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Friday, June 24, 2022

DOCTOR BUTCHER M.D. (aka ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST) -- Blu-ray Review by Porfle



 Originally posted on 7/17/16

 

I really scored this week, getting to see two notorious exploitation titles from the 80s that I hadn't seen before.  Well, not quite, since they're both pretty much the same movie. 

Thanks to Severin Films, both are now available in a 2-disc Blu-ray set under the title DOCTOR BUTCHER M.D. (1980), which includes that noteworthy "video nasty" along with its predecessor, ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST. 

The initial film, an Italian gorefest directed by Marino Girolami (father of Enzo G. Castellari of "Inglorious Bastards" fame) and featuring both loinclothed zombies and ravenous cannibals on a tropical island, was then purchased by ballyhoo master Terry Levene and somewhat "Americanized" for the 42nd Street crowd. 


In addition to some general editing for time and a different score, the main changes consist of the new name (from "Zombie Holocaust" to "Dr. Butcher, M.D.") and an entirely new prologue and main titles sequence with footage taken from an unfinished anthology film called "Tales That Will Tear Your Heart Out" and starring its producer Roy Frumkes as a zombie whose presence is totally unrelated to the original storyline.

What the two versions have in common is the story of a New York hospital plagued by a rash of weird cadaver mutilations that stymie Dr. Peter Chandler (Ian McCulloch) and Lori Ridgeway, a hospital staff member who's also an anthropologist (Alexandra Delli Colli, renamed "Alexandra Cole" for the altered version). 

After catching the culprit actually eating the heart of one of the cadavers and then jumping to his death to avoid capture, Peter and Lori organize an expedition to the man's native island in the West Indies where it is said that primitive tribes still engage in cannibalism.


With Peter's assistant George (Peter O'Neal) and an annoying photo-journalist named Susan (Sherry Buchanan) in tow, they meet up with Dr. Obrero (Donald O'Brien) in his island research retreat and head out for the dreaded Kito Island.  Soon after arriving, their party is attacked by bloodthirsty cannibals who dismember and devour anyone they can lay their hands on. 

Thus, after a prolonged stretch of exposition and build-up, the stage is set for an almost non-stop parade of some of the most grisly and disgusting gore effects that a low budget and ample imagination can provide.  They range from obviously fake-looking to near Tom Savini-quality gore, and even the less convincing stuff displays a sort of giddy showmanship. 

(The main FX fail, in fact, is when a dummy thrown from the hospital roof loses an arm upon hitting the ground, whereupon in the next shot the victim's arm is intact.)


Entrails are strewn, eyeballs plucked out, scalps lifted--and that's before the zombies show up.  It turns out the living dead are the result of Dr. Butcher's mad experiments in his island laboratory, which he soon stocks with the survivors of the expedition in order to include them as additional unwilling subjects in what resembles an even more horrific variation of "The Island of Dr. Moreau."

This guy's a real sadistic bastard, which means that we're in for some more grotesque makeup FX which must've delighted gorehounds over the years while giving anti-"video nasties" crusader Mary Whitehouse and her ilk heart seizures.  The exposed brain effect with its pop-top skull foreshadows a very similar, and much more expensive, one in Ridley Scott's HANNIBAL.

Marino Girolami's direction is serviceable as are the modest production values--the film has the same basic look as other Italian cannibal and zombie pictures of the era by directors such as Lucio Fulci and Ruggero Deodato, as well as later ones by Bruno Mattei (ZOMBIES: THE BEGINNING, IN THE LAND OF THE CANNIBALS, MONDO CANNIBAL).  The dubbing is often amusingly bad, yielding (as expected) some lines of dialogue that are real corkers. 


The acting isn't always top-notch either, but the cast give it their all.  Alexandra Delli Colli shows off her nude body a few times to stunning effect, especially in her big human-sacrifice scene during the film's climax.

