Friday, March 27, 2015

Cannibal Holocaust - Grindhouse Releasing Blu-ray review

Cannibal Holocaust
Italy, 1980
Directed by Ruggero Deodato
Written by Gianfranco Clerici 
Cast: Robert Kerman, Carl Gabriel York, Francesca Ciardi, Perry Pirkanen, Luca Barbareschi, Salvatore Basile

Label - Grindhouse Releasing
Release Date - July 1, 2014
Running Time - 1.35.44
Aspect Ratio - 1.85:1
Video - 1080p, AVC
Audio - English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stero, English DTS-HD MA 1.0 Mono
Region Code - Region Free

Four young American filmmakers travel to the Amazon jungles to shoot a documentary about the last surviving cannibal tribes. After some time when the contact is lost with the film crew, Professor Monroe (Robert Kerman) is sent to the jungles to find the film crew. Risking their own lives, Professor and his crew locate the remains of the filmmakers and the film they shot. Professor manages to take the film back to New York. The TV company that financed both the filmmakers’ and Professor Monroe’s expeditions want to show the documentary on their channel but Professor tells them they should watch it before putting the footage on the air. When they watch it the producers order to burn the film… 

In 1972 Umberto Lenzi made the first Italian cannibal movie – Il paese del sesso selvaggio a.k.a. Deep River Savages, a.k.a. The Man from the Deep River about a photographer (Ivan Rassimov) who goes to the jungles of Thailand and ended up captured by the native savages and kept in the jungles as a prisoner. 5 years later, in 1977 Ruggero Deodato continued the story of a white man captured by primitive savages in Ultimo mondo cannibale a.k.a. Last Cannibal World, a.k.a. Jungle Holocaust. The “cannibal boom” was starting and in the same year Joe D’Amato the infamous director of such classic Eurohorror films as Buio omega (1979) a.k.a. Beyond the Darkness and Anthropophagus (1980) made his cannibal movie - Emanuelle e gli ultimi cannibali a.k.a. Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals. The next year Sergio Martino would film La montagna del dio cannibal a.k.a. The Mountain of the Cannibal God. 

It was clear that there was a huge market for such films and Deodato’s first cannibal movie was so successful that the director was constantly being asked to make another cannibal movie. But at that time Deodato was busy with other projects and wasn’t interested in making another cannibal film. But in the end some German producers convinced him and gave him all the money he would need for shooting. Deodato invited Franco Palaggi to co-produce the film. Deodato had worked with Palaggi before and was well aware of his organizing capabilities. The idea of the film came to Deodato when he discussed with his son the mass media of Italy. Especially the constant coverage of the activities of Brigade Rosse a terrorist organization that was active in Italy from the early 70’s to the late 80’s. Deodato noticed that the mass media was more interested in the bloody acts rather than the ideology of that organization. Here's a quote from a dialogue between Professor Monroe and one of the TV Executives:

“Today people want sensationalism, the more you rape their senses the happier they are”.

For the cast, Deodato chose young unknown students from the Actor’s Studio in New York. It was said in their contracts that after completing Cannibal Holocaust they couldn’t make another movie for a year. The students were cast for the roles of the missing documentary filmmakers. For the role of Professor Monroe Deodato invited the famous porn actor of the 70’s Robert Kerman famous for Debbie Does Dallas (1978). Kerman would use the pseudonym of R. Bolla for his porn films.

Cannibal Holocaust was shot in Leticia, Colombia. Technically it’s film within a film. One of the granddaddies of the “found footage” horror movies. And because of that the first part was filmed in 35mm film and the second part, the found footage in 16mm film. Deodato wanted Cannibal Holocaust to look very realistic and he certainly succeeded in it. The special effects look horrifyingly real, so real that after the premiere of the movie Deodato was accused of killing real people in his film. There’s also the million times the animal violence in the film was discussed. I won’t start another discussion on animal violence in my review. The director shot it 35 years ago and it’s a part of a movie. I’ll just say that Grindhouse Releasing cleverly offer two versions of the film with and without animal violence. Make your own choice when watching it. 

The beautiful soundtrack was written by Riz Ortolani. According to Deodato he was thinking a lot what soundtrack to choose for his film. The editor of the film and he tried different kinds of music but nothing worked. In the end Deodato thought the film needed soft and gentle music contrary to the powerful and shocking images the film offers. He decided to ask Riz Ortolani, the famous Italian composer to score Cannibal Holocaust. Ortolani had scored Mondo Cane. Deodato was shy to talk to Ortolani himself and asked the producer Franco Palaggi to talk to him. Eventually Ortolani was invited to a screening of Cannibal Holocaust. After watching the film he told Deodato that he was a genius and agreed to compose the soundtrack for the film. The end result is one of the most beautiful piece of music you could hear watching a gory exploitation movie.

When the movie was opened in Italy it was a huge success. But the theatrical run lasted only for 10 days. Because the movie was super violent and the special effects were shockingly real the movie was pulled in and Deodato was called to the court. He was accused of killing real people on the set. Deodato had no other choice but to call the members of the cast to show the judge they were alive. After that problems arose with the animal violence. Eventually Cannibal Holocaust was banned. In order to sell the movie the producers and the director changed the title of the movie. 

