• Eaten Alive (Severin Films)

    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: February 20th, 2018.
    Director: Umberto Lenzi
    Cast: Robert Kerman, Janet Agren, Ivan Rassimov, Mel Ferrer, Me Me Lai, Paola Senatore
    Year: 1980
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    The Movie:

    The late, great Umberto Lenzi’s Eaten Alive opens in Niagara Falls, Ontario Canada (except that the scene in question was clearly shot on the American side) where a suspicious looking ‘native’ guy takes down a guy with a blow dart. Cut to Times Square where that same guy takes down another guy with a blow dart, right in front of a guy dressed as Santa Claus ringing his bell for charity! The assassin makes a run for it and is promptly run over by a truck. The cops are called in, but he had no identification on him. They don’t know who he is or what he was up to, until they find a small roll of 8mm film in the killer’s pocket. After screening the footage, they realize he was tied into death cult operating out of the jungles of New Guinea! Professor Carter (Mel Ferrer) explains that this area is inhabited by cannibals!

    Meanwhile, a beautiful blonde woman named Sheila (Janet Agren) has come to New York looking for her sister Diana (Paola Senatore) who she hasn’t heard from in six months. It turns out that Diana has joined this cult, the so-called Purification Sect led by Jonas Melvin (Ivan Rassimov). Sheila wants to get her sister back and so enlists the aid of tough guy Mark Butler (Robert Kerman) to get her to the sect’s village and help get her sister out in one piece. When they arrive and the find the village empty they learn that Jonas has taken his cult into the thick of the jungle. They head in themselves, after a dangerous canoe trip down river, and eventually meet up with Diana who is clearly under Jonas’ spell, at least when other cult members are looking. As it turns out, he’s really using armed guards and the surrounding cannibal tribes to control his followers for sex and swindle them out of all their money! Soon enough, Mark, Sheila and Diana try to escape with some help from Mowara (Me Me Lai) who saw her husband killed by the cult – but of course, it won’t be easy.

    Lenzi’s film not only plays with the typical cannibal film tropes – gut munching galore, unfortunately real animal violence, rape and mutilation all in a jungle setting – but it also very clearly ties in the then fairly recent 1978 Jonestown Massacre into the story as well. In fact, before it’s all over we’ve quite literally got Reverend Jonas (not Jones but Jonas!) forcing men, women and children alike to guzzle down a poison concoction that will kill them and bring them closer to God. It’s pretty blatant where Lenzi got the ideas from, and fairly tasteless that he did it less than two years after the actual events too place in Guyana… but it does make for a great exploitation film. Lenzi also cobbles together castration footage from Sergio Martino’s Mountain Of The Cannibal God as well as Me Me Lai’s death scene from his own Last Cannibal World and some of the animal violence and scenes of cannibalism that were shot for The Man From Deep River, also a Lenzi film.

    The movie isn’t nearly as gripping as Deodato’s masterpiece Cannibal Holocaust or even Lenzi’s own over-the-top Cannibal Ferox but it is nothing if not entertaining. Those adverse to real animal violence should be aware that there’s a fair bit of it in here, while the original effects (as opposed to the ‘borrowed’ ones) used to create the atrocities against the film’s human characters are also fairly strong. At one-point Jonas mashes a large stone dildo soaked in snake’s blood into her Shelia’s lady bits, while later poor Diana suffers some nasty breast mutilation (which seems to be a common occurrence in Cannibal films). If they’re not always 100% convincing, they are at least gleefully gory. Roberto Donati and Fiamma Maglione, credited in the English language credits as Budy-Maglione, provide a disco-tinged score that is reasonably great, though music from Lenzi’s Cannibal Ferox is also recycled here towards the end of the picture.

    The cast help to make this what it is. Rassimov is fairly awesome as the Jim Jones character. He’s got great screen presence and charisma and he looks fantastic decked out in his big red robe amongst all of his Caucasian followers and native soldiers. He performs with conviction and enthusiasm. Kerman is also his typically amusing self as Mark. He’s got an amiable sort of freewheeling charm to his character that suits his personality type well enough. He has decent chemistry with lovely leading lady Janet Agren, who herself is just fine in the lead role. If nothing else, she sure is fun to look at – particularly when stripped nude and then painted gold by Jonas’ followers. Paola Senatore is fine in her supporting part while Mel Ferrer just sort of shows up randomly, spouts off inane dialogue, and then vanishes for the bulk of the movie.


