Mar 22, 2013

Cannibal Holocaust

Over a decade ago or so, I began my search for a certain infamous Italian cannibal film that I was led to believe was the Holy Grail of horror and splatter cinema and considering the film was never released in the USA in any home format (as it is today), not to mention the fact that it was not exactly as easy as it is today to find such rare films online, it felt like a rather hopeless situation in terms of seeing the film, so I inevitably caved and swallowed my pride, went to a horrific horror convention flooded with flabby fanboys who masturbate to Friday the 13th Part III (1982) while wearing Wal-Mart hockey masks, and did the unthinkable by buying a bootleg copy of Cannibal Holocaust (1980) directed by Ruggero Deodato (Waves of Lust, The House on the Edge of the Park) from a superlatively slimy and sleazy bootlegger from NYC. While the act of paying a parasitical urban pirate money for a film he had no part in creating disgusted me just as if I bought crack from some jaded jigaboo, I had no idea that the less than pristine print of Cannibal Holocaust was going to shock me in such a severe manner that I realized that my lifetime of being desensitized due to my horror movie addiction was not nearly as bad as I had originally assumed, thus leading me to similarly ‘infamous’ cinematic works like Pasolini’s Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975), Tinto Brass’ Salon Kitty (1976), Roger Watkins’ Last House on Dead End Street (1977), Gerald Kargl’s Angst (1983), Jörg Buttgereit’s Nekromantik (1987), Gaspar Noé’s Irréversible (2002), and countless other conspicuously controversial cinematic works that have made it all but impossible for me to take any Hollywood film seriously in terms of ‘taking risks’ and shocking the viewer. While Italian cannibal films are not exactly my favorite film subgenre, I still regard Cannibal Holocaust as king and can honestly say it is the only guido flesh-eater flick that I have taken the trouble to view more than once. In fact, after nearly half a decade without seeing it, I decided to re-watch Cannibal Holocaust recently and once again realized why it is the only "found footage" film I can stomach, as well as one of the only films that I am not surprised was banned not only in its native country of Italy, but also a number of other countries and why it still remains banned today in some places as one of the only exploitation films that brings minor poetry to senseless animal slaughter. 

 A surprisingly seamless yet savage film-within-a-film, Cannibal Holocaust has been described as a potent piece of cinematic social commentary, as well as repugnant, reprehensible, and racist film with no redeeming qualities. Frankly, I couldn't care less if some sissy ethno-masochistic xenophile that lurks in an overpriced independent coffee shop is even vaguely correct in his assessment of the film, but it is a fact that director Ruggero Deodato has cited the less than politically correct Italian documentary filmmakers Gualtiero Jacopetti, Paolo Cavara, and Franco Prosperi of Mondo cane (1962) fame as a major influence behind the film. Like Jacopetti, Cavara, and Prosperi’s documentaries, Cannibal Holocaust does not wallow in cuckold ‘cultural sensitivity’ as it portrays “noble savages” (the Yanomamo and Shamatari tribesmen featured in the film are authentic, but only the Yanomamo partake in a form of post-mortem ritual cannibalism) in a uniquely unflattering light, even if the film has an absurd tacked-on message, "I wonder who the real cannibals are?," in a feeble and superficial attempt to condemn imperialism and whatnot. What is more important is that Spaghetti Western maestro Sergio Leone (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Once Upon a Time in America) wrote a letter to director Deodato after watching Cannibal Holocaust, which stated, “Dear Ruggero, what a movie! The second part is a masterpiece of cinematographic realism, but everything seems so real that I think you will get in trouble with all the world.” And, indeed, the film caused all kinds of hell around the world, hence its relative scarcity until rather recently. Featuring a pseudo-documentary entitled “The Last Road to Hell” (which features real murder scenarios from around the glorious Third World) within the film in the tradition of Jacopetti and Prosperi's Africa Addio (1966) and Goodbye Uncle Tom (1971), as well as film reels of a film crew's ill-fated attempt to create a documentary about Amazon Rainforest tribes while raping, pillaging, and terrorizing people, Cannibal Holocaust is more than ample proof that the Occident, as well as the rest of the world (whether they like it or not), has reached an apocalyptic stage since the less ominous days of Italian Neorealism. If you’re a braindead gorehound and want to learn about the innate culture-distorting ills of multiculturalism without having to read a single line from a banal book written by some poof of a pencil-pusher, Cannibal Holocaust is probably the film for you. 