The film did very good in other countries. Especially in Asia. In Japan it was released at the same time as E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Cannibal Holocaust made $21 million, absolutely fantastic money for a low budget exploitation movie! An interesting story happened in Spain during the theatrical run of the movie. Cannibal Holocaust was doing OK in Spain, nothing special but a magazine was published in France suggesting everything was real in the movie, in other words Cannibal Holocaust was a snuff movie. So a lot of people decided to watch the film to see what’s going on in that snuff movie. And Cannibal Holocaust did great business in Spain too.

Shocking, violent and gory, Cannibal Holocaust is a milestone of exploitation cinema. A unique nihilistic achievement.


Cannibal Holocaust arrives on a three disc deluxe edition from the fine folks at Grindhouse Releasing. The main feature is on the first disc, a 25GB Blu-ray disc. Prior this release there were a couple of European Blu-rays available, all of them looking like garbage with excessive scanner noise, awful DNR and other digital manipulations.

Encoded in 1080p AVC, the 1.85:1 framed picture looks spectacular. Finally we have a Blu-ray of this movie that has a proper filmic looking healthy layer of film grain instead of the scanner noise that plagued and still does so many vintage Italian movies. Colors are rich and well balanced. No problems with compression and DNR. I didn’t notice edge enhancement and other digital manipulations. There are some signs of film damage and specks but it’s never distracting. There’s a noticeable change in visuals between the first and the second parts of the movie. But the viewers must not forget Cannibal Holocaust was filmed in 35mm and 16mm films. Overall a top-notch effort from Grindhouse Releasing.


We have two audio options.  The original English mono mix in DTS-HD MA and the newly remixed DTS-HD MA in stereo. Both soundtracks sound impressive, absolutely no problems here. Just sit back and enjoy the marvelous soundtrack by Riz Ortolani.


On the first disc we have the following extras:

Audio commentary with Ruggero Deodato and Robert Kerman. This audio commentary is ported over Grindhouse Releasing's DVD edition of Cannibal Holocaust.

Audio commentary with Gabriel York and Francesca Ciardi. Unlike the first commentary this one is new to this release. Both commentaries are very interesting and informative.

The Last Road to Hell - the extended version of the documentary made by Alan Yates and co. presented in SD.
International, German, US and Italian trailers, all in HD.

On the second disc we have the following extras:

Interview with Ruggero Deodato - In this 58 minute interview Ruggero Deodato talks about his 3 jungle movies; Jungle Holocaust, Cannibal Holocaust and Cut and Run. Very interesting and informative. New to this release and presented in HD.

Robert Kerman Exposed - This 35 minute interview with the actor is again carried over from the DVD. Presented in SD.

Alan Yates Uncovered - Interview with Gabriel York. Gabriel tells how he got the role, about filming Cannibal Holocaust and many interesting stories. Ported over the DVD, presented in SD, runs for 56 minutes.

Queen of the Cannibals - Interview with Francesca Ciardi. New to this release and presented in HD. The actress remembers shooting Cannibal Holocaust, her relationship with cast and crew, etc. Runs for 38 minutes.

Welcome to the Jungle Blood Machine - Interview with Salvatore Basile. Presented in HD. In this 30 minute interview Salvatore tells many interesting stories concerning Cannibal Holocaust.

Interview with Riz Ortolani - Ported over from the DVD this 5 minutes interview with the late maestro is presented in SD. 

Blood on the Camera Lens - Interview with cinematographer Roberto Forges Davanzati, presented in HD, 12 minutes.

Ruggero Deodato at Cinema Wasteland, 2011 - Deodato talks about his films and career, about animal cruelty etc. HD, 28 minutes.

Francesca Ciardi Q&A - Presented in HD, 11 minutes.

Ruggero Deodato and Gabriel Yorke reunion at a Fangoria convention - Presented in SD, 10 minutes.

Ruggero Deodato and Robert Kerman reunion - Presented in SD, 9 minutes.

Picture Galleries:

 Production Stills - 97 pics
 Behind the Scenes - 34 pics
 Promotional Materials from various countries - 108 pics
 Video Releases - 65 pics
 Mondo Cannibal - 70 pics

Grindhouse Release trailers of Cannibal Ferox, The Beyond, Pieces, An American Hippie in Israel, Corruption, The Big Gundown, The Swimmer, Massacre Mafia Style, Gone with the Pope, Ice House, Scum of the Earth, Cat in the Brain, The Tough Ones and I Drink Your Blood.

Production Credits

On the third disc we get the CD of the full soundtrack of Cannibal Holocaust by Riz Ortolani.

I don't know the reason but Grindhouse Releasing didn't include the excellent In the Jungle: The Making of Cannibal Holocaust a 63 minutes documentary that can be found on their 25th Anniversary 2 disc Deluxe Edition DVD.

There are also a couple of Easter Eggs. 

A very informative booklet inside the packaging.

Final Thoughts

Cannibal Holocaust isn't an easy film to recommend to anyone. It's brutal, violent, and very gory. It features real animal violence but at the same time it's a masterpiece of European Exploitation Cinema, one of a kind. Timeless classic. I can't find enough words to express my gratitude towards Grindhouse Releasing. I can't imagine how any label can top this release. Masterful job by Grindhouse, bravo!

Please support Grindhouse Releasing by purchasing Cannibal Holocaust Blu-ray from DiabolikDVD.

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