Cannibal Holocaust (1980)
By: Rip on March 15, 2016 | Comments
Siren Visual | Region Free | 1.85:1,1080p | English DTS-HD MA 2.0 | 95 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Ruggero Deodato
Stars: Robert Kerman, Gabriel Yorke, Francesca Ciardi, Perry Pirkanen, Luca Barbareschi,
Writers: Gianfranco Clerici
Country: Italy
When one hears the term, 'video nasty', there is one particular film that will always spring to mind. And that is Italian director Ruggero Deodato's notorious Cannibal Holocaust.

There have been many varying views over the years regarding the historical and cultural significance of Cannibal Holocaust, but one defining characteristic connects them all and that is the argumentative nature of the film. Is it groundbreaking? Is it an important cultural document or a comment on a society, devoid of morals? Possibly a remark on sensationalism in the media? The other angle sees the film as nothing but worthless rubbish, a literal wasteland of bankrupt filmmaking, offering nothing but sadistic shock value and completely devoid of any redeeming qualities. This school of thought presents director Ruggero Deodato in a very unfavourable light, and would rather he rot for all eternity in the depths of the sickening bile he unleashed upon the world. Whatever your views may be about Cannibal Holocaust, it remains undeniably one of the few films that questions your awareness and messes with your emotions. In the court of controversy, Cannibal Holocaust reigns supreme. Virtually no other film has so universally divided its audience. Simply put, it would stand as the ultimate study in futility to attempt a dissection of Cannibal Holocaust from an isolated and unbiased position. This film requires your reaction if nothing else. Delayed from distribution due to a protracted legal battle over content, Deodato was forced to defend himself in Italian court and on the international stage against charges ranging from the now infamous animal slaughters to speculation that he actually murdered both the principal actors, as well as the native Columbians during the making of the film. Ultimately, Deodato was successfully prosecuted under animal cruelty laws and, in addition to legal fees and fines, served a short prison sentence. And so the legend was born.

The true intensions of this film belie its deceptively simple concept; NYU university professor Monroe (Robert Kerman), is sent to the Amazon to determine the fate of a group of documentary filmmakers who were there to study remote cannibal tribes in an area known as 'The Green Inferno'. What Professor Monroe then discovers is incomprehensible. In an effort to capture more salacious footage, the documentary crew resorted to the rape, torture and murder of their subjects, only to subsequently meet that same fate themselves. The film is presented in two distinct parts, the first being the tale of Professor Monroe, which Deodato shot on 35-millimetre film stock, and the second is the tale of the lost crew. Their story is told through found footage shot entirely on 16-millimetre film. Famously, this same concept was later appropriated by the makers of The Blair Witch Project. Unlike the relative sterile nature of the Blair Witch footage, Cannibal Holocaust is a sensory overload of the highest order.

Banned virtually everywhere until only recently, and still censored in countries such as the United Kingdom, Cannibal Holocaust is a well made and arguably worthwhile piece of cinematic history. On a base rudimentary level, the film-making itself is solid. The script is well paced, offering its audience precious little opportunity to relent from the action and the performances (even though they're dubbed, as was the norm for Italian cinema back then) are naturalistic and believable.

One of the stand-out elements in Cannibal Holocaust is composer Riz Ortolani's mournful and often genuinely moving score that plays in stark contrast to what is taking place on the screen. Once heard with the accompanying visuals, it is never forgotten.

Overall, the film certainly stands as the pinnacle of the cannibal movie sub-genre, eclipsing its often compared and trashy counterpart Cannibal Ferox (though admittedly this reviewer does find that film a good slice of exploitation fun). The true success of Cannibal Holocaust as a motion picture is the tight scripting. Shooting the film without the unnecessary animal slaughter may not have made it the international legend that it has become, but it would still be an arguably better production than the multitude of other similar films that came before and after it. Cannibal Holocaust remains reprehensible in many ways (by creating the havoc on camera with actual animal slaughter, etc, director Deodato unwittingly completes the character arc of his own film; these same acts are committed by some of the characters and are part of the principal argument Professor Monroe is attempting to address in the movie's narrative, which in turn makes Deodato something of a hypocrite), but it does carry a genuinely serious intent in the way it plays out. While hardly original or subtle, the message in Cannibal Holocaust is one that is harshly critical of the West's idea about 'progress' and 'civilisation', implying that there is ultimately very little to separate us from the indigenous tribes we feel so superior to.
The Disc
Siren Visual's Australian blu-ray release of Cannibal Holocaust is a virtual carbon copy of the American version by Grindhouse Releasing. And that's a good thing. This AVC encoded 1080p 1.85:1 framed BD is presented uncut and it blows every other release of the film right out of the water. Of course, the transfer doesn't look like a modern release due to the film's age, budget and natural rawness, but given that, what we have here is pretty damn good. If you've seen the movie enough times, you'll notice the HD upgrade immediately. Colours are bright without being oversaturated, and blacks are nice and deep. There is some print damage here and there, but it's very minimal, and there is plenty of detail-defining grain on display. Noise reduction, edge enhancement and compression artifacts are nowhere to be seen. Obviously, there are differences between the 'found footage' sequences and the rest of the movie, but that's quite intentional.

