Eaten Alive! (Mangiati Vivi) (1980)

Eaten Alive!

(aka: Doomed to Die; Eaten Alive by the Cannibals; Emerald Jungle)

Directed by Umberto Lenzi

Produced by Luciano Martino & Mino Loy

Starring Robert Kerman, Janet Agren, Ivan Rassimov, Paolo Senatore, Me Me Lai.

Preceding Lenzi’s cult gore-epic, “Cannibal Ferox”, by a year, “Eaten Alive!” is a clear template of what was to come (it’s virtually the same plot!). Spectacularly done on the cheap (cribbed footage from “Man From Deep River”, “Mountain Of The Cannibal God” and “Last Cannibal World” is crudely inserted into the proceedings at random), and shot on 16mm, it’s easy to see why this film often cops the critical drubbing that it does. Personally, I don’t really see that this is as dreadful as many have painted it to be, it is certainly no worse (or better) than its successor. Maybe the lack of John Morghen hamming it up wildly for the camera (as he all too cheerfully admitted to doing on Grindhouse’s “Cannibal Ferox” disc) has killed this one’s chances for a cult following over the years. Horror fans are such a fickle bunch…

Plot-wise, you should all know this one backwards from the countless write-ups it’s had over the years, but here goes nothing! The place: the US, 1980. Three seemingly random murders, by a blowpipe toting New Guinea native (hmmm, not VERY conspicuous!), occur in New York and at the Niagara Falls. These are quickly linked to maverick cult leader, and Jim Jones cipher, Jonas (Ivan Rassimov). Sheila Morris (Janet Agren) is concerned for her sister, Diana (Paola Senatore), who has gone missing in New Guinea and only left a home movie as a trace of her well being. Once in New Guinea, she happens across Vietnam deserter Mark Butler (Robert Kerman, who many of you may remember better as “R. Bolla”, who gave Bambi Woods what for at the climax [ahem!] of “Debbie Does Dallas”…or maybe not) whom she offers a swag of loot to track down her wayward sibling.

Once they are reunited amidst Jonas’ secret jungle retreat it isn’t long before the proceedings descend into a deluge of animal mutilation, “primitive” fertility & sex rites (including the infamous “dildo dipped in cobra blood” scene), castration, rape, and (as is to be expected) cannibalism! The arm-wrestling over knife-blades in the first few minutes should clue you in to where this one is heading pretty quickly!

Mind you, I’m still trying to figure out why is was necessary for former news presenter Me Me Lai (as sympathetic cult member Morawa) to perform her role topless throughout the entire duration of her screen time? Especially when she appears to be the only cast member required to do so! So, what’s going on there then, Mr. Lenzi? The gore scenes housed within the film “proper” are laughably crude, but fairly mean-spirited and indicative of the era. To Lenzi’s merit, there has at least been an attempt to match in the stock footage, from the previously mentioned films, that helps gloss over their blatant pilferage.

EC Entertainment’s disc notes that the source material has been “digitally remastered from the 16mm negative in 1995”, which many have pointed out as meaning that this is simply a ported transfer from EC’s laserdisc. I’d dare say that this item of conjecture wouldn’t be far from the truth, as the print displays a softness in some passages, and a fair to good sharpness in others. Film stocks vary wildly, which is what you’d expect when you splice in footage from an Anamorphic 2.35 Techniscope print to that of a 1.66 16mm master, so that’s one flaw no one can blame on EC. A perfectly acceptable Dolby 1.0 track delivers a VERY familiar score at reasonable volume (Maria Fiammi Maglione [Meg Fleming] appears to have penned the music herein a year before it was recycled for “Ferox”). Generally the disc presents the film in an extremely watchable form (pay attention to how the lighting changes, location for studio, during the cannibal attacks). Extras are limited to the theatrical trailer & an additional trailer for Lamberto Bava’s “A Blade In The Dark”. There is NO Filmography or Biography as listed on the back sleeve of the disc, and before I forget, “Deluxe Widescreen Edition” is a bit of a glib statement for a film framed at 1.66!

The biggest ask herein is, to recommend or not recommend? It’s a guilty pleasure of mine (being the first cannibal flick I ever saw), but fans of the genre generally turn their noses up at this one. If you…erm, enjoyed “Cannibal Ferox” and similar features, you could do a lot worse than EC’s disc. If you did not, well then, this review should have served as the warning you were expecting.

Review by M.C.Thomason

Released by EC Entertainment
Region '0' NTSC
Ratio - Widescreen 1.66
Audio - Dolby digital 1.0 (English)
Running time : approx 91 mins
Extras :
Theatrical trailer + Theatrical trailer for “A Blade In The Dark”