The 2-disc Blu-ray from Severin Films is a treasure trove of extras.  The keepcase itself features a reversible cover insert and a barf bag.

Disc one contains the feature film DOCTOR BUTCHER M.D. plus the following extras:

"Butchery and Ballyhoo": an interview with Terry Levene
"Down on the Deuce": Roy Frumkes and Chris ("Temple of Schlock") Poggiali's nostalgia tour of 42nd Street's grindhouse theaters
Roy Frumkes' unfinished segment from "Tales That Will Tear Your Heart Out"
"The Butcher Mobile": an interview with "Gore Gazette" publisher Rick Sullivan
"Calling Dr. Butcher": an interview with editor Jim Markovic
"Experiments With a Male Caucasian Brain": an illustrated essay by Gary Hertz
Theatrical and Video trailers


Disc two contains the feature film ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST and these extras:

"Voodoo Man": an interview with star Ian McCulloch
"Blood of the Zombies": an interview with FX master Rosario Prestopino
"Neurosurgery Italian Style": an interview with FX artist Maurizio Trani
Filmmaker Enzo G. Castellari Remembers His Father/Director Marino Girolami
Interview with Actress Sherry Buchanan
"New York Locations Then vs. Now"
Ian McCulloch sings his hit "Down By the River"
Theatrical trailers

The films are anamorphic widescreen with English 2.0 sound.  No subtitles.  "Zombie Holocaust" can also be viewed with its original Italian soundtrack.  Picture quality is a bit rough at times due to the source material but the films probably look as good here as they're ever going to look.

All in all, DR. BUTCHER M.D. is a gorehound's delight, with its slower first half giving way to a veritable charnel house of hokey horror later on.  Which might truly horrify if it were meant to be taken at all seriously, instead of being such total dumb fun that your main reaction to its ample atrocities may be simply to laugh yourself sick.

Buy it at Amazon.com:
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DVD

Release date: July 26, 2016



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Thursday, June 23, 2022

I GOT THE FEELIN: JAMES BROWN IN THE 60s -- DVD review by porfle

Originally posted on 8/7/08

 

While I've always liked James Brown, I was never what you'd call a big fan. Now, after viewing Shout! Factory's 3-disc set I GOT THE FEELIN': JAMES BROWN IN THE '60s, I have a much deeper appreciation for both his talent as a musician and the important role he played in the civil rights movement. The biggest surprise for me, in fact, was the discovery of an incident in Boston following Martin Luther King's assassination, which makes this DVD set not only an irresistible record of Brown's musical prowess at the time but also the compelling account of a fascinating moment in American history.

I wanted to save the Boston stuff for later and indulge in some pure entertainment right away, so the first disc I watched was "James Brown Live at the Apollo '68." Originally broadcast as a television special entitled "James Brown: Man to Man", the image and sound quality are pretty rough at times--the early color video is especially bad at first, although it improves as it goes along. It helps to think of this as a priceless recording that we're lucky to have, warts and all, rather than dwelling on its imperfections. For me, they were soon forgotten as I became engrossed in James Brown's electrifying performance before a fiercely appreciative audience in the legendary Harlem theater.

Sweat pouring from his face, Brown earns his nickname as "the hardest working man in show business" as he gives his all during each number, belting out one classic after another with his heart and soul. The songs include "I Got the Feelin'", "It's a Man's, Man's, Man's World", "I Feel Good", "Please, Please, Please" and twelve more, usually with one segueing right into the next. The backup band is hot, and with each song Brown gets into a groove and works it for all it's worth with his customary showmanship, including those patented dance steps, mike stand acrobatics, and that delightfully dramatic robe routine as a finale. The direction is really terrible during the show and the psychedelic '60s camera effects are a major distraction, but that's the way stuff like this was usually televised back then and the whole thing serves as a time capsule of its era.

