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Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Umberto Lenzi|
|Produced by||Mino Loy|
|Screenplay by||Umberto Lenzi|
|Music by||Roberto Donati|
|Edited by||Enzo Meniconi|
|Distributed by||Medusa Distribuzione (Italy)|
Aquarius Releasing (US, theatrical)
Grindhouse Releasing (US, home video)
83 minutes (Edited cut)
Cannibal Ferox, also known as Make Them Die Slowly in the US and as Woman from Deep River in Australia, is a 1981 Italian cannibal exploitation horror 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", although this claim is dubious.
In Paraguay, siblings Rudy and Gloria and their friend Pat prepare for a journey into the rain forest. They plan to prove Gloria's theory that cannibalism is a myth. The trio encounter a man named Mike and his partner Joe. Joe is badly wounded; Mike explains that they 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 travelers decide to stay in the nearly deserted village. Mike seduces the naive Pat. In a cocaine-fueled rage, he encourages Pat to kill a native girl. 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. They 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 the tribe. A badly charred body, previously believed to be that of a different guide, is actually this native. Mike kidnapped a native girl to lead them out of the jungle, but the outsiders were followed and attacked.
After the murder of the native girl, the cannibals finally snap and hunt the outsiders. 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 abandon the others, but all are captured by the natives and forced into a cage. The prisoners are forced to watch Mike as he is tortured and beaten. The natives transport their prisoners to another village, but Rudy manages to escape. He is caught in a booby trap in the jungle, and his bleeding wounds attract piranhas. The natives shoot him with a poisoned dart, and he dies instantly.
Pat and Gloria are put in a hole in the ground. Mike is placed in a separate cage. A native man, whom Pat had saved from Mike's aggression, lowers a rope into the hole so the women can escape. Mike digs his way out of the cage, chases the man away and cuts the rope, preventing the women from escaping. Mike flees into the jungle, where he tries to attract the attention of a search and rescue plane, but he is recaptured. The natives sever one of his hands and drag him back to the village. The search plane lands, but the natives tell the rescuers that the outsiders' canoe capsized in the river and they were eaten by crocodiles.
As the search team leaves, Pat is bound and stripped to the waist and the natives run hooks through her breasts, for her to be hung by them. Gloria can only watch as Pat dies a slow and painful death. Meanwhile, Mike's head is locked in a crude contraption and the top of his skull is cut off so that the natives can eat his exposed brain. During the night, the sympathetic native returns and frees Gloria. He guides her through the jungle, but falls victim to one of the natives' booby traps. Gloria eventually encounters a pair of trappers, who take her to safety. Instead of telling the true story, she recounts the natives' lie about the others being eaten by crocodiles.
Gloria, deeply disturbed by her experiences, returns to civilization. She publishes a book titled, Cannibalism: End of a Myth, which lies to support her theory and covers up the events of her ordeal.
- Giovanni Lombardo Radice (as John Morghen) as Mike Logan
- Frank von Kuegelgen as Mike Logan (English dub voice, uncredited)
- Lorraine De Selle as Gloria Davis
- Pat Starke as Gloria Davis (voice, uncredited)
- Danilo Mattei (as Bryan Redford) as Rudy Davis
- Gregory Snegoff as Rudy Davis (voice, uncredited)
- Zora Kerova (as Zora Kerowa) as Pat Johnson
- Walter Lucchini (as Walter Lloyd) as Joe Costolani
- Andy Luotto as Joe Costolani (voice, uncredited)
- Robert Kerman as Lt. Rizzo
- Edward Mannix as Lt. Rizzo (voice, uncredited)
- Fiamma Maglione (as Meg Fleming) as Myrna Stenn
- Susan Spafford as Myrna Stenn (voice, uncredited)
- John Bartha as Brooklyn Mobster
- Richard McNamara as Brooklyn Mobster (voice, uncredited)
- Venantino Venantini as Sgt. Ross
- Lewis E. Ciannelli as Sgt. Ross (voice, uncredited)
- 'El Indio' Rincon as Juanito
- Dominic Raacke as Tim Barrett (uncredited)
- Steven Luotto as Tim Barrett (voice, uncredited)
- Perry Pirkanen as Paul (uncredited)
- Larry Dolgin as Paul (voice, uncredited)
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. Early DVD versions, available in the UK were 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. The full version of the film was submitted to the board in 2018, and again received 2 minutes of cuts to the animal violence.
In Australia, where it was released as Woman from Deep River, the film also faced censorship issues, being given numerous censored releases. In 2005, the uncut version was released on DVD by Siren Visual under the Cannibal Ferox title.
In the United States, Cannibal Ferox's (aka Make Them Die Slowly) "original, uncensored director's cut" was released by Grindhouse Releasing in the late 1990s. Grindhouse is still the sole official licensed distributor of the film in North America. On May 22, 2015, Grindhouse released the film in a 3 Disc Blu-ray/DVD feature, the film's first time on Blu-ray Disc. The Blu-ray featured the documentary film Eaten Alive! The Rise and Fall of the Italian Cannibal Film and 12 page booklet.
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On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 40% approval rating, based on five reviews. AllMovie called the film "revolting," but "nauseatingly effective," though noting that it is "primarily a showcase for the gory special-effects artistry of Gianetto de Rossi".
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.
- "Films: C #1- Censor". RefusedClassification.com. Retrieved 28 February 2018.
- Grindhouse Releasing Brings Cannibal Ferox to Blu-ray
- You’ll eat up “CANNIBAL FEROX” on Grindhouse’s new Blu-ray set!
- Cannibal Ferox at Rotten Tomatoes
- Firsching, Robert. "Cannibal Ferox (1981) - Trailers, Reviews, Synopsis, Showtimes and Cast - AllMovie". AllMovie. Retrieved 12 August 2012.
- Cannibal Ferox on IMDb
- 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 download at the Internet Archive
- Cannibal Ferox Soundtrack on Discogs
- Cannibal Ferox Soundtrack on One Way Static Records