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Eaten Alive (Mangiati Vivi)

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Posted 24th April 2009 at 03:26 PM by Philleh

Umberto Lenzi could be the man responsible for both the creation and the destruction of the Italian cannibal cycle. If it wasn’t for his 1972 effort Deep River Savages (A.K.A Man from Deep River) it’s likely we wouldn’t have had the genre’s crown jewel, Ruggero Deodato’s Cannibal Holocaust. Lenzi would go on to make the infamous Cannibal Ferox in 1981, that takes all the extreme elements of Deodato’s classic, but leaves the intelligence of that film behind, resulting in a truly offensive watch. It was also one of the final instalments in the Italian Cannibal genre.

A year before that though he made Eaten Alive (Mangiati Vivi) with a few of the Cannibal genre’s most frequent stars: Robert Kerman, Ivan Rassimov and Me Me Lai. Not to mention a small role for exploitation supreme-o, Mel Ferrer! It’s a cheap, trashy entry into a cheap, trashy genre… what else would you expect, or ask for?

Ever the exploitation guru, Lenzi has based Eaten Alive on real life events: in this case the Jonestown massacre, only here it’s a Revered Jonas – not Jones (subtle). Janet Agren (City of the Living Dead) plays Sheila, a young Alabama gal who is looking for her sister, who has run off into the ‘green inferno’ with her lunatic lover Jonas (Ivan Rassimov – Jungle Holocaust). She hires an arm wrestling drunk, Mark (Robert Kerman – Debbie Does Dallas), to help her track down her older sister for the handsome some of $80,000.

After a close call with a crocodile, which results in the death of their native guide, Sheila and Mark find themselves washed up in the middle on nowhere. Luckily it’s just where Jonas has set up his utopia: away from the sinister, corrupting and polluting forces of modern society! Once welcomed, they soon spot Sheila’s sister, Diane (Paola Senatora), who has been brainwashed by Jonas. It transpires that they are actually about to witness a cult-style funeral for a fallen member (via suicide), the wife (Me Me Lai – Jungle Holocaust) cremates the corpse of her partner. Later, she must have sex with his three brothers (in full view of everyone) to prove to the community that she is fit for marriage once again!(?)

Realising (well-done people) that this is some ****ed up shit, Mark tries to get away, but it proves futile as the river (and local tribe) are too vicious to contend with. Returning to the cult with a lowered head, he requests to be part of the collective. Jonas agrees, only if he will drink his special cocktail (that has also turned Sheila into a brainless follower) and dedicate his life to the group: Mark accepts.

Naturally, Mark has other plans and finally gets some sense from Diane, who joins in on his scheme to get them outta there. She talks the bereaved wife into being their guide and together they try and talk Sheila around, each attempt gets quashed by Jonas and his special brew! Mark, having enough of her shit, gags her, ties her up and kidnaps her as they flee from the community in the early hours of the morning. Will they manage to make it through the green inferno, avoid the cannibals and finally get across that damn river? And what will Jonas do once he realises their disappearance? And will you actually give two-hoots?

All in all, Eaten Alive is a pretty shoddy movie. Lenzi, in true exploitation fashion, even steals scenes from superior genre flicks, such as Jungle Holocaust and Mountain of the Cannibal God. The real surprise though was to find that this movie was produced by Mr. Edwidge Fenech himself, Luciano Martino (Sergio Martino’s brother and long time collaborator). Usually you can rely on his productions being something more polished than what is presented here: not quiet sure what the hell he was thinking when Lenzi came too him with this ($$$ no doubt), but it was a let down to learn of his involvement, which was originally one of hope when his name flashed up in the credits! Most of the footage taken is from the animal cruelty achieves and gore footage, it doesn’t fit in with the film as it’s thrown in at random points: A scene where they are canoeing down the river looking at the river bank, only to see a monkey get eaten by a snake… in shrubs, no river in sight! (It’s the same heartbreaking scene from Mountain of the Cannibal God) Another would be a death scene where a woman is killed and has her breast removed and eaten, then Lenzi adds a scene from Jungle Holocaust that shows the corpse with boobies intact(!) being prepared by Cannibals to eat. They are both lazily edited into the movie and really bugged me; it was unnecessary and damn right amateurish.