A brief documentary portion shows Brown walking the streets of Watts and Harlem, commenting on what should be done to improve conditions in such communities ("My fight now is for the Black America to become American.") With a running time of almost fifty minutes, the Apollo show is augmented by James Brown's 1964 performance of "Out of Sight" on THE T.A.M.I. SHOW, plus two more songs from a 1967 show at L'Olympia in Paris.


The next disc I watched was "James Brown Live at the Boston Garden", taped during his historic April 5, 1968 show only 24 hours after Martin Luther King's assassination. With cities burning across America and angry riots raging in the streets, Brown's scheduled appearance there was turned into a televised memorial concert and an opportunity to relieve tensions in a peaceful way. The mood is initially tense as Boston's sole black councilman Thomas Atkins and the city's mayor Kevin White introduce Brown while urging everyone to honor Dr. King's legacy of non-violence. Then James Brown takes the stage and performs full-throttle for over an hour.

The public television station WGBH in Boston was unaccustomed to covering such a concert, especially at such short notice, but they do a magnificent job here. The direction and camerawork are outstanding, with uncommonly rich black-and-white videography that looks almost cinematic at times, and dramatic lighting which is particularly effective in the backlit shots from behind the stage. A few awkward moments occur, and at one point the video is missing for a minute or so, but these are negligible in light of how well this impromptu telecast turned out. On the whole, this is an amazing document of what is perhaps the most important performance of James Brown's career.

What almost turned it into a disaster comes in the latter minutes of the concert. With people crowding forward and starting to climb onstage, Brown's security men brusquely shove them back one by one and are soon joined by Boston police in flinging people off the stage. Brown calls a halt to this with the assurance that he can handle his people, but in no time is surrounded by a swarm of rowdy fans who refuse to back off. Brown strongly expresses disappointment and exhorts them to show him some respect ("We're Black--don't make us all look bad!") and let him finish the show, which he is finally allowed to do. Everything ends well, although for a few moments there it's a tense situation that could've gone bad in a heartbeat. All in all, pretty fascinating stuff. As an extra, the audio of Brown's eight-minute speech to the crowd before the show is played against an old-fashioned Indian chief test pattern.


Having watched the concert itself, I was really ready for the third disc, director David Leaf's excellent 2008 documentary THE NIGHT JAMES BROWN SAVED BOSTON. The backstory of King's murder, the resulting nationwide chaos that came after it, and the tension-filled situation in Boston are presented in well-chosen archival footage along with narration by Dennis Haysbert ("24", THE COLOR OF FREEDOM) and interviews with Mayor White and Councilman Atkins, Brown's manager Charles Bobbit, Boston deejay James Byrd, Rev. Al Sharpton, Dr. Cornel West, various bandmembers and concert attendees, and several others. (Bonus footage of these interviews is included on the disc along with a panel discussion which followed the film's premiere.)

Atkins' idea of using the James Brown concert to quell impending violence had to be sold to a dubious mayor, but an even more dubious Brown, it turns out, was fit to be tied when he discovered that his concert was to be televised for free--several times, in fact--and people were already cashing in their tickets. The drama that occurred during the closing segment of the concert is recounted by witnesses including David Gates of Newsweek, who was there that night and attests to the air of anxiety that hung over the situation ("It could've gone up like a torch," he recalls.) But perhaps the most compelling part of this documentary is James Brown's subsequent role as one of the most influential leaders of the civil rights movement, a racial ambassador helping to bring people together, and a crucial proponent of Black pride in America.

The three discs are boxed in slimline cases with achingly cool retro design and a 23-page booklet by Rickey Vincent, with an introduction by David Leaf. As a whole, I GOT THE FEELIN': JAMES BROWN IN THE '60s is a treasure trove of invaluable concert footage and real-life historical drama that's ultimately both enlightening and inspiring. If you're a James Brown fan already, this is a must-see. If not, watch it and you just might get the feelin'.


