Admittedly I was warned by some people I trust dearly not to watch Ruggero Deodato’s famous, or rather infamous, grindhouse classic ‘Cannibal Holocaust’, but did I listen? Of course I didn’t because I know every damn thing. But considering all of the bans, the criminal trials, the murder trials and the controversy, by the time I have finally got around to watching this movie thirty years after it’s initial release… it wasn’t all that bad. It was repulsive, gratuitous schlock garbage that I wouldn’t watch again on a bet… no doubt… but I guess if you were raised by uncle Joe D’Amato and grandpa Lucio Fulci as I was, then this mess is just par for the course.
Alan the director (Carl Gabriel Yorke), Faye the script girl (Francesca Ciardi) and cameramen Jack (Perry Pirkanen) and Mark (Luca Barberschi), along with their guide Felipe are a quartet of hard hitting documentary filmmakers off to the Amazon to blow the lid off of some cannibal tribes that exist despite the fact that the human race is on the cusp of conquering the universe. That’s what the ‘on the spot’ reporter would say. He would be a little off base about that whole ‘conquering the universe’ thing in retrospect. The four filmmakers and Felipe would never be seen again.
But no worries because two months later a search team is assembled in the form one insanely under qualified dude who smokes a corncob pipe… who the f**k is this clown, Frosty the Snowma? Who will travel down to the Amazon to get to the truth. In the Amazon this cat, one Professor Harold Monroe (Robert Kerman), will connect with his guides Chaco and Miguel and make the perilous trip into the jungle to find out what happened to the film crew. I was around twelve when this movie came out and at that time I was only slightly less qualified for this rescue gig than Dr. Monroe.
They know they are on the right track because it’s not long before they find what’s left of Felipe who Chaco recognizes from his dental work. Who knew that Chaco was a forensic dentist on the side? They travel on witnessing some atrocities here and there, such as the rather severe punishment for adultery, until they find the tribe which they
believe probably ate our film crew. Note to cannibal bitches… do NOT cheat on your man. Trust me on this one. Dr. Monroe finally shows some of his worth by convincing this tribe to accept them as a trustworthy bunch and now we know what happened to the film crew.
Back in New York the powers that be would love it if Dr. Monroe can take the surviving footage that crew had shot and put together a show detailing their unfortunate plight. At first Dr. Monroe is down for the cause… until he actually watches the footage. Now Doc Monroe is having a change of heart because Alan and his crew of miscreants turned out to be murdering, raping, animal defiling, hut burning, pig shooting complete dregs of society, calling into question who among us are really the real savages here.
There is an awful lot of debate that abounds when one searches out discussions on ‘Cannibal Holocaust’ with some calling it a genius work examining the human condition, while examining the plight of the human existence, as man does battle with his own debase demons. Then you have those that simply call this movie worthless, exploitative, cruel garbage. Personally while watching ‘Cannibal Holocaust’ I did feel as this movie had some value but I certainly wouldn’t call it any kind of a social masterpiece. If that’s the case then D’Amato’s ‘Emanuelle in America’ is actually a man’s personal cry against the callous sexually promiscuous bourgeoisie and thus D’Amato is using the graphic sex in that movie to actually show protestation against exploitation by using exploitation to battle exploitation. I think we all know that’s not true and Joe D’Amato just liked to show titties. I think I’ve seen enough Rugero Deodato films to observe that he likes to shock, mostly without substance, in the same way that his contemporaries like to titillate, mostly without substance.
There’s like a half dozen scenes in this movie of animals getting gutted or beheaded or whatnot. What’s that supposed to mean? I wasn’t horrified or outraged by those scenes because as I look down at this succulent pork chop in front of me I’m pretty sure they didn’t sing that pig a lullaby to convince him to donate his delicious meat to my plate, but if you show something like that once then maybe you are trying to make a statement of some kind. If you show something like that over and over and over again, you’re only doing this because you can, hoping you can disgust somebody this time around who you might’ve failed to disgust the first five times you tried.
As a movie ‘Cannibal Holocaust’ really isn’t much of one, though it is oddly watchable if you can avoid being disgusted by it, but what makes the DVD package itself great, if not the movie itself, is the extras that come with the DVD. I don’t really get into DVD extras when I talk about these movies but the interviews and behind the scenes stuff on the DVD on this disc could be the best stuff ever. The problem is that you actually have to watch the movie to get the most out of it.
Heck, even Deodato himself disowns this movie somewhat so I’m certainly in no hurry to proclaim this garbage a social masterpiece. It’s Italian exploitation sleaze. I generally like Italian exploitation sleaze, just not this particular slice of exploitation sleaze.