    Severin Films brings Eaten Alive to Blu-ray for the first time in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.66.1 widescreen “presented uncut, uncensored and fully remastered in HD for the first time ever.” Exactly how much remastering has been done here is probably open to debate as there’s minor print damage evident throughout in addition to frequent scratches and other visible dirt. This could have been cleaned up more, you’d think. Regardless, detail definitely rises above the previous Shriek Show DVD release. Given that the film incorporates footage from a few different sources as mentioned, it’s probably not a shock to note that there are some scenes that look cleaner and sharper than others. Compression could be better, but color reproduction isn’t bad, the reds of the gore scenes pop quite nicely, while black levels are decent throughout. This has always been a grainy, grubby looking film – that hasn’t changed with this release.

    DTS-HD 2.0 Mono tracks are presented in English, Italian and Spanish with optional English SDH subtitles for the English track and optional proper English subtitles for the Italian track (they’re not dubtitles). Audio quality is fine for the most part. Levels are properly balanced, and the tracks are fairly clean. Dialogue is easy enough to understand and the film’s awesome disco soundtrack sounds quite good.

    Extras start off with an all new featurette entitled Welcome To The Jungle which is an interview with the film’s late director Umberto Lenzi that runs just under seventeen-minutes in length. Here Lenzi talks about the ‘birth’ of the cannibal film with his earlier picture The Man From Deep River, how the script was originally written by Emmanuelle Arsan and how it didn’t have much of a story. He then recounts how the success of that film led to other Italian cannibal films including his own Cannibal Ferox and of course, Eaten Alive. He then talks about shooting the film, working with Kerman and why he incorporated the Jonestown Massacre elements into the story. Interesting stuff.

    From there, we jump into the feature length eighty-minute documentary Me Me Lai Bites Back which is an interesting look at the career of one of Italian cannibal filmdom’s unsung heroines. Comprised of interviews with Mike Hostench, Shelagh Rowan-Legg, Eli Roth and the feature’s director Calum Waddel and most importantly with Ms. Lai herself, this is a pretty extensive look at her contributions to one of the most notorious sub-genre’s in horror film history. Lai talks quite openly about how and why she wound up in these movies and what it was like working on the films. She also talks about her background, moving to England at a young age where she got into acting, some of the co-stars that she later became friends with, working with Lenzi and a few other directors and then what she did after she retired from acting when her daughter was born. This is a pretty important supplement as it sheds some very welcome light on Lai’s career and that gives it the attention that it has always deserved. This documentary originally appeared on the 88 Films Blu-ray release of The Man From Deep River.

    Up next is The Sect Of The Purification which is a new interview with production designer Antonello Geleng that clocks in at just over thirteen-minutes in length. Here he talks about working on a few Sergio Martino pictures before taking the job on Eaten Alive before going on to detail the locations that were secured for the shoot, the sets that were constructed for certain scenes and his appreciation for what the cast and crew were able to bring to the production.

    Severin Films also include a 2013 Q&A with Umberto Lenzi from that was recorded at his appearance at the UK’s Festival Of Fantastic Films. This runs twenty-four-minutes and features Waddel as a moderator and the involvement of a translator. Here Lenzi talks about how he doesn’t actually like his cannibal films that much before then talking about his cop/action movies and his giallo work.

    Carried over from the old Media Blasters DVD is twelve-minutes of archival interview footage shot with actors Ivan Rassimov and Robert Kerman. This clocks in at just over twelve-minutes and lets Rassimov talk about how he was more often than not always cast as villains in his films and his thoughts on Lenzi as a director. Kerman discusses working with Deodato and with Lenzi on different cannibal films and how they contrast/compare as directors before then offering up some thoughts on the films he appeared in.

    Outside of that, the disc also includes the film’s original theatrical trailer, animated menus and chapter selection.

    The Final Word:

    Eaten Alive holds up well, a super-sleazy gut muncher of a film with some fun performances from a few iconic cast members and some memorably grotesque set pieces. The whole thing is absurd, of course, but there’s no shortage of ridiculous entertainment value here. Severin Film’s Blu-ray release isn’t going to win transfer of the year, but it does offer a noticeable improvement over the past North American DVD release and it’s loaded with some seriously good extra features.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 3 Comments
    1. Darcy Parker's Avatar
      Darcy Parker -
      No need for my correction anymore.
    1. Matt H.'s Avatar
      Matt H. -
      Quote Originally Posted by Darcy Parker View Post
      No need for my correction anymore.
      Assuming there was ever a need for it, Professor.
    1. Gillybilly75's Avatar
      Gillybilly75 -
      I bought the Severin's blu-ray with OST and slip case because I love the film. Mainly because of Kerman and Agren's chemistry. What bothers me is that other than the main theme I don't recognize most or any other songs on the soundtrack. I know the original score was re-used in Lenzi's Cannibal Ferox but come on. I listen to the OST to Cannibal Ferox up on YouTube and recognize more songs from Eaten Alive. The songs put out for the Eaten Alive OST sound too modern/newish. I don't get it. I don't see how anyone else hasn't noticed this.