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Wednesday, June 22, 2022

RWBY: BEACON, VOLUMES 1-3 (STEELBOOK) -- Blu-ray Review by Porfle



 Originally posted on 10/2/16

 

The creative team at Rooster Teeth and Cinedigm (the creators of RED VS. BLUE) have really outdone themselves with the stunningly beautiful and exciting American anime epic RWBY: BEACON, VOLUMES 1-3, the first major story arc in the ongoing series.  In fact, watching it may have gotten me so spoiled that from now on, few other examples of this k‌ind of animated adventure will live up to its level of wonderfulness. 

If that sounds like an exaggeration, it's because I tend to do that when I'm having a fantastic time.  I reviewed the third volume of this saga on its own earlier this year (which you can read HERE), and even without the first two as backstory it wasn't long before I was caught up in the sweeping tale of a futuristic world called "Remnant" (whose now-peaceful countries are the remains of a cataclysmic world war) in which super-powered teens train at academies to become huntsmen and huntresses who protect the world from evil.

This evil consists mainly of roving packs of huge, vicious animal-monsters known as Grimms.  However, human and semi-human villains plot against the forces of good as well, some of them even posing as students and infiltrating Beacon academy where our favorite superheroes-in-training strive to take their places as guardians of the world.


The main team of wannabe huntresses is known as RWBY (pronounced "ruby") whose color-coded members consist of the childlike, excitable Ruby Rose (red), ice-queen heiress Weiss Schnee (white), mysterious, moody Blake Belladonna (black), and Ruby's outgoing older sister Yang Xiao Long (yellow). Like everyone else at Beacon, each has her own individual super-power and preferred weaponry.  

At first they seem to be the usual girly-girls we find in such series as "K-On"--they're funny and sometimes a little ditzy in addition to being great athletes and warriors, and not above the occasional bout of slapstick comedy--but as the events of the story progress they and their classmates reveal many levels to their characters as the various interpersonal conflicts become progressively deep and emotionally resonant, and often carry over onto the field of battle. 

The sharply-written script is filled with snappy, natural-sounding dialogue that avoids being dumb or stilted. What's more, the large cast is loaded with appealing characters (the voice acting is superb), each of whom is fascinating in his or her own way.


Since this is a story about teens discovering themselves and each other, even the "cooler" and more seemingly invincible students get to reveal their sensitive, vulnerable sides as well as a few insecurities that are helped along by the understanding and empathy of their peers. 

Naturally, all of this teamwork, friendship, and acceptance contributes to a general feelgood ambience that's just pure fun.  There's even an impromptu group dance during the charming ballroom dance sequence that rivals the one in DEAD KIDS for pure uninhibited joy.

In sharp contrast, it's the somber, fiercely dramatic and often action-packed scenes where RWBY really goes into overdrive.  Consistently dazzling displays of imaginative fight choreography, brilliant direction, an excellent musical score, and eye-pleasing design shatter monotony and keep each new battle as fresh, thrilling, and unpredictable as the last.  The gorgeous candy-coated visuals have the look of vibrant cel art that's been brought to life with finely-rendered computer animation and motion-capture. 


Battle sequences come at the viewer at a breakneck pace that's edited rapid-fire but still easy to follow.  The battle between the young heroes and two terrible Grimms--a giant vulture and a monster scorpion--within the ruins of an ancient temple during a training mission is one of the most breathtaking and spectacular displays of animation of ANY kind that I've ever seen. 

Yang's deflating remark at the end ("Well...that was a thing") is just the sort of dead-on attitude of serious fun that permeates this entire collection.   One incredible action sequence follows another, including a furious competition between the different training academies which then becomes a spectacular and sustained battle royale when the villains, led by ultra-bad-girl Cinder and juvenile-delinquent-deluxe Torchwick, launch their final attack on Beacon. 

For me, a giddy feeling of "this is gonna be good!" preceeds each fight, which never disappoints. It's the kind of all-out wonderful genre goodness that makes me glad I became a nerd in the first place.  If I were still a smoker I'd have had to light up when it was over.