Audio is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, as well as DTS-HD Master Audio Mono. Both tracks are good, but the stereo remix really opens up the film's iconic score. There is considerable depth on display, with sound effects and dialogue nicely balanced. Given the film's age and budget, there are no problems with distortion, etc. It should also be noted that there are no subtitles or alternate language tracks on offer.

Disc 1 contains two cuts of the film, the first of which is a completely uncensored version, and then a second Animal Cruelty Free version that allows the viewer to opt out of the portions of the film containing actual animal slaughter. This is done via seamless branching and is the same transfer as the stronger cut of the movie. Although watching the film this way dilutes the impact, it's more than understandable why some viewers would prefer this version of the movie over the uncut version (this reviewer actually opted for the 'Animal Cruelty Free' version the second time around and can report that it is indeed quite seamless).

Then we have two audio commentaries, one with director Ruggero Deodato and star Robert Kerman and the other with actors Gabriel Yorke and Francesca Ciardi, moderated by Calum Waddell and Mike Baronas. Both of these tracks are very revealing and well worth your time.

Then we have The Last Road To Hell sequence (1:44). Presented in standard definition, here we see the two additional shots that were not in the final version of the movie as Professor Monroe sits inside an editing room reviewing some of the footage taken by the documentary crew.

Next up is a total of 5 trailers for Cannibal Holocaust that show how it was marketed for the very few countries it originally played in.

Disc 2 features the following cast and crew interview segments, most of which are quite lengthy:

Ruggero Deodato: Rumble In The Jungle. The director discusses his 'Rainforest Terror' trilogy of films, Last Cannibal World, Cannibal Holocaust and Cut And Run, as well as the production of Cannibal Holocaust itself and how the animal cruelty came about, the difficulties of the shoot, financing and the court battle of 'realism'. This interview is carried over from the previous special edition DVD release.

Robert Kerman Exposed. Also carried over is this chat with the film's lead actor who discusses his career, how he became involved with the production, the controversy and working in the jungle with Ruggero Deodato.

Alan Yates Uncovered. A talk with Gabriel Yorke who plays Alan Yates from the documentary crew depicted in the film.

Franceska Ciardi: Queen Of The Cannibals. A new interview with the actress who discusses her experiences playing the female lead. And she doesn't hold back.

Roberto Forges Davanzati: Blood on the Camera Lense. Another new interview, this time with the film's director of photography.

Salvo Basile Interview. A particularly interesting conversation with the actor who plays the cameraman in the film.

Riz Ortolani Interview. A chat with the man who composed the film's unforgettable score, also carried over from the previous SE-DVD.

Franceska Ciardi Q&A In Glasgow. A live-on-stage question and answer session with the actress.

Ruggero Deodato Panel: Cinema Wasteland Yorke and Deodato Reunion. Recorded at a 2009 Fangoria convention showing the actor and director who had been estranged since completing the film.

Plus the following photo galleries: Still Galleries, Productions Stills, Behind The Scenes, Promotional Gallery, VHS Gallery.

NB: If you own the previous SD-DVD release by Grindhouse Releasing or Siren Visual, you may wish to hang on to it for the hour-long documentary, In The Jungle The Making of Cannibal Holocaust, as it is unfortunately not carried over to this BD release.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Rugger Deodato's infamous Cannibal Holocaust is the granddaddy of all cannibal movies, and its importance and place in cinema history cannot be overstated. The moral questions raised in the film about the media and our bloodthirsty society in 1979 have only been made more poignant through the passage of time. Though difficult to watch, Cannibal Holocaust demands to be seen and Siren Visual's wonderful 2-disc blu-ray release is the only way to experience it.
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