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Jungle Holocaust (Special Edition) AKA Last Cannibal World / The Last Survivor / Ultimo mondo cannibale
Ruggero Deodato towers over the short-lived cannibal genre like a malignant god. I'm sure he's a decent person overall, and this early entry into the canon is a fine film as such things go. Artistic, brisk, and at times truly thrilling, Jungle Holocaust is somewhat light on people getting killed and eaten on camera, a staple of the cannibal movie diet, but it makes up for that in both degradation and animal killing.
Robert (Massimo Foschi) Harper's small plane crash-lands in the god-forsaken jungle with his peppy, drunken pilot, buddy Rolf (Ivan Rassimov), and the pilot's girlfriend. It's interesting to note the focus on the cursed, hated status of the jungle, as that filmic attitude extends towards its inhabitants. So feared are they, that when the girlfriend leaves the plane at night to pee, and immediately starts to scream, the helpful men all restrain each other from going out to help. As often happens when stranded in a jungle, things go to shit, resulting in Harper's capture by a tribe of cannibals who want only to humiliate him in as many ways as possible while torturing and killing live animals.
Deodato and cinematographer Marcello Masciocchi construct a well-oiled machine, conveying the scale and menace of the jungle with carefully crafted, beautifully framed shots. Those aspects are doubled-down on when poor Harper meets the tribe. As he's carried down a verdant canyon, the tribespeople loom above him, jeering from ledges like a crazed jury. If those shots don't have enough visual flair, those from inside the tribe's giant cave hideout will have you convinced. It's a perfect blend of natural and human-inspired awe and terror. So it goes for the rest of the film; shots are beautiful and terrible, effectively agitating, while the pacing and editing are top-notch.
The plot is a little thin, however. Harper is mocked, stripped, fondled, and pissed-upon. His fate is hinted at when the tribesmen drag out a living crocodile, stab it in the head, then proceed to cut it stem-to-stern, disemboweling it while it's still alive. But that's about it. Will Harper escape the same fate, with the helping hand of a tribeswoman (Me Me Lai) with breast implants?
You may never want to know. It's always hard to watch animals suffer for our pleasure, even if Deodato just assumed we'd want it. (This genuine carnage does certainly add an air of reality to the other gory bits, including a climactic feast that should satisfy most gore-hounds.) But for all that, Jungle Holocaust is a fine cannibal movie. It's brisk, beautiful, and barbaric. Deodato's themes may be simplistic, and at best ethnocentric as hell, but that's what you'd expect. This new, unrated Blu-ray release is Recommended on the basis of its position as a competently directed movie in a genre where that's a rarity. As a new release of a movie released on Blu-ray one year ago, by the same company, with fewer extras this time around, I'm at a loss. The earlier special edition is still available, it's just more expensive. I guess it comes down to whether you want to pay 10 dollars more for a commentary track and slip-cover. If not, this is the release for you!
The holocaust arrives, swinging its machete to chop down jungle fronds, in an HD scan from 2017, culled from several vault elements, and put together with extensive color correction. If this sounds familiar, it's because it doesn't appear there has been any upgrade since the 2019 Blu-ray edition. The unrated cut comes in a 2.35:1 ratio, which takes full advantage of great, ominous cinematography. The image clarity ranges due to shooting conditions and print elements. Grain appears at times, especially in darker scenes, but well-lit scenes deliver pretty sparkly clarity and detail. A little bit of scratching and speckling occurs upon occasion, for you sharp-eyed viewers, but it's not distracting. Colors appear quite natural, and boy is there a lot of nature on display. Naked natives, with natural skin tones and dried mud that looks quite real. Blood, both real and fake, is brilliant red. Jungle greens are rich, and black levels hold detail well.
2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio is on the whole just fine. The use of multiple vault elements (of necessity) reveals some skips and jumps in audio early on. The issues are minor and resolve themselves quite early on, but it is noticeable in the early going. For the rest, there is a little bit of hiss here and there, but dialog is overall clear, and music is mixed well.
Two Interviews are ported over from the 2019 release; 20 minutes with Massimo Foschi, and 6 minutes with Ivan Rasimov. Rasimov presents an imposing figure, in counterpoint to the clunky interviewer. Foschi takes the full 20 minutes to deliver 13-minutes worth of remembrances, as he struggles to find the right words in English. It becomes painful to slog through quickly, they ought to have let him speak in Italian and added subtitles. The Original Theatrical Trailer is presented, as is the R-Rated Version of the movie. I'm not sure what-all differences there are between the two cuts. The R-rated version is not animal-cruelty-free, that's for sure, as the poor crocodile is thoroughly dispatched in both cuts.
Jungle Holocaust reps Ruggero Deodato's early entry in the cannibal sub-genre. It's callous, cruel, and quite competent, featuring gorgeous photography and a compelling pace, despite having a slight plot. While there is plenty of gross degradation, and an ethnocentric (at best) attitude, the gut munching doesn't reach the heights of later cannibal movies. However, the animal cruelty is all there, so if you don't want to see living animals tortured and slaughtered, move on. Also, this release is identical to Code Red's 2019 Blu-ray of the movie, minus an extra or two, such as a commentary track, but it's 10-bucks cheaper, so there's that. If you shelled out in 2019, skip this. If you are on a budget, (this version currently retails for $19.99) this is more-or-less Recommended for cannibal completists.
- Kurt Dahlke