Cannibal Holocaust is a film that will make you feel terrible. It’s a no holds barred festival of brutality, actual animal harm and human sacrifice. Long before the recent Green Inferno, Ruggero Deodato created a cannibalistic exploitation piece that shocked the world of cinema. It blurred the lines between snuff and art, leaving the viewer wondering if the footage was really found and if they were witnessing actual death. The Guardian has called Cannibal Holocaust the most controversial film ever made,
The film is a criticism of sensational news and movies.
Deodato made a film intending to show that the news media and film makers were the real savages. He commented that on TV every night he would watch as news crews ramped up the violence for ratings. He was quoted as saying, “It was the time of the Red Brigades. Every night on TV there were very strong images of people being killed or maimed. Not only killings but also some fabrications. They were increasing the sensationalism of the news just to shock people.”
In his zeal to make Cannibal Holocaust the result was something incredibly close to what he was criticizing. Uncensored animal slaughter and gratuitous violence made the film closer to the “Mondo” films he hated than to a critical film that could effect change.
That mustache is made for more than just straining soup.
Robert Kerman plays Professor Harold Monroe, the character who travels into the amazon to find the footage left by the documentary crew. He also appeared in over 100 porno movies including the seminal classic Debbie Does Dallas. He is said to have regretted this decision as he believes the popularity of the film kept him from getting bigger acting roles during the prime of his career.
Ten days after the film was released in Milan, a local magistrate confiscated the film and arrested Ruggero Deodato for indecency. Later the Italian justice system would tack on charges of murder, accusing the director of having murdered the four main cast members and an indigenous woman. The rumors that Cannibal Holocaust was a snuff film (a movie that depicts real murder or suicide) couldn’t be stopped. The actors had signed agreements not to appear in any film or media for a year after the release, which would help support the idea that the found footage was real. These charges stood until Deodato had the cast members testify in court that they were, in fact, alive.
It is the original found footage film.
In our last five facts we discussed Blair Witch Project, which is often reported to be the first true found footage film. While it is true that only the second half of Cannibal Holocaust is found footage, it was the first to use this technique. The film’s director followed his mentor’s style and used a format called cinéma vérité, which is essentially hyper realism. They wanted the camera to shake and move, not always be in focus, and to give the feel of being a handheld. It also allowed the viewer to get a first person view of the action, making it feel more real. This was done to such great effect that you can still find people online who swear that the movie depicted real deaths.
The only on film deaths happened with animals, which lead to hefty fines. In the end a turtle, a tarantula, a snake, two monkeys, a pig and a coati were all slaughtered for the movie. The cast and indigenous people did eat most of the animals that were killed but this lead to bans in many more countries.
It has a severely underrated musical score.
For many people the musical composition is the only thing out of place in Cannibal Holocaust. It comes in over the supposed raw footage that Professor Monroe is reviewing and ads a different drama than one would expect. The composition value was superb for a film rumored to be snuff, and was composed by Riz Ortolani. Ortolani would go on to compose music for 229 shows and movies, and his music would later be featured in several major films, including Drive, Django Unchained, and several other Tarantino films.
Cannibal Holocaust still manages to be one of the most intense movies ever made, and will continue to breed controversy so long as horror fans watch it. Do you have other facts about this movie? Toss them in the comments below.
Tony Southcotte: Tony hails from the Rocky Mountains somewhere around the state of Colorado. Possibly raised by grizzly bears, this gritty denizen of the arena now spends most of his time grappling with Java updates and dysfunctional RAM. With not much fiction under his belt, it might seem tempting to bet against Mister Southcotte, but an impressive knowledge of everything from PVC pipe to psychedelic drugs makes Tony a storehouse of fiction waiting to hit the paper. Plus, you know, there’s the possibility of him ripping you apart like a grizzly bear.