Cannibal Holocaust (1980)
R0 - Scandinavia - Another World Entertainment/Firebox
Review written by and copyright: Jari Kovalainen (7th August 2006).
The Film

***This section is taken from my earlier review of the R0 “25th Anniversary Collector´s Edition” from “Grindhouse Releasing”, which can be found HERE. “Video”, “Audio”, “Extras”, and “Overall” -sections are completely new.*** :


There are some films, which are called “notorious”. There are some films, which have such a reputation that some people simply haven´t dare to see them. There are some films, which others simply hate, but others love. There are films, which will be talked and debated probably forever. “Cannibal Holocaust” by the Italian director Ruggero Deodato is such a film, living up to its reputation; for the good, and unfortunately for the bad also.

Two horror “sub-genres” in the Italian exploitation cinema had the tendency to find those certain limits, of how much can you show on the screen, and how much violence and killing can you deliver for the audience. “Nazi exploitation films” and “Cannibal films” really tested those limits, making them a few of those sub-genres in the horror films, where even some of the biggest horror-fans don´t always want to see them. Cannibal films took some influences from the Italian “Mondo films”, often adding documentary-feel to achieve certain “autenthic look” to the film and such way make the scenes even more rugged. Films were obviously set in some distant places in the jungle, where regular western people meet the primitive cultures and savage cannibals. And kill and get killed. “Deep River Savages AKA Il Paese del sesso selvaggio (1972)” by another well remembered director Umberto Lenzi was the first cannibal film and there were many others after that, but “Cannibal Holocaust” is generally considered as THE film of the genre. And indeed, if you see it, you´ll remember it.

The plot of the film is actually a quite simple, but inventive one (it´s mentioned in the extras also, but “The Blair Witch Project (1999)” is probably taken their basic idea from this film). Four young documentary filmmakers; Alan Yates (Carl Gabriel Yorke), Faye Daniels (Francesca Ciardi), Jack Anders (Perry Pirkanen), Mark Tomasso (Luca Barbareschi), and their guide Felipe Ocanya (Ricardo Fuentes) head to the Amazon jungle in South America, to make a documentary film about the cannibal tribes that are living there. They disappear. The film actually starts from the point where these filmmakers are already lost in the jungle, and New York Anthropologist, Professor Harold Monroe (Robert Kerman) is keen to go in the Amazons to look for them, to find out what happened. This “search team” consist also a guide Chaco Losojos (Salvatore Basile) and his young right hand man. The basic structure of “Cannibal Holocaust” consist two trips to the Amazons; first made by the “rescue team”, and the other made by the “filmmakers” who disappeared, and their story is shown when the footage that they had been shot is found and projected in New York.

“Cannibal Holocaust” is stretching the boundaries of good taste and what is actually wise to shown on the screen. The infamous reputation of the film comes from the various scenes of violence, rape and killing, which happen in the jungle. At the first part of the film (“rescue team”), the characters and also the viewer look at things mainly from the outside, observing the cruel life of the tribes and their hostile attitude towards their own people and other tribes, but in the second part of the film the viewer is sucked inside the fate of the young filmmakers, also questioning their motives and ways of making their documentary. These various vicious images and the cruel behavior of people are both the strength and the weakness of the film. I doubt that anyone can deny how powerful and also disturbing experience the film is, making the viewer glued to the seat, watching the screen while feeling sick at the same time. Many people probably have certain “love-hate”-feel towards the film, mixed package, but there are also those who feel nothing but hate, at least when the certain scenes are shown in the screen.

Yes, the issue that always is raised when people are talking about “Cannibal Holocaust” (and also certain other films in this genre) is that they include some scenes of real animal violence. There are as many point of views of looking at this issue as there are people writing about the film, but personally the film would´ve been better without those scenes, making the film more honest by using only cinematic tricks instead of the “real ones”. It can´t be denied though, that those scenes makes the whole film even more unsettling, so if you take those scenes away, the film lose something about its disturbing effectiveness (then again, there are plenty of left). The big question is probably that why those scenes had to be actually shown on the screen (I mean as history of cinema has taught us several times, sometimes “less is more”), but I guess director Deodato wanted to push that envelope, making the film as disturbing and memorable as possible. And well, he succeeded. If you want to find at least some arguments to justify those scenes (I doubt they can never be truly justified), that could be the general message that “Cannibal Holocaust” is trying to make (in my opinion at least); Man is perhaps the greediest and most vicious animal of them all, trying to exploit every corner of the world no matter what the cost is. At this film, the man is also paying the price for its violent behavior towards the weaker tribes in the Amazons. On the related note I have to add, that they don´t “kill animals” nor there are violent scenes every five minutes in the film, fortunately.

