamish, but, then again, squeamish people don't seem to frequent horror web sites, so by all means, dig in!
Robert Harper (Foschi) and his friend Ralf (Rassimov) are travelling into the Malaysian jungle to meet up with some colleagues, but are instead greeted by an abandoned camp, a trashed radio, and some grisly remains. When one of the people in their party is carried off by the same cannibals who munched their mates, Robert, Ralf, and their pilot Charlie (Sheik Razak Shikur) investigate, stumble upon their cohort's remains, lose Charlie to a native trap, and find themselves hopelessly lost.
The duo build a raft to take them down river and back to the landing strip, but a patch of rough water splits up the boat and Robert and Ralf, and when Robert hits the shore he is greeted by a group of non-people eating natives who drag him back to their cave lair, tie him up, strip him down, and throw him in a bamboo cell. Robert escapes, dragging a beautiful native girl (Lai, whose character is named Pulan, but no one ever says that!) with him in hopes of finding his way to back to the plane and getting out of this jungle alive.
Based on true events, Deodato is remarkably restrained when telling the tale of Robert Harper's descent into madness and regression, especially when one compares this film to his much more horrific Cannibal Holocaust. While there is plentiful amounts of gore, Jungle Holocaust never seems to dwell on it for long, instead focusing on Harper's harrowing adventure. The film benefits from the excellent performance by Foschi, whose portrayal of the "modern man gone primitive" raises Jungle Holocaust above other films in the cannibal sub-genre, and counters the film's exploitative leanings. Deodato also has a tremendous gift for making the best of the scenery with which nature provides him, and this film is no exception.
My only gripe with Jungle Holocaust is a familiar one for anyone who has seen Deodato and Umberto Lenzi's other cannibal films, and that is the cruel animal deaths that seem to be a staple in this genre. Fortunately, Jungle Holocaust doesn't go overboard, with only a snake attack and a disgusting yet entirely native performed dissection of a crocodile that ends up as dinner.
Shriek Show/Media Blasters gives Jungle Holocaust the royal treatment on this Region 1 DVD, with a commentary and introduction by Deodato, interviews with Foschi and Rassimov, loads of stills, photographs of memorabilia and posters, EXTENSIVE cast and crew biographies, some of the coolest animated menus I've seen, and a very nice pack of mini lobby cards! This is a very nice set, packed with chewy nuggets for you to savor long after the film digests (Oh! C'mon, I hardly ever use puns!).
The only complaint I can muster about the DVD presentation is the sound quality, which is obviously due to poor source materials. The music sounds almost like a warped record, and occasionally very loud moments of chanting or music will lead to a high frequency distortion that would seem to be beyond anyone's control. The picture quality is great, however, with only a few scratchy moments and the occasional discoloration. All of this is really nitpicking, though, because Shriek Show has really done a great job here.
If cannibals are your thing, Shriek Show's Jungle Holocaust DVD serves them up hot and steaming, with enough extras to feed a whole tribe!