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Saturday, February 10, 2018

EATEN ALIVE -- Blu-ray Review by Porfle




Director Umberto Lenzi's gut-munching follow-up to his 1972 cannibal flick THE MAN FROM THE DEEP RIVER, 1980's EATEN ALIVE (Severin Films) is a deliriously deranged jungle tale in which a Jonestown-like religious cult in New Guinea is constantly menaced by a surrounding tribe of ever-famished cannibals.

One woman seduced into the cult, Diana Morris (Paola Senatore), is being tracked down by her concerned sister Sheila (Janet Agren, RED SONJA) with the help of tough guy Mark Butler (Robert Kerman, CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, THE CONCORDE: AIRPORT '79, Sam Raimi's SPIDER-MAN), a Viet Nam deserter picking up extra dough working as a mercenary.

Thus, we go from a New York setting (where familiar actor Mel Ferrer appears briefly as an expert in primitive cultures) to the savage heart of the jungle where Sheila and Mark barely escape being devoured on their way to finding the secluded compound of charismatic cult leader Jonas (Ivan Rassimov, PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES).  Here, they discover Diana still alive but brainwashed by drugs and mental programming.



What follows is the usual "infiltrating the religious cult" stuff as the good guys plan their escape, which will mean evading both Jonas' henchmen and hordes of hungry savages.  But with Umberto Lenzi at the helm this will also involve softcore sex (mostly of the rapey and/or weird ritualistic variety), lots of gratuitous nudity, and, as is typical of this genre, some rather stomach-churning scenes of actual animal slaughter.

The latter includes the disemboweling of a large iguana after which its entrails are eaten (ditto for several snakes and small alligator as well). This is especially disturbing considering that the extras in these scenes seem to have been hired through a classified ad for carnival geeks.  Another unwelcome sight occurs when a small monkey gets sucked down headfirst by a python. 

On the cannibal front, the scenes of people getting chowed down on are a real treat for those who didn't think BLOOD FEAST went anywhere near far enough.  The effects are pretty decent and at times quite convincing. 


None of this has much to do with the story, but Lenzi seems to enjoy cutting away to such culinary exploits now and then to keep us entertained.  Arms, legs, entrails, and even sexual organs comprise the gory feasts as the film more than earns its title.

Meanwhile, we follow the progress of Sheila and her sister as Mark tries to get them out of Jonas' compound and into the jungle.  It's a case of "out of the frying pan and into the fire" when the religious zealots and the cannibals converge on them from both sides. 

The result is a frenzy of wildly improbable nonsense that's both eventful and, in its own way, quite engaging.  To top it off, Lenzi stages his own version of the real-life end of the Jonestown colony, with Rassimov's screwloose religious guru presiding over it with suitably wild-eyed fanaticism.

After a final blood-soaked atrocity or two, we end up back in New York for more Mel Ferrer (i.e., getting your money's worth out of the film's one big-name actor) and a twist ending that's oddly inconclusive.


Lovely blonde Swedish actress Janet Agren is winsome as Sheila, as is the darkly brunette Paola Senatore as her sister Diana, and those interested will delight in their numerous nude scenes.  It's hard to rate their performances, though, since everyone's badly dubbed (all dialogue is delivered in English and dubbed into English, Spanish, and Italian) and their characters in particular are saddled with some of the most cringeworthy "Southern" accents of all time.

Coming off better in that area is Robert Kerman's passable bad-boy mercenary act (sort of a poor man's Han Solo) and cannibal-film queen Me Me Lai as Mowara, a native girl who risks her life to help. 

Kerman may be familiar to some for his frequent appearances in vintage porn films such as DEBBIE DOES DALLAS and THE SATISFIERS OF ALPHA BLUE under the name R. Bolla.  His acting skills gained him parts in many adult features in which such talent was actually required. 

Umberto Lenzi's skills as a director are rather artless, yet workmanlike and briskly efficient.  The film itself looks and sounds quite good for a low-budget effort of this nature.  Location shooting in both New York and Sri Lanka add much to the production values.  


The screenplay is a hoot and dotted with several priceless lines, as when Jonas describes the cannibals to Mark: "Their idea of lunch is hot, fresh entrails soaked in blood.  But we keep their proteins limited."

The Blu-ray from Severin Films looks and sounds great for a film like this, and the disc's bonus menu is customarily stocked.  "Welcome to the Jungle" is an interview with Umberto Lenzi, followed by a feature-length tribute to the queen of cannibal movies, Me Me Lai.  There's an interview with production designer Antonello Geleng, and then a very entertaining dual interview with Ivan Rassimov ("Jonas") and Robert Kerman ("Mark"). Rounding off the menu is a 2013 Q & A with Lenzi from the UK Festival of Fantastic Films, and a trailer.  The Blu-ray's cover art is reversible (see below).

To assess a film such as EATEN ALIVE one must take into consideration the fact that some will regard it with utter delight while others will find it incomprehensibly appalling.  Those in the latter camp are advised to steer clear--waaaay clear--while the former should consider this review to be a hearty recommendation. 


Pre-order it at Severin Films

Available February 20, 2018




Reversible cover art:





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