Since the word “censorship” has been raised, this is the film that knows everything about it. From the day it was released it has been the nr.1 subject when it comes to film censorship or the films that were “banned” in certain countries, and I doubt that we´re ever going to see this one uncut e.g. in the UK. Its reputation has been carried to the more recent times, since e.g. “Grindhouse” was having some obstacles with their DVD also, and e.g. several printers refused to handle the artwork of the release.

The ultimate strength of the film is the fact that it really goes under your skin, making you uncomfortable, scared, shocked, and curious. The “documentary style” on the second part of the film is very well done, and the actors (no matter how young and inexperienced they might be) does a pretty good job of portraying their emotions, when they quickly turn into the mean spirited exploiters, creating violence and mayhem for the “sake of art” which eventually turn against them. Some of the bloody make-up effects worked also great, and documentary camera style added that “realism” in the play.

Another aspect of the film worth mentioning is the powerful score by composer Riz Ortolani, which support the story very well. It has been wise from Ortolani not to make the film full of typical “nature and tropical themes”, but rather make his own score based on what´s happening in the screen. No wonder that OST of this film is highly regarded.

In the end, I have to use the old phrase “this film is not for everyone”, but I also have to say that there´s more in this film than just violence and explicit scenes. If you really want to find out what, you have to be brave and see the film for yourself. I can guarantee that it´s the cinematic experience that you might haven´t seen before, and which you won´t forget in any time soon. But remember: You have been warned.

Video

New player in the field of horror and exploitation DVDs, “Another World Entertainment” from Denmark, has now done a big favour for many people by releasing some of the cornerstones of the European cult cinema for the Scandinavian viewers. One of their first releases is the grand-daddy of them all; “Cannibal Holocaust (1980)”, which is presented in Anamorphic 1.85:1. Since I´ve been following the debates of the “Last Road to Hell”-sequence (from the film) over the internet for quite some time now, I guess I can start by saying that this version indeed includes the “longer” version of that sequence, including a few additional shots that were missing from most of the other releases, including the one from “Grindhouse Releasing” (I personally compared these two versions just to make sure). These following additional seconds can be found from this release (“The Last Road to Hell”-sequence only):

You can divide the sequence into 4 parts, and in-between them is the “reaction shot” from the people watching the footage.
*The first additional shot can be found from the “second part”, where the soldiers are executing the prisoners by shooting them in the wide shot. This shot is approx. 4-5 seconds.
*The second shot can be found from the “fourth part”, where is an additional shot (approx. 2 seconds) of another dead and hooded prisoner after the execution, tight in the pole.
*The last additional seconds can also be found from the “fourth part” during the end, when executed prisoners are being loaded onto a truck. This scene is included in all versions, but in the “longer version” is has approx. 2 seconds of additional material at the end (mainly the man in a red shirt waves his hand).

So in the end, the “longer version” of the sequence includes approx. 9 seconds of additional material, and it seems that no one really knows for sure why they have been cut from the other version (I´m fairly sure that this has a very little to do with “censorship”, since there are more “shocking” shots in the “shorter version” that are left intact). Even when I feel that this is a minor issue and either version will do, it´s of course good to know that those shots are included here, since purists are always willing to get the “longest version”.

When it comes to the transfer generally, the back cover states that this is the “High-resolution Ultrabit transfer”, which for many refers to the earlier similar release by “EC Entertainment” (which also included the “longest version”). Based on the various screencaps found from the internet, this indeed seems to be exactly the same “Ultrabit”-transfer, or at least very very similar. This is not bad news at all, since by comparing this transfer to the one from “Grindhouse Releasing”, there are some differences. As I noted in my earlier review, the black levels on the “Grindhouse”-disc looked a bit “too strong” in certain scenes, and “Ultrabit”-release basically confirms that I was on the right track. Now it´s not the easiest job to compare two transfers from the two different discs (you have switch them, etc), but “Ultrabit” has a bit more details and the transfer is brighter, and this is quite clear if you look at the more darker areas throughout the film. As we know, “brighter” doesn´t always mean “better”, but in this case the black levels are more natural in this “Ultrabit”-release and in certain scenes you simply see more. Occasionally it also looked like the grain is mildly “smoother” in the “Ultrabit”-release, at least if you look at the opening credits.

