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CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST (director: Ruggero Deodato; screenwriter: story and screenplay by Gianfranco Clerici; cinematographer: Sergio D’Offizi; editor: Vincenzo Tomassi; music: Riz Ortolani; cast: Robert Kerman (Professor Harold Monroe), Gabriel Yorke (Alan Yates), Francesca Ciardi (Faye Daniels), Perry Perkinan (Jack Danvers), Luca Barbareschi (Mark Tomaso), Ricardo Fuentes (Felipe Ocanya), Salvatore Basile(Chaco Losojos); Runtime: 96; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Franco Di Nunzio/Franco Palagg; Grindhouse Releasing; 1980-Italy/Colombia-dubbed in English)
This is, bar none, the most revolting, weird and disturbing cannibal film I have ever seen.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Ruggero Deodato (“Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man”/”Zenabel”/”Man Only Cries for Love”) directs his so-called masterpiece in exploitation films, a precursor to Blair Witch. This sordid shocker Mondo-documentary on flesh-eating savages, leaves nothing to the imagination, as it features mostly staged (that convincingly looks real) acts of extreme gore that includes a ritual rape with a stone penis, real animals are wantonly slaughtered (a giant turtle, a snake, a muskrat, a monkey and a pig), the impalement of the Americans on spikes, a fetus ripped from a woman’s body, human torture and many other graphic grotesque incidents.

The filmmaker pushes the limits of taste either for art or commerce, as this film could be viewed as made only for sensationalistic purposes or, more improbably, as an indictment of such questionably violent films that exploit Third World countries (after showing and exploiting as much as it can in its shocking gorefest jungle sequences, it has the voice of reason anthropology professor after seeing the gore parts of the film take an awkwardly and seemingly insincere pedantic moral tone and ask at the end: “I wonder who the real cannibals are!”).This is, bar none, the most revolting, weird and disturbing cannibal film I have ever seen.

Four ambitious, immature, arrogant and playful award-winning American documentary filmmakers–director Alan Yates (Gabriel Yorke), his scriptgirl girlfriend Faye Daniels (Francesca Ciardi), and cameramen Jack Danvers (Perry Perkinan) and Mark Tomaso (Luca Barbareschi)–are hired by a rating conscious TV network to take their act from NYC to the Green Inferno, the Amazon jungle in Colombia that borders Brazil, to film how the native cannibals live. When no word is heard from them after two months, NYU anthropology professor Harold Monroe (Robert Kerman, goes by the name Richard Bolla when he shoots porn films) is hired by the network to organize a rescue party and has the savvy local guide Chaco Losojos (Salvatore Basile) take him into the jungle where the cannibals live that the missing documentary filmmakers were filming. After many adventures, the hearty rescue group soon discover the skeletal remains of the filmmakers in the area where the cannibalistic Yamamoto tribe dwell. With that they scheme to befriend the tribe and take back with them the cans of film the dead filmmakers shot in order to see why they died.

The second half of the film, where most of the controversial graphic violence can be found, has the professor, asked to be the show’s host. He and the TV people view the film and argue whether or not to put it on the air as reality TV. The professor’s disdain comes after viewing the bloodbath and how the filmmakers were viewed as ugly Americans and only after sensationalism, as they arranged to burn down the tribe’s village to simulate a raid by the rival tribe in order to juice up the film and show them as brave guerrilla filmmakers.

The hypocrisy of this filmmaker in pointing his finger at others in the media as being exploiters, when he shoots an exploitation flick, is the kind of balls this seemingly disingenuous filmmaker displays that you either love or hate him for it. I can’t blame anyone for either ripping or being drawn to this film, for various reasons. For me it has a strange hypnotic lure that kept me entranced, but I never felt good about what I was seeing and in the end thought the violence was merely gratuitous. It has been banned for a long time until Grindhouse Releasing restored it on this DVD. I would never have banned it, but do question its aims as being less interested in spreading an anti-imperialist message than to be entertaining and creep out the viewer (something the well-made film accomplished). There is one thing, however, that you can’t defend about this controversial film and that’s the very real animal cruelty, and for that reason alone I can’t recommend it–it would almost be like recommending a snuff film.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”