 During the beginning of Cannibal Holocaust, one learns about a missing American film crew comprised of director Alan Yates, his girlfriend Faye Daniels, and two cameramen Jack Anders and Mark Tomaso who traveled to the Amazon to make a documentary about warring indigenous cannibal tribes. A bleeding heart liberal cultural anthropologist named Harold Monroe (played by Jewish-American pornstar Robert Kerman aka R. Bolla of Debbie Does Dallas (1978)) from NYU ends up leading a rescue team to find the forsaken filmmakers. When he arrives in the Amazon, Mr. Monroe hooks up with a guide named Chaco, a charismatic barbarian of a man who snorts cocaine off a knife, and his twinkish assistant Miguel. With the help of a coke-snorting Yacumo tribesman who was taken hostage by the military, the group delves deep inside the rainforest where no other white men would dare to tread, killing real animals on the way and witnessing tribesmen performing adultery punishment against whorish wives, which involves rock-cock dildos being rammed up the philandering women's vaginas. Eventually Monroe and his motley crew locates the warring Ya̧nomamö and Shamatari tribes. After saving the lives of some of the more yellow-bellied Ya̧nomamö, Monroe and his crew are invited back to the tribe’s tree village, but not without suspicion of their weird white man ways, and after having a naked swim with some of the penis-prodding tribeswomen, the anthropologist is taken to a spiritual shrine used to ward off evil Europid spirits where the bones of the missing American filmmakers are located. Naturally, pissed off that those disenfranchised Indians dare to eat cultivated gringos, Monroe freaks out and has a hysterical hissy fit and fires off a couple rounds from his gun, but things cool down when the anthropologist trades a magical tape recorder to the savages for the fallen film crew’s film reels and the two groups celebrate by dining on fresh human meat. Of course, Monroe proves his cultivated open-mindedness and dedication to diversity by chowing down on the remains of savage, if not rather reluctantly so. 

 When Monroe returns back to his inhospitable cosmopolitan habitat of NYC, he is offered by a team of sleazy and shallow executives at the generically named “Pan American Broadcast Company” to host a show of a broadcasted documentary that is being made from the footage he recovered tentatively entitled, “The Green Inferno.” Monroe is shown one of director Alan Yates' previous documentaries, The Last Road to Hell, which features footage of exterminated Africans and piles of corpses of color. The anthropologist also learns that Yates was known to stage some of the footage to make it more enthralling and soon Monroe is exposed to how far the fiendish filmmaker was willing to go to get the perfect wide-angle rape shot and stunning savage-on-savage slaughter. Quite reluctantly, Monroe reviews the ‘found-footage’ that he is supposed to host and learns a number of unflattering things about his foredoomed filmmaker friends, including their taste for butchering and eating giant turtles, burning down entire villages of tribesmen and then forcing them to watch how white folks from America have sex, savagely defiling a savage woman via gringo gang-rape and subsequently impaling her body and blaming it on the savages as a sick sex ritual, blowing away tribesmen with their ‘boomsticks,’ and a variety of other odious displays of behavior that gets Alan Yates and his film crew brutally butchered and eaten by armies of the Ya̧nomamö. Disgusted with himself for being an American white man like Mr. Alan Yates, Monroe leaves the final screening disillusioned, but at least the TV executives decide to destroy the footage. 

 Not unsurprisingly, Cannibal Holocaust was confiscated by authorities a mere ten days after its premiere in Milan, Italy, but director Ruggero Deodato had bigger problems as he was not only charged with obscenity, but also murder as the courts believed the simulated death scenes in the film were real and that the actors that played Alan Yates and his compatriots really met true death, which is the sort of audacious auteur infamy that few other filmmakers can boast. As for Cannibal Holocaust star Robert Kerman, he had the following to say about his experience with mad maestro Ruggero Deodato, stating he is, “A maniac – totally nuts! He was often stressed and he lost his control sometimes and would shout. That really pissed me off. I always had the feeling that Deodato drove everybody crazy. And those animal scenes! I thought those pictures were created by special effects men, but no way was it…I told Deodato I would curse him if he kept on filming those animal mutilation scenes…Those scenes are disgusting and perverted.” Of course, one has to be doing something right when they have the propensity to piss-off and gross-out a Hebraic hardcore pornstar who once admitted, “I hope that porn is the most unrighteous thing I do. If we go out of our way to be scumbags, that's the sin; when I do porn, I offend Shakespeare more than God.” The great irony of Cannibal Holocaust is that despite being considered one of the most decidedly disturbing, exceedingly exploitative, and ceaselessly shocking films ever made, it also happens to be quite breathtaking and even majestic in parts, which is only all the more accentuated by Riz Ortolani’s melodious and highly memorable musical score. While not a work of ‘art cinema’ itself, Cannibal Holocaust is a singular exploitation piece in that it transcends the celluloid ghetto it ostensibly belongs to as a work that proves that films featuring naked brigades of savages castrating and cannibalizing evil white men and primitive women being impaled on poles can be not only aesthetically and thematically redeeming, but also endlessly enthralling. Also, clearly a relentless misanthropic, director Deodato does not care about sparing your emotions and if you came to Cannibal Holocaust hoping to get your jollies off by seeing hordes of denuded exotic primitives being wild and wanton and Amazonian miscegenation between savages and the racially sacrilegious, you’re in for a rude awakening! 