I will give Lenzi credit for bringing a little originality to his otherwise formulaic script with the Jonestown massacre riff, but it’s under-baked and doesn’t get enough screen time for the finale to affect the audience as much as it could have. Kerman shows he can ably handle leading man responsibilities, even doing some nifty stunt work at the end, but he’s no match for Rassimov, who is as maniacal as ever and proves to be the star of the show, as is often the case with the great man. Also worth noting is the music, Lenzi must have been so impressed by it that he used some of it again a year later for Cannibal Ferox! (which became the main theme in that movie)

Shriek Show has provided an average disc for an average movie. The print is fine, with the scenes from other movies being from of better stock originally you can see the difference and before its restoration I would hate to think of how bad this would have looked. Special Features include interviews with Lenzi, Rassimov and Kerman, they all reflect on the filming and Lenzi talks more about the Jonestown massacre. You also get a trailer for Eaten Alive and some of Shriek Show’s other ‘Jungle horrors’ titles.

For fans and completists of the Cannibal cycle (like me) this will be required viewing, just to fill the void, but overall it is a let down. Slow pacing will result in boredom long before the film kicks into gear in its final third. Everyone else is advised to give this one a miss.

Directed by:
Umberto Lenzi

Robert Kerman
Ivan Rassimov
Me Me Lai
Janet Agren
Mel Ferrer
Paola Senatora

Recommendations: Cannibal Holocaust & Emmanuel and the Last Cannibals
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  1. Old Comment
    Im a big cannibal film fan myself Philleh , and I would just like to congratulate you on a great review.

    Most reviewer's of films from the cannibal genre spend 90% of the review on the animal bits and the other 10% trashing those who watch them.
    You have managed a fair review of the movie that was both informative and enjoyable to read......... Well done Sir.
    Comment with Quote permalink
    Posted 24th April 2009 at 04:13 PM by vipco vipco is offline
  2. Old Comment
    Pete's Avatar
    Thanks a lot phil! i was going to write my own review of this film.
    Comment with Quote permalink
    Posted 27th April 2009 at 09:14 AM by Pete Pete is offline
  3. Old Comment
    Philleh's Avatar
    Lol, do it Loops - We'd all love to hear your take on the film!
    Comment with Quote permalink
    Posted 27th April 2009 at 11:27 AM by Philleh Philleh is offline
  4. Old Comment
    Pete's Avatar
    er i dont know if want to now, i feel intimidated by your review. What i will say now though is that the snake / monkey scene from cannibal god is the most unwatchable thing ever. Its just horrible.
    Comment with Quote permalink
    Posted 27th April 2009 at 11:48 AM by Pete Pete is offline
    Updated 27th April 2009 at 12:17 PM by Pete
  5. Old Comment
    Philleh's Avatar
    Don't be silly dude, get that review up!

    Yeah, it's heartbreaking footage; made even more so once you see the Sergio Martino interview on the AB/BU disc where he claims it was a case of 'in the right place at the right time' - yet when you see it in slow motion, the monkey was clearly tied and thrown to the snake!! Shocking.
    Comment with Quote permalink
    Posted 27th April 2009 at 01:00 PM by Philleh Philleh is offline
  6. Old Comment
    I seen that version were it showed you the interview and the monkey scene on the extras. The monkey was clearly tied and thrown to the snake.
    Its appalling behaviour and it seems to go on forever.
    No need for it whatsoever .
    Comment with Quote permalink
    Posted 27th April 2009 at 02:38 PM by vipco vipco is offline
  7. Old Comment
    Pete's Avatar
    I saw that interview and i lost a lot of respect for Martino. What i dont understand is how can people just stand there and let these things happen.
    Comment with Quote permalink
    Posted 28th April 2009 at 10:29 AM by Pete Pete is offline
  8. Old Comment
    Philleh's Avatar
    It's a staple of the genre, it's what sold the movies. Being the exploitation king that he is, Martino needed that element to sell the movie. Same as Deodato, Lenzi and Mattei; who continued to carry out such practises as late as 2003!!
    Comment with Quote permalink
    Posted 28th April 2009 at 11:25 AM by Philleh Philleh is offline
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