A couple o’ decades ago, when James Ferman was in charge at the BBFC, United Kingdom horror fans were treated like children. Films that our European and American cousins could rent were denied to us as we could be harmed by the list of Video Nasties. At this time I used to send off for pirated ‘forbidden’ films from the back of Samhain Magazine and four weeks later, a slab of VHS goodness would arrive and I got to see some of the classics that I had been reading about for years.
Now in 2018, a lot of the most infamous titles – Cannibal Holocaust, Last House On The Left, even SS Experiment Camp are available at your local HMV on shiny shiny Blu-Ray and again, no one is being perverted or corrupted, except by some of the banned films that are absolute trash, even though they still hold that ‘I finally saw it!’ thrill.
I was astounded when I saw Cannibal Ferox in HMV and picked it up instantly, one of the last of the infamous classics, presented in an excellent package by the cultaholics at Shameless.
Umberto Lenzi’s tale of going deep into the jungle and discovering a tribe who would eat you as quick as talk to you, does seem somewhat familiar, it is certainly riding the same wave of terror as Deodato’s classic Cannibal Holocaust and whilst Ferox may not hit the highs and social commentary of Holocaust, it does comment on who exactly are the monsters and who are the civilized society as Americans plough into a land they don’t know with zero respect for the people or animals therein. Yes, like Holocaust, there are a few animal cruelty moments here, again a giant turtle gets killed, it just seemed to be part of the story in 70s/80s sleaze. There are a few gruesome scenes that still stand up, from a brilliant head slicing which becomes a quick snack for the tribe, to the horrific sight of the American party girl being hung up by her breasts by the hungry savages.
The picture quality here is great and there is an interesting featurette on the 2K restoration of the previously grainy classic. Extras? The last ever interview with director Umberto Lenzi is essential for fans of Italian horror, as he explains that all those well loved Italian arthouse films were only made thanks to the money that his and Deodato’s films made – remember this next time someone tells you your favourite horrors are trash! He tells the story of making the film and commands your attention throughout, even talking about some of his films very honestly “Oh that one was terrible!”
There is a photo gallery of rare shots from Lenzi’s own collection which are interesting for anyone who follows Italian film making, or indeed film making in general. The other extra is rather strange, a long (35 minutes) interview with star G. L. Radice, a strange choice as he seems to have nothing nice to say about Ferox or its making. Still, as the star of this and House On The Edge Of The Park, he does have a place in the pantheon of horror icons, I just wish he liked the film a little more, you know?
The film also has a reversible sleeve and brilliantly, a free vomit bag just in case you get caught out by the cannibal nastiness.
Cannibal Ferox is an interesting piece of classic horror, not as great as The Exorcist or Last House On The Left, but just as important in the history of the genre and what could be achieved with a lot of imagination and a little budget.