The trickier thing is the differences of the general colour palette. Certain scenes (like the “documentary footage” and the “sunset”-scene where Professor Monroe and Losojos are guests in the village) in the “Grindhouse”-disc have more yellow tint, and this for me works better in those certain scenes than the more colder tones in the “Ultrabit”-transfer. Then again some scenes looked more vivid and natural (when it comes to colour) in the “Ultrabit”-transfer, so it´s quite difficult to say which one is the “clear winner” here. To me it also looked that there could be a bit more line shimmering in the “Ultrabit”-transfer. It also can be added, that “Ultrabit” doesn´t include the “opening statement” found from the “Grindhouse”-release, and it uses the Italian credits instead of the English ones found from the “Grindhouse”-disc. That latter print also includes the “burned-in” English captions during the non-English dialogue, while the “Ultrabit”-transfer has only player generated Scandinavian-subtitles for those scenes and not the burned-in ones at all. Confused yet? I hope not.

So after all this technical babbling, I would say that “Ultrabit” is a better transfer when it comes to black levels and detail, but when it comes to various colour-issues, it´s hard to say which one is the “original vision”. Overall, both have some strengths and weaknesses, and both can be considered as “good” in the end of the day. I feel that due to the style the film was made in (mostly in the real locations in the jungle and a small budget), this will never look as “pristine” as some other films out there. Based on the opening credits (Italian vs. English) it seems these releases come from different sources, hence some of the discrepancies. Of course, lack of detail in the “Grindhouse” could be a result of the mastering, who knows. The “dual layer” disc is coded “R0” (back cover says “R2”), and includes 9 chapters. The fully uncut film runs 91:53 minutes (PAL), and based on the runtime seems to be a native PAL-transfer.

Audio

This release includes one audio track, which is the English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (with surround encoding). Optional subtitles are included in Danish, Norwegian, Finnish, and Swedish. Again by doing some minor comparing, the Stereo-track included here is clean and without any major distortions, and seems to be more monaural than the “Stereo”-track found from the “Grindhouse”-disc. This means that via “Pro Logic”, you have some more proper surround-activity and some directional cues with the “Grindhouse”-disc, when the track here adds mainly some ambient and such to the rears. One scene I tested was the one when Professor Monroe first meets the guide Losojos, and with the “Grindhouse”-disc (and “Pro Logic”) the line “Hey Chaco, this is Professor Monroe” comes from the left front channels, while in the “Ultrabit” disc it comes from the center channel. These are what you could call “minor issues”, and after all this was a Mono-film in the first place, but if you want to use “Pro Logic” with “Stereo”-tracks, the “Grindhouse”-disc might sound a bit better.

Extras

Not much in the extras-department, but something at least. Director Ruggero Deodato -filmography includes 11 screens in English, and with every film you´ll get a brief description. Not bad.
US theatrical trailer runs 2:56 minutes, and you have also the following US bonus trailers from the other releases by the company (some upcoming) - You can use “Play All”-option:
-“Cannibal Ferox AKA Make Them Die Slowly (1981)” (4:16 min)
-“The Mountain of the Cannibal God AKA La Montagna del dio cannibale (1978)” (3:44 min)
-“City of the Living Dead AKA Paura Nella Cittŕ Dei Morti Viventi (1980)” (2:53 min)
-“The Beyond AKA E Tu Vivrai Nel Terrore - L'Aldilŕ (1981)” (3:20 min)
-“Eaten Alive AKA Mangiati vivi (1980)” (3:03 min)
-“Puzzle AKA L' Uomo senza memoria (1974)” (3:11 min)
Photo gallery rounds up the extras, running 3:00 minuets, and it roughly includes; “German press book” (2), “books” (3), “CD” (1), “DVD covers” (9), “posters” (2), “VHS covers” (4), “Color and Black-&-White stills” (16), “Italian lobby cards” (5), and “Color stills” (7). Pretty solid gallery.

Overall

“Another World Entertainment” has kicked the doors open by releasing a very good transfer of the film, which also includes those much talked about “additional seconds” during “The Last Road to Hell”-sequence. The disc suffers in the extras-department, but still serves well both the hardcore fans (good transfer and the longest version) as well as the newcomers. The highly controversial film is something that you have to eventually judge for yourself, since it can be a quite disturbing - but yet very powerful - experience. There´s just something in the film, that it´s hard to put in words (both good and bad). “Another World Entertainment” has released this DVD in Scandinavia, and in Finland it´s distributed by “Firebox”.

For more info, please visit the homepage of Another World Entertainment.

The Film: Video: Audio: Extras: Overall:

 


DVD Compare is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and the Amazon Europe S.a.r.l. Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.co.uk, amazon.com, amazon.ca, amazon.fr, and amazon.de.