 Predating The Blair Witch Project (1999) – one of the most critically and especially commercially successful independent films ever made (grossing over US$248 million worldwide) – by nearly two decades yet taking the whole “found footage” gimmick to a much deeper and more depraved level, Cannibal Holocaust, despite its lack of availability until relatively recently (Grindhouse Releasing released a great DVD of the film in 2005 in the U.S.), has managed to develop an almost religious cult following over the decades that proves the particularly perverse potency of the film. With proponents like Troma Führer Lloyd Kaufman of all people, who compared the animal slaughtering scenes in the film to Bolshevik auteur Vsevolod Pudovkin's theory of montage, writing, “In Cannibal Holocaust, we see the actors kill and rip apart a giant sea turtle and other animals. The brain has been conditioned to accept that which it's now seeing as real. This mixture of real and staged violence, combined with the handheld camerawork and the rough, unedited quality of the second half of the movie, is certainly enough to convince someone that what they are watching is real,” Cannibal Holocaust proved horror films can be made that truly horrify the viewer to the point of shock and bring one to actually reexamine their entire Weltanschauung on a worldly cross-cultural scale, thus actually making them use their gray matter for once, which is truly an achievement for a genre in which its entire basis lay in striking the nerve of man’s most archaic emotions. A film that demystifies the power of news media and supposedly authentic documentary films, Cannibal Holocaust, to reference The Wizard of Oz (1939), figuratively reveals the “man behind the curtain,” puts him on trial, and has him executed by a savage swarm of sanguinary mud people who may have a virtual incapacity for reason, but who know when someone is truly deserving of death, which is indubitably one of the few truly 'universal' laws of humanity. An incendiary indictment of both degenerate Westerners of the pathologically materialistic persuasion and naive cultural anthropologists of the commie Boasian blend who believe in hocus pocus like “cultural relativism” but are shell-shocked when actually experiencing primitive peoples first hand, Cannibal Holocaust is easily the foremost anti-globalization horror work ever made and an inexplicably anti-agitprop agitprop work that intensely illustrates, quite ironically, via a pseudo-ethnology cinéma vérité work in the vein of French leftist anthropologist/filmmaker Jean Rouch – a xenophiliac man whose supposedly sympathetic documentary depictions of peoples of the dark continent was oftentimes viewed by native filmmakers as having “distorted African realities” – that different races and cultures have an innate incapacity for living in harmony together and that the more the peoples of the world come together, the more barbaric murder the planet will experience on a mayhem-ridden multicultural scale. However, more than anything, Ruggero Deodato has managed to package more practical anthropological insights and lessons in the subjectivity of documentary film/electronic media than one would probably receive at the undergraduate level at an American liberal arts university and if anyone can reach the deluded and damaged minds of fierce philistine gorehounds, they must be a savage genius of the Svengali Italian Stallion sort. 

-Ty E


Anonymous said...

I was wondering when you were going to reveiw this one, once again a truly magnificent masterpiece of a reveiw, incredible writing of the highest level and calibre.

Anonymous said...

Scavalini's "Nightmares in a Damaged Brain" (1981) next perhaps ! ? (the complete uncut version of course).

Anonymous said...

More evidence of course that the ONLY thing wrong with Hollywood is the MPAA, if the MPAA could somehow be completely flushed down the toilet every Hollywood movie would be like Cannibal Holocaust with-in a few months and all that lies and hypocrisy would be gone forever.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

This reveiw really does make Soiled Sinema the ONLY place to be on the internet today (except for "Anal Base-Lesbian Anal" obviously ! ! !).

jervaise brooke hamster said...

I want to bugger Francesca Ciardi (as the bird was in 1972 when the bird was 18, not as the bird is now obviously).

Unknown said...

Great review. Also... Riz Ortolani's score is just insanely good.