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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 7/7/00

Cannibal Ferox
(aka Make Them Die Slowly)

1981 (2000) - Grindhouse Releasing (Image)

review by Todd Doogan of The Digital Bits

Cannibal Ferox Film Rating: D

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): C/B+/A

Specs and Features

93 mins, NR, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), single-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, audio commentary with director Umberto Lenzi and star John Morghen interview with Umbert Lenzi, 3 theatrical trailers, cast and crew biographies and filmographies, still gallery, liner notes by Bill Landis, complete text filmography for Lenzi on reverse side of jacket art, film-themed menu screens with animation and sound, scene access (50 chapters), languages: English and Italian (DD 2.0), subtitles: none

"Cannibalism doesn't exist. It has never existed."

So... I just watched this flick Cannibal Ferox. Can't say I liked it much. In fact, I didn't like it at all. I never saw the film before I got the disc from Image, and I'm still trying to figure out why all my life people have been telling me that I need to see this film. Not just need, but NEED. Why? Don May, Jr. showed me the trailer for the film a few years back and I have to admit that based on the trailer alone, Ferox looks pretty cool. A little stomach churning, but cool nonetheless. I think that's going to be the general consensus out in the world now that this DVD is going mainstream. People that haven't seen it are going to have the chance and sadly, I think many are going to be disappointed. There's a reason that this film hasn't been more mainstream - it's not very good. But hey - that's my opinion. I'll set it up so you can judge yourself.

Ferox follows two parallel stories that end up crossing in the middle of the film. One is about Gloria (an anthropology student), her brother Rudy and Pat (a nympho with "dead meat" scrawled on her head). They are in the wilds of the Amazon to finally put to rest the notion that man could eat man. They are killing the legend of the cannibal (cue dire music). They bump into the parallel story in the form of Mike (John Morghen) and Joe, two ne'er-do-wells bopping around in the jungle looking for emeralds. There's a certain beadiness to their eyes, so there may be some other truth going on there. Oh, hell... why am I being so allusive? What do I care, it's not going to spoil anything. The truth is, these guys are two coke dealers form New York City who are hiding out from the mob over a very bad deal. They come to the Amazon (I guess because Detroit was too hostile) to hide out and score some emeralds. But when they finally get their hands on the cache, Mike goes nutsoid and kills some tribesmen who now want revenge. It seems that the younger quotient of the clan where out on a hunt, and when they get back there's going to be a huge Italian supper cooked up.

The "fun" of the film, if we can call it that, is in the effects, which are quite impressive. You get a real looking eye gouge, two "whack jobs" (errrr...), a hanging by breasts (ouch!), the top of a guy's head getting cut off and some piranha thrown in for good measure. As bad as the acting, dialogue and set-ups are, the effects are pretty damn good. You WILL feel whatever meal you ate last coming up - I would suggest you not eat pizza anywhere close to viewing this film.

Well, there you go. It doesn't get any better on the film side, so let's look at the disc. This is the first DVD from the good folks over at Grindhouse Releasing. They came into this as a laserdisc outfit, which notably released this and The Beyond, and fans ate it up. They did good work, and now they're throwing their hat into the DVD ring. Good for them. Now personally, I think if they were going to do that, they SHOULD have jumped in with The Beyond. It's a much better film (more eye violence than this one, although as I stated above there is some impressive eye violence contained in Ferox). But they didn't and I'm left to review this one, so here goes.

The video quality is not very good. Is it because of the grainy print, NTSC noise and residual digital artifacting? Yes. Things aren't going well, when right from the start, the menu screen shimmers and vibrates because of line enhancement. The animated menus, by the way, are actually pretty neat. The open, and the individual selected menus have some humorous animations like "John Morghen's" character getting his head cut off and put back on with a spear. As disgusting as that is, it's awfully cute. Anyway, the film's video quality isn't very impressive. I've never seen the laserdisc (this being the first time I've ever seen the film as I said) so I can't compare. What we have here is a very gritty looking film, and that's fine - it was a low budget, guerilla shot flick, so some grain is to be expected. But grain this bad doesn't translate digitally all that well. Is the film unwatchable? Not at all - if you have the stomach for it, and a less discerning eye, you might find the picture quality to be good. I, on the other hand, get paid to see and hear every problem there is, and it gets to be a pain in the ass. So movies like this stick out like a sore thumb... or a gouged out eye, in salute to this film.

The sound quality is fine. It's a standard stereo track and it plays through the speakers nicely. You can listen in English or Italian, with no subtitles. Both tracks sound good, with the English track only slightly "damp" compared to the Italian track. But if you're watching this, you're not here for the sound. One of the audio extras is a good commentary track featuring director Umberto Lenzi and "John Morghen". It's a very fun conversational track. Morghen seems to be enjoying himself and Lenzi is pretty fact filled. His Italian accent is a bit thick... but he's Italian, so we'll forgive him for that.

The other extras included on this disc are also pretty good. If you happen to be a fan of this film and haven't seen the laserdisc, you might have a good reason to pick it up. There's a complete filmography behind the outer jacket art listing everything you could think of as well as some poster art. Inside the case is a foldout poster for Ferox, along with an essay by Bill Landis acting as a Times Square authority and witness to the film's New York premier. On the disc itself you'll find three trailers (the American, German and Italian versions) and all are pretty much the same and all pretty stomach churning. The fun is in the subtle differences shown throughout each market. You also get a whole bunch of poster art, stills and publicity material gathered from around the world. Some of these lobby cards are gross man. How the hell they were displayed in theaters is beyond my comprehension... but here they are in all their glory. Yick. There are some bios and filmographies for the cast and crew, a DVD credits index and a Grindhouse Releasing ad on the disc, so you can find out more information about these guys. Oh... and you'll also find a videotaped interview with Lenzi conducted in his office, which is pretty cool. You'll find that in his biography section. It's really a nice little package, when you get right down to it. I wish more films got this treatment, extras-wise. About the only thing I REALLY have qualms about with the whole disc are the chapter listings. DON'T, I repeat DO NOT, read them before you watch the film if you've never seen it before. Every plot point is listed in full text. You could literally read the entire film by scanning the 50 chapter stops on the insert.

This film is certainly not for everyone and the people it is for aren't universally going to be happy. But the extras make up for certain video problems, so if you're a fan, I wouldn't stay away. If you're just among the curious, rent it before you buy. And if you're a huge fan and don't own the film in any format you might want to consider getting the DVD and the original laserdisc. The original laser release came with everything on this DVD, except that it also has a barf bag, a 35 rpm album featuring themes from the film and video footage from the New York premier. And you can still find it from Blackest Heart Media. Order your copy today, you gorehound you.

Todd Doogan

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