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Arguably one of the most controversial imports of all time, Umberto Lenzi's Cannibal Ferox (aka Make Them Die Slowly) is an ugly, vile, and wholly unpleasant experience. But I guess that's kind of what they were shooting for, so it'd be hard to say the movie's actually a "failure." But really, and this is coming from a hardcore horror fan of 30+ years, this is one seriously nasty movie.
You're certainly not about to sit down with Cannibal Ferox looking for half-decent camerawork, interesting characters, engaging stories or anything resembling quality filmmaking, so let's cut right to the chase: This is the one with all the nasty-ass animal violence; rodents get squooshed by snakes, turtles get their poors limbs chopped off, gators get sliced & diced... Basically, one-third of this movie is a documentary about the culinary habits of Brazilian natives. Unfortunately, the other two-thirds contain dialogue.
Pay no attention to the three or four scenes that take place in New York; they have nothing at all to do with the movie. The main "plot" of the affair sees three Americans traveling into the wilds of Brazil, and get this: Their mission is to prove that cannibalism doesn't exist! Oh, the chinzty exploitational irony of it all! So these three young idiots run across a pair of amazingly vicious basards who've enslaved a tribe of natives! Then, after much animal violence, the natives strike back! And when I say "strike" and "back," I also mean "slice" and "genitals." If I told you that the castration sequence wasn't the ugliest scene in Cannibal Ferox, that's probably all you need to know. You'll either head out to the video store tomorrow or avoid the movie forever -- and unless you're a hearty horror expert like yours truly, I'd definitely recommend the latter option. (And when I say "expert" I really mean "monumental nerd.")
For all its infamy and well-documented nastiness, I seem to dislike Cannibal Ferox for a relatively novel reason: It's poorly-made, it's not very interesting, and it's really quite dull during the numerous stretches in which things aren't being stabbed, sliced, impaled, or disemboweled. From the gorehound's perspective, the thing's got gravy to spare -- but it's all so ugly and base and exploitative, there's really no good way to enjoy the misshapen little mass.
Video: Frankly I'm amazed a movie this grungy could look so good. I'm not saying we're near Pixar-level quality (far from it, although this might be the first Ferox review in history to have the word "Pixar" in it), but for something this cheap and dated and grindhouse-tastic, the transfer is pretty darn solid.
NOTE: My apologies for not being more specific: Although the back of the DVD cover does promise a new "wide screen digital transfer," the fact is that this is a non-anamorphic DVD. The picture quality may be an improvement over previous releases, but I've had a few questions from readers, so I wanted to clarify those specs.
Audio: Choose between the English or original Italian track, 2.0 either way. Audio quality is just fine. And nasty.
Director Umberto Lenzi and actor John Morghen participate in a feature-length audio commentary that should cause much salivation among the Italian horror historians. Once you get used to the somewhat thick accents, you'll find a lot of fascinating trivis about the movie. Morghen actually admits being ashamed of the movie, while Mr. Lenzi delivers backstage info and semi-apologies in equal measure.
Also included are three Ferox trailers (Italian, American & German), a stills gallery (ew), and some bios.
If your wife ever comes home from work and says "Oh man am I in the mood for an early '80s cannibal movie in which real animals are actually slaughtered and bad actors have their wangs sliced off," well, now you know what to get her for Christmas.
Rent It if you're that curious; all others can safely avoid and still lead a perfectly happy life.