As I said in my review of volume three: "I don't often see a story escalate from colorful action-filled fun to catastrophic disaster epic the way RWBY: VOLUME 3 effortlessly does...this is great anime entertainment that left me wanting more."

The 3-disc Blu-ray set from Rooster Teeth and Cinedigm is packaged in a cool limited-edition steelbook case with plastic slipcover.  Total feature running time is 7 hours and 19 minutes.  There are no subtitles for disc one, but discs two and three contain English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing. Each disc is generously endowed with commentary tracks, informative behind-the-scenes featurettes, character profiles and other backstory info, trailers, and other goodies.

While some hardcore anime fans tend to be more blase' about it (according to various forum posts), this is some of the best anime I've ever seen.  Heck, it's one of the best things of ANY kind I've ever seen.  Watching it gives me the same feeling of exploring something new and amazing that I had the first time I ever saw AKIRA.  And while that may only be my immediate excitement over it talking, it sorta tells you just how exciting it is.  RWBY: BEACON, VOLUMES 1-3 is spectacular in a way that no other medium could express, and watching it is pure, exhilarating entertainment.

Buy it at Amazon.com

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Tuesday, June 21, 2022

SPACE PRECINCT: THE COMPLETE SERIES -- DVD review by porfle


 Originally posted on 12/10/10

 

Looking like a kiddie show but playing like a futuristic primetime cop series, Gerry Anderson's SPACE PRECINCT: THE COMPLETE SERIES (1994-95) may take an episode or two for members of its target audience to realize what they're watching.  I didn't really like it myself at first, but boy, did it ever grow on me.

Despite its Saturday-morning look, SPACE PRECINCT is a sci-fi variation of the traditional hardboiled cop show complete with sexuality, violence, and other adult themes.  Familiar cliches abound, but with a subtle satirical edge that never veers into farce or self-mockery.  The characters and situations are always realistic enough to be taken seriously even though the show itself is one big, elaborate elbow in the ribs.

Ted Shackelford plays Lt. Patrick Brogan, a former NYPD cop who's now part of the 88th Precinct, which happens to be in orbit around the distant planet Altor.  Brogan's a devoted family man and a good, honest cop, but he's not above bending the rules a little when the situation calls for it.  His main beat is gritty metropolis Demeter City, a bustling hotbed of crime and corruption that looks like something out of a bargain-basement version of BLADE RUNNER, complete with flying cars (known here as "hoppers"). 

Since this UK show is produced by the same guy who brought us "Thunderbirds", "UFO", and "Space: 1999", everything's done with obvious models and the hoppers zip around on wires, but that's part of the fun.  Once you get used to it, it looks pretty cool--in fact, the SPFX guys manage to pull off some awesome "car" chases and stage an endless number of entertaining crashes and explosions.  This model work often has an updated "Flash Gordon" vibe which tends to give my inner geek a real buzz.  (Some CGI does crop up occasionally, mainly in the outer space shots.)


 

Down on ground level, the life-sized inner city sets are appropriately grimy and foreboding as lowlifes lurk in the shadows and crime runs rampant.  Here we find the main draw of SPACE PRECINCT--a variety of wonderfully designed aliens sporting some of the most lifelike, expressive animatronic masks I've ever seen.  The movements of the eyes and facial muscles in conjunction with the actors' performances creates a stunning effect which really makes these characters come alive despite a certain "cartoony" quality. 

In addition to its human population, Demeter City's two main alien races are the Creons and the Tarns.  Creons resemble gnarly versions of E.T. with big wide-spaced eyes and prunelike skin, and comprise most of the city's blue-collar element.  Tarns are somewhat more streamlined in appearance and sport a third eye which gives them limited telekinetic and mindreading abilities.  With Demeter City serving as a melting pot for the surrounding star system we also get to see a wide variety of other alien species with similarly ingenious design.

