Eaten Alive! (16x9 Remastered Edition) (1980)

Directed by Umberto Lenzi

Produced by Luciano Martino & Mino Loy

Starring Janet Agren, Robert Kerman, Me Me Lai, Ivan Rassimov, Paola Senatore, Mel Ferrer

Eaten Alive!

Okay, this film needs no introduction as I have already covered it once. The question now remains, why cover it again? Apart from the already mentioned fact that this was my first experience with the Cannibal sub-genre (although I failed to mention that the Australian theatrical & video releases were shorn of just under five minutes of footage, making the exercise a bitter-sweet one), I felt it was my responsibility to draw fans attention to EC's exemplary re-release edition.

I'm not about to trot out a plot synopsis again, but I will (having re-appraised the work so closely on my purchase of EC's original disc) make the following (purely personal) observations:

Both Janet Agren and Me Me Lai were inspired casting choices on Lenzi's behalf, as both women (although somewhat limited thespians) were incredibly striking beauties in their day. This undoubtedly went a long way towards my initial love of the film as, from a spectator's point of view, I was far more concerned as a viewer that no spectacularly grisly fate would befall such gorgeous characters, than I would have had they been played by other actresses. Secondly, once remastered with 16:9 enhancement, the film appears far more polished and "cinematic" than most 16mm features I have seen (more on that in a sec). And lastly, as a "wet" run for the following year's "Cannibal Ferox" the film is extremely underrated, and considerably overlooked. IMHO, once the cobbled together elements have gelled into a single feature, it is actually a better and more outlandish slice of entertainment than its carbon-copy successor. I expect hate mail galore for that comment, but it's how I feel about this slick piece of exploitation cinema… :)

EC's new disc is a marked improvement over their original release, which as previously stated I found a perfectly acceptable rendition of its source materials. Well! Although ever so slightly marred by some very minor print damage (which trainspotters will fry brain cells over, but I was happy to write off in light of the film's age), I doubt even a higher profile US distributor could manage to achieve the small miracle that EC have here. The film is now letterboxed at a tighter aspect ratio of approximately 1.85 and anamorphically enhanced. It also appears to be a direct NTSC conversion, as opposed to the (oft-conjectured) PAL original. Thus, picture definition is considerably sharper, colours are bolder, and detail levels are higher. There is some limited grain apparent (less so than originally), but we are dealing with a low budget venture shot on 16mm that was then blown up to 35mm for theatrical engagements. Even Elite's "Evil Dead" disc suffers from this problem. Such is the quality of this remastered edition that it gives the illusion of being a 35mm feature. The print does appear marginally darker than the first edition, but the sheer improvement in clarity and definition quickly scotches this issue as hardly worth crowing about. Love your work, guys!

But better composition framing, stronger detail levels, and more vibrant colours aren't all this disc has to offer. The menus have been slightly tweaked, a tad more friendly to navigate through, and now come with Maglione's title music for audio augmentation. There are two trailers; the English language version present on the first disc (16x9 this time out!), and the ominously narrated German version (sourced from videotape, but a nice bonus…especially when you hear the credit "Regie Humphrey Humbert"!). The Extras are rounded out with an extensive Stills Gallery featuring Video/DVD/LD & VCD sleeves and theatrical posters from around the world, the German lobby cards, and a selection of promotional stills. Pair all of that with a wonderfully lurid sleeve design (modeled after the German artwork…that incidentally, I love!) and a collector's booklet littered with grisly stills and an Umberto Lenzi biography/filmography, and I think you've got a package that qualifies as the (so far) definitive release of this film!

Living proof, if any were needed, that there are some independent distributors out there that are capable of giving their US counterparts a healthy run for their money. Having come to the genre DVD party a little late, and having read more than my fair share of criticism of EC's discs across the 'net, I can find precious little to fault in this stunning new edition of Lenzi's most unfairly criticised Cannibal opus. I for one would kill to see them give the same loving treatment to Sergio Martino's "Mountain Of The Cannibal God", or license Lenzi's seminal "Man From Deep River" and Deodato's "Last Cannibal World" for similar such pristine presentation, or…dare I say it…remaster their "Cannibal Holocaust" disc with an equal amount of respect. The mind boggles! Can you imagine that film given the 16x9 high definition workover? The world would be a better place…

Bugger it! I'm going to go out on a limb here and make a really bold statement. EC's remastered "Eaten Alive!" looks so good; it puts Grindhouse's "Ferox" disc to shame (MY opinion, and my opinion alone!). There, I've said it and I don't regret it in the slightest. If you're a fan, just buy it. You won't be disappointed!

Review by M.C.Thomason

Released by EC Entertainment
Not rated - Region 0
Running time - 91m
Ratio - Widescreen 1.85 (16x9 enhanced)
Audio - Dolby 2.0
Extras :
English & German trailers; Stills & Artwork gallery; Umberto Lenzi filmography & biography Collector's booklet; Ultra-cool German sleeve design (!)