Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Umberto Lenzi|
|Produced by||Mino Loy
|Written by||Umberto Lenzi|
Lorraine De Selle
|Edited by||Enzo Meniconi|
|Distributed by||Grindhouse Releasing|
|Running time||93 minutes
83 minutes (Edited cut)
Cannibal Ferox, also known as Make Them Die Slowly, is a 1981 Italian exploitation film written and directed by Umberto Lenzi. Upon its release, the film's US distributor claimed it was "the most violent film ever made". Cannibal Ferox was also claimed to be "banned in 31 countries", some of which lifted their bans only recently.
The film begins in New York City, with a man buying heroin from his dealer, Mike. The man finds two mobsters who are also looking for Mike because he owes them $100,000. They shoot him and leave him for dead.
Meanwhile, in Paraguay, two siblings, Rudy and Gloria, along with their friend Pat, prepare for a journey into the rain forest. They want to ensure that Gloria's theory was right; cannibalism is a myth. The trio encounter Mike and his partner Joe. Joe is badly wounded; Mike explains the two were attacked by cannibals. During the night, Gloria goes missing and Rudy finds a native village while looking for her.
Due to Joe's injuries, the troupe decides to stay in the nearly deserted native village. Mike seduces the naive Pat. In a cocaine-fueled rage, he encourages Pat to kill a native girl, but she is unable to do it, so Mike kills the girl himself. In his dying moments, Joe reveals that he and Mike were responsible for the cannibals' aggression. The two came to the region to exploit the natives for emeralds and cocaine, taking advantage of their trust in white men. One day, while high on cocaine, Mike brutally tortured and killed their native guide in full view of his tribe. The badly charred body that the troupe thought to be the Portuguese guide (who never existed) is actually this native. Mike kidnapped a native girl to lead them out of the jungle, but the two were followed and attacked.
In light of Mike's murder of the girl, the natives finally snap and begin to hunt the troupe. Joe dies of his wounds, and his body is found and cannibalized by the natives in full view of Rudy and Gloria, who are hiding from the natives. Mike and Pat had abandoned the rest of the troupe, but they are all rounded up by the natives eventually. They are forced into a cage (that Mike originally used to lock up natives) and forced to watch Mike be tortured and eaten. The wound is then cauterized to ensure he does not bleed to death. When the natives take the troupe to another village, Rudy manages to escape, hiding in a pool of water from the natives. However, he is caught in a booby trap in the jungle and the bleeding wound of his attracts the attention of piranhas, who force him out of the pool screaming. The natives shoot him with a poisoned dart, and he dies almost instantly.
Pat, Gloria, and Mike are taken to a new village where their suffering continues. The women are put in a hole in the ground as Mike is placed in a separate cage. The native man who Pat saved from Mike at the beginning appears, and lowers a rope into the hole so the women can escape. However, at this point Mike digs out of his cage, chases the man away, and cuts the rope, preventing the women from escaping. He then flees into the jungle. He is almost spotted by a plane being flown by a search party looking for the missing troupe (one of which is Mike's girlfriend from New York), but shouting in an attempt to be noticed by the plane causes the natives to finally locate him. They drag him to a fallen tree and cut off his right hand with a machete before taking him back to the village. When the search party lands, they are told by the natives that the explorers were in a canoe, which capsized. They were then eaten by crocodiles.
Pat is bound, stripped, and has hooks put through her breasts. She slowly bleeds to death as Gloria is forced to watch. Mike's head is placed in a crude apparatus, and the top of his head is cut off; the natives then proceed to eat his brains. Gloria is left for the night; during this time the same sympathetic native who Mike chased off earlier returns and frees her. He guides her through the jungle, but is eventually killed by one of his own people's booby traps. A desperate Gloria eventually meets up with a pair of trappers, who take her to safety. Instead of telling the true story, she backs up the natives' lie about the others being eaten by crocodiles.
The film ends with a shocked and jaded Gloria part of society once again. She has published a book called Cannibalism: End of a Myth which completely covers up the story of what happened. This was most likely done because of her realization that the natives were only vicious because of the extensive cruelty they had endured under the white man they once revered.
- John Morghen as Mike Logan
- Frank von Kuegelgen (uncredited English dub voice) as Mike Logan
- Lorraine De Selle as Gloria Davis
- Bryan Redford as Rudy Davis
- Zora Kerowa as Pat Johnson
- Walter Lloyd as Joe Costolani
- Robert Kerman as Lt. Rizzo
- Meg Fleming as Myrna Stenn
- John Bartha as Brooklyn mobster
- Venantino Venantini as Sgt. Ross
- 'El Indio' Rincon as Native who helps Gloria
- Dominic Raacke as Tim Barrett
Cannibal Ferox was released uncut on video in the United Kingdom circa 1982 by Replay, but the film's transgressive imagery and scenes of real animal torture and slaughter resulted in the film promptly being banned under the Obscene Publications Act, finding itself languishing for years on the video nasties list. The most complete version currently available on DVD in the UK is missing around six minutes of footage (chiefly of graphic violence and animal cruelty), which was pre-cut before being given to the BBFC for a rating.
In the United States, Cannibal Ferox (aka Make them Die Slowly) "original, uncensored director's cut" was released by Grindhouse Releasing in the late 1990s. Grindhouse Releasing is still the sole official licensed distributor of the film in North America.
The film's soundtrack was written and performed by Roberto Donati and Fiamma Maglione (credited under their joint alias Budy Maglione). The score was first released in 1998 on CD by Blackest Heart Media. This CD version also contains Fabio Frizzi's score for Zombie. In 2014 the Cannibal Ferox soundtrack was re-released on vinyl and cassette by One Way Static Records. The vinyl edition contains four bonus tracks and extensive liner notes by Roberto Donati and the film's cast and crew.
- "CANNIBAL FEROX (18) (!)". Horror Video, Ltd. British Board of Film Classification. 23 November 2000. Retrieved 7 August 2013.
- Firsching, Robert. "Cannibal Ferox (1981) - Trailers, Reviews, Synopsis, Showtimes and Cast - AllMovie". AllMovie. Retrieved 12 August 2012.
- Cannibal Ferox at the Internet Movie Database
- Cannibal Ferox at Rotten Tomatoes
- Interview with exploitation film distributor Bob Murawski of Grindhouse Releasing
- Cannibal Ferox DVD release information
- Make Them Die Slowly trailer is available for free download at the Internet Archive
- Cannibal Ferox Soundtrack on Discogs
- Cannibal Ferox Soundtrack on One Way Static Records