Back at the precinct, Brogan's cocky but capable young partner Jack Haldane (Rob Youngblood) is forever trying to break through the romantic defenses of beautiful Officer Jane Castle (Simone Bendix, who looks just plain awesome in uniform).  Her partner, Aurelia Took (Mary Woodvine), is a sensitive, soulful Tarn who uses her third-eye powers as an interrogation aid.
 

 

Buddy cops Orrin and Romek are a couple of likable Creon sad sacks who provide much of the comedy relief, while another Creon, Captain Rexton Podly (Jerome Willis), is the stereotypical gruff, hardnosed boss with a heart of gold.  ("Sometimes," Podly philosophizes in one episode, "reality takes a hammer to your dreams and smashes the hell out of them.")  Rounding out the group is a diminutive robot named Slomo who actually manages to not be overly cutesy.  On the homefront, Brogan's strongwilled wife Sally (Nancy Paul) and tweener kids Matt and Liz provide moral support and also feature prominently in several storylines.

While Shackelford, Youngblood, and Bendix are talented enough to give their thinly-drawn characters sufficient depth and charm (Shackelford in particular is so good here that I've been forced to forgive him for being in "Knot's Landing"), it's those alien characters that I find so mesmerizing.  Brimming with personality, each is capable of expressing subtle emotions in closeup (Officer Took in particular), with surprisingly convincing results.  Although you never forget that they're actors wearing articulated big-head masks, the effect is never less than impressive.

Stories alternate between cop-show staples, "X-Files" strangeness, and pure sci-fi, sometimes in various combinations.  The wide-ranging array of plotlines include black-market organ harvesting ("Deadline"), a Terminator-like cyborg with its sights set on Brogan and everyone around him ("Time to Kill"), interspecies racism ("Hate Street"), and a new, highly-addictive drug that causes its users to spontaneously combust ("Flash").  Things get tense in "Body and Soul" when Brogan and his son Matt find themselves trapped in a derelict spaceship that's on a countdown to self-destruct.


 

"The Fire Within", a two-parter from late in the season, starts out on the dull side as Brogan and the gang investigate a shady fire-worshipping religious cult.  But part one ends with a bang and part two builds to a spectacular finale with movie-level thrills and suspense. "Deathwatch", another two-parter which brings the series to a close, features a deadly alien spore that threatens to wipe out all life on Altor.

"James Bond" alumnus John Glen directs several episodes of this flashy, fast-moving series, with a rousing musical score by composer Crispin Merrell.  British viewers will probably recognize more of the guest stars than I do--"Divided We Stand", for example, features Suzanne Bertish of the Royal Shakespeare Company.  Ray Winstone's name shows up in the end credits for the prison-asteroid hostage drama "Two Against the Rock" although he must've been playing an alien because I couldn't spot him.  Also appearing in various episodes are Burt Kwouk (THE PINK PANTHER series), Maryam D'Abo, ALIEN 3's Danny Webb, and Christopher Fairbank (BATMAN, THE FIFTH ELEMENT).

The five-disc DVD set from Image Entertainment is in 1.33:1 full-screen with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.  There are no subtitles or extras.  Total running time for the 24 full-length episodes is 17 hours, 43 minutes.  Again, Simone Bendix looks awesome in uniform.

It's a shame this series didn't last longer, because it just gets better and better during its single season.  Kids may find the stories too grown-up, while many adults will initially be put off by its seemingly juvenile veneer.  But for the discerning geek who thinks a cross between "Jason of Star Command" and "Hawaii Five-O" sounds like a cool idea, watching SPACE PRECINCT: THE COMPLETE SERIES is like going to Disneyland and riding all the rides.


Buy it at Amazon.com


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Monday, June 20, 2022

EATEN ALIVE -- Blu-ray Review by Porfle




 Originally posted on 2/10/18

 

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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