Tuesday, June 2, 2015

CANNIBAL FEROX (Blu-ray Review) - Grindhouse Releasing

Directed By: Umberto Lenzi
Written By: Umberto Lenzi
Starring: Giovanni Lombardo Radice, Lorraine De Selle, Danilo Mattei
Color/93 Minutes/Unrated
Region A
Release Date: May 26, 2015

The Film
It recently hit me that the Italian cannibal films of the 1970s and 80s were very similar to the rise of the "torture porn" craze the horror genre was hit with in the mid 2000s. While films like Last Cannibal World, Cannibal Holocaust and CANNIBAL FEROX all centered around outsiders meeting various gruesome and barbaric ends at the hands of native tribes in various jungle settings, films like Saw and Hostel gave birth to a trend of films where the narrative of the film allowed the film to be confined to a single location and have the victims of the film tortured as they fight for their survival. While the settings and periods of those genres are very different, they both made their money on pushing the envelope of sadistic violence and being exploitative while the films followed similar narrative themes and patterns without putting too much worry into creating anything meaningful.

Of course there are exceptions as with Cannibal Holocaust which is one of the most poignant films ever made and Saw which was a pretty damn good film that has unfortunately had to deal with being part of a rather dreadful subgenre of films and being the first film in a franchise that quickly became total fucking shit in every way. Then there are those films that are perfectly happy doing nothing really new except trying to ramp up the violence and sleaze to make a buck. Like the Saw sequels, I largely lump CANNIBAL FEROX into that group. But that doesn't mean I don't love it.

Umberto Lenzi created this subgenre of horror film in 1972 with The Man From Deep River and thus began a minor movement in the Italian film industry that would last a good 15 years or so. It never got to the point where cannibal films were being pumped out like spaghetti westerns or gialli were but   these movies became a way to make a little bit of money so on average a couple of films per year were shot in various exotic locations and packed with racial stereotypes, animal cruelty, nudity and plenty of gore. Some of these movies were poorly made and remain as examples as little more than cheap bandwagon filmmaking but others were made with skill and solid technique whether they had any artistic merit or not.

It's tough to say exactly when the height of popularity was for the cannibal genre as there weren't enough films made to really call it a boom period but if I was forced to put a label on it I'd say that CANNIBAL FEROX came out right at the end of the non-existant boom. I figure a year after Cannibal Holocaust is good enough reason as any to call it the end of height as there was no bigger or better film in the cycle than Cannibal Holocaust. FEROX certainly gives CH a run for its money in terms of boundary pushing though. Giovanni Lombardo Radice might not be quite as bad as the group in CH but he's no fucking angel. One genital slicing scene is enough to tell you that. The gore in FEROX is nasty with brains and balls being served up and breasts being impaled. You won't be finding these types of nipple piercings or prince alberts at your local Piercing Pagoda.

Umberto Lenzi is no slouch when it comes to directing films. The man made some fine films and FEROX is no different. No, it is not an important commentary and yes, it comes off as a big Cannibal Holocaust cash grab but it still features solid performances, good camera work and great special effects work with a script that is solid enough to keep things moving along at a nice pace. Add in a soundtrack that I find to be criminally underrated and overlooked by Budy Maglione and CANNIBAL FEROX is a film I really love. It's sleazy, it's sweaty and it certainly isn't for everybody.

The Audio & Video
Grindhouse Releasing has done it again with another stunning release. The 16x9 anamorphic widescreen transfer comes from a new 2K scan of the original camera negative. The image has a very film like quality with a natural looking grain structure. Detail levels are strong in surfaces and textures while skin tones are fleshy without any sign of waxiness. There's no edge enhancement or DNR noticeable and colors are vibrant. There are options for an Italian language track with the original mono mix or an English track with a new DTS-HD stereo mix. I opted for the English track and it sounds brilliantly crisp and clean. There's not a hint of damage and the audio comes across crystal clear with a perfect balance between the dialogue and soundtrack.

The Extras
Like a baked potato, or a stoner, or any other thing would be LOADED, this release is stacked... like Jenga or pancakes. Okay, enough of that.

-Audio commentary with Umberto Lenzi and Giovanni Lombardo Radice
-Deleted Footage lost for over 30 years (can be inserted into the film for seamless viewing!)
-"Eaten Alive: The Rise And Fall Of The Italian Cannibal Film" - A feature length documentary examining the Italian cannibal film cycle featuring the men and women who made the movies and various critics (a must watch!)
-Interviews with writer/director Umberto Lenzi, stars Giovanni Lombardo Radice, Danilo Mattei, Zora Kerowa and special effects master Gino DeRossi
-Original Italian theatrical trailers
-Original US theatrical trailers
-Original Germa theatrical trailers
-Extensive stills and poster art gallery
-Liner notes booklet
-Umberto Lenzi filmography
-Soundtrack CD
-Easter eggs

The Bottom Line
If there was a Mt. Rushmore for cult film home video labels Grindhouse Releasing would have a spot on that monument. With each release they further their legendary status as one of the premiere labels that all other labels strive to be and their release of CANNIBAL FEROX is no different.


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