Video Nasty 11: Cannibal Ferox

1981 Italian nasty Cannibal Ferox (which could be the name of an American news anchor, like Wolf Blitzer) follows an academic (Lorraine De Selle) who heads into the Amazon to disprove the existence of cannibals and finds she’s bitten off more than she can chew.

Cannibal Lecturer

The DVD case (remember DVDs?) boasts “The most violent film ever made! Banned in 31 countries”, but the version contained has around 6 minutes of violence cut (thanks for nothing James Ferman), basically removing all the cannibalism (it has since been released uncut on Blu-ray). Not only does this defeat the purpose of a cannibal movie, it also disembowels Umberto Lenzi’s story of someone who sees cannibalism and returns home and denies it, which does require that we witness cannibalism.

This is the trouble with film censorship when it’s blind to context, focusing on the gore which in this case is key for the message about rewriting our colonial past to work. The film also needs no help in undermining itself, since it criticises exploitation of foreign lands by doing exactly that. Even though Lenzi’s intention is to portray Americans as the real savages, he does so by painting a community of people as cannibals, and includes real animal cruelty (a staple of the cannibal movie diet). An anthropological and vegan nightmare.

Apart from having a level of argument about as sophisticated as Lee and Herring’s “Who is the real sick man in this so-called society?” gag (De Selle even says “so-called civilised people”), Cannibal Ferox (AKA Make Them Die Slowly and Woman from Deep River) is a horribly cheap-looking Cannibal Holocaust rip-off, and ultimately more canniboring than feroxious. Credit to Lenzi though for using a totally ill-fitting disco/funk soundtrack, and for cutting straight from a castration to a Salvation Army band.

In the end though, this is the worst kind of exploitation movie: one that’s exploitative in the most immediate sense. Its theme of rewriting history is relevant today, but its methods are not, and as long as we allow the ends to justify the means then what hope is there for our so-called society?

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