CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST

CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST

Professor Monroe (Robert Kerman) ventures to the Amazonian jungle in search of an award-winning team of documentarians who were hoping to uncover traces of real-life, modern-day cannibalism. Headed by hothead Alan (Gabriele Yorke) and his sexy partner Faye (Francesca Ciardi), the team seemed playful upon their departure Ė but where are they now?

Anyone who visits a site called Sex Gore Mutants surely doesnít need an intro to writer Gianfranco Clerici and director Ruggero Deodatoís seminal 1980 expose on rampant misanthropy. Itís a well-known and incredibly well-documented film: you know the drill, itís an awesome nightmare that never diminishes in its power to reveal the cruel nature of man.

Watching it again made me remember just how fantastic this film is. The performances are spot on. Deodatoís direction is much more fluid and expert than in any other of his films. The cinematography and score (Riz Ortolani) are perfect, and the true horror comes from the casual callousness of Alan and his mob as they commit the most atrocious acts against the native tribes without thought or conscience. Its genius is that the cannibals are not the scary ones here...

Whatís under scrutiny here however is the fact that the film is (a) available once more in the UK, with fewer cuts than ever before, (b) Deodato has provided a new version as an alternative to the one thatís dogged him for decades, and (c) the film is making its worldwide debut in HD (!).

CANNIBAL HOLOAUST is therefore presented in two versions on Shamelessí region-free blu-ray: the original version, and an exclusive new "directorís cut".

The former is the CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST we all know and love. Almost. It runs for 96 minutes and 2 seconds, including the brief United Artists Europa logo at the start. Bear in mind that although the Grindhouse SE DVD release featured a version of the film that ran for 96 minutes and 51 seconds, it opened with a rolling text introduction almost apologising for the filmís confrontational nature. There is no such warning here. But this UK release has had 14 seconds censored at the behest of our moral guardians, the BBFC. The scene that offended them so is the early killing of a muskrat.

While I donít condone, or appreciate, animal killing for entertainment, I also disagree with censorship Ė especially when itís that of such a classic film as this. But, to be fair, 14 seconds of cuts is an amazing result considering the butchery this film has suffered in the past (just consider how many minutes were chopped out of the banned so-called Ďvideo nastyí version back in the 1980s!).

So, despite missing out on the shameful slaughter of a defenceless muskrat (replaced rather cannily by well-edited reaction shots), we do still get to see everything else that has helped form HOLOCAUSTís reputation as one the most uncompromising horror films of all time: rape; DIY abortion; sadistic punishment for adultery; castration; evisceration; turtle hacking; pig shooting; that woman impaled with a stake going all the through her arsehole to her mouth ... itís all here, in all its inglorious detail.

Iíd read somewhere that the "Last Road To Hell" footage is slightly longer here. I did a virtually back-to-back comparison and couldnít see any difference although, admittedly, this new release seemed to offer several seconds of more footage: a speed conversion thing, perhaps?

The 1080p presentation is really good for the most part, offering bright and vibrant playback which reveals plenty of detail that you havenít seen even on the Grindhouse disc. The colour schemes and contrast are much better than on the Grindhouse disc too: I played that immediately after playing this Shameless disc, and the leap to HD was quite remarkable: HOLOCAUST looks mighty fine.

But there are instances, here and there of softness and possibly heavy use of DNR. Itís nothing that kills the enjoyment though, as overall this is a very pleasing visual rendition of the film indeed. The 16mm jungle footage shot by Alan etc is, of course, softer in clarity than the enveloping storyline with Monroe.

The new Deodato cut removes all traces of animal violence, again replacing it with substitute scenes. I can appreciate that after years of people giving him a hard time, Deodato has decided to give people a version of his most famous film that eschews the controversy of yore. And some may be grateful for its inclusion.

I donít know, I see this new edit as pretty pointless Ė but it does look good (the same transfer as the original cut, Iíd wager), and itís an incredible HD bonus feature to have, when you think about it.

Likewise, the English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio and regular 2.0 mixes offered on both versions o f the film are very well rendered.

The main menu is a static affair which seemingly bills the original version of HOLOCAUST as its main feature. However, both versions of the film are accessible from the main menu page, and both have their own scene-selection menus (offering 12 chapters apiece).

Extras begin with the original 3-minute theatrical trailer. Itís scratchy, grainy and remains a brilliant piece of exploitative salesmanship.

"Film And Be Damned" is an excellent new 40-minute featurette (complete with spoiler alert at the beginning) boasting interviews with Deodato and Yorke. The image is a little milky, particularly in the Deodato segments, but both men have a lot of interesting things to say, and the in-between clips are great. Itís especially good to see Yorke interviewed, as it does feel a little as though Deodato has said all he can say on the subject. Thatís no flaw of the featurette Ė but this is an oft-discussed, oft-released title after all.

Between them they discuss casting, filming on location, the hardships of the shoot and, of course, the filmís subsequent controversy. Deodato speaks in Italian with English subtitles; Yorke speaks in English.

"The Long Road Back From Hell" is another all-new featurette. This one is made up of contributions from Yorke and Deodato (looking like Larry David here), this time complemented by more academic gazes back on the film and the furore it continues to cause, from actress Ciardi, critic Kim Newman, Professor Julian Petley and Professor Mary Wood.

Itís a good watch, albeit a little pompous at times ("I would describe CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST as meta-cinema") and perhaps too heavy on clips of HOLOCAUST, DJANGO and even THE LAST HORROR MOVIE to bolster its running time Ė 40 minutes again Ė but an interesting prťcis of the outrage surrounding the film, regardless. It does, however, become something of a plug for Deodatoís new edit towards the end.

Finally we get a Shameless trailer park. This features previews for an amazing 31 titles in the Shameless roster. Among them are KILLER NUN, NIGHT TRAIN MURDERS, STRIP NUDE FOR YOUR KILLER, WHO SAW HER DIE? and THE BRONX WARRIORS.

I also found an entertaining little Easter Egg on the main menu page, which reveals a pretty obvious blunder in the original film that no-one seems to have previously noticed. Amusing stuff, even if it is only a minute long.

The disc opens with trailers for fellow Shameless titles HOUSE ON THE EDGE OF THE PARK (forthcoming at the time of writing), DONíT TORTURE A DUCKLING, and THE NEW YORK RIPPER blu-ray.

I suppose I should also mention that Deodato introduces both versions of the film. But, at 9 seconds in length, this is pretty negligible...

CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST comes to High Definition for the first time, then. With, Iím told, reversible cover art (this wasnít available for review). It looks very good, and has been blessed with some interesting extras.

But I can hear the cynics already. The filmís cut. The directorís cut is a pointless exercise in apologising from Deodato. Thereís no commentary track, no trace of Kerman among the extras.

All of which may be true, but this Shameless release still stands as a fine set Ė and a very good HD debut for a classic film Ė nonetheless.

I was sceptical myself before viewing this version (of the original cut), but I can now say: donít be put off by the minor edit - this is CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST with all the most traumatising content intact. And in High Definition!

Review by Stuart Willis


 
Released by Shameless
Region B
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review
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