Color, 1980, 87m. / Directed by Umberto Lenzi / Starring Ivan Rassimov, Janet Agren / Shriek Show (US R1 NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9), Vipco (UK R2 PAL), EC (Holland R2 PAL), Spike Adventure (Japan R2 NTSC) / WS (1.85:1)


A year before Blake Edwards used archival clips and outtakes to create the bizarre patchwork that is The Trail of the Pink Panther, beloved Eurohack Umberto Lenzi pulled the same trick with Eaten Alive (Mangiagi vivi), a grisly greatest-hits package cobbling together clips from the likes of Jungle Holocaust, The Man from Deep River, and Mountain of the Cannibal God by way of a new storyline inspired by the Jim Jones tragedy at Guyana. Fast-paced and wholly derivative, this is trash filmmaking at its most resourceful and astonishing.

As with Lenzi's subsequent atrocity, Cannibal Ferox, this jungle romp begins in New York where crime is running rampant. In this case, however, the culprit is a mysterious evildoer running around shooting soporific darts into innocent victims, who are then spirited away to the jungle. One unfortunate's sister, Sheila (Janet Agren), takes a cannister of suspicious film footage to a local professor (Mel Ferrer), who points to New Guinea as the primary site for these nefarious activiites. Apparently Jonas (giallo favorite Ivan Rassimov), a powerful cult leader, has led his followers to this emerald hell and is drawing in outsiders to feed his bloodlust. After hopping onto a plane, Sheila hooks up with military deserter Mark (Cannibal Holocaust star and porn legend Robert Kerman), who assembles some local guides to wade through hungry cannibals and seemingly endless stock footage of animals dismembering each other. Eventually they reach Jonas' deadly camp, where Sheila is reunited with her sister but finds the adventure is just beginning.

So devoid of logic that it could be termed dreamlike if it were more technically proficient, Eaten Alive heaps on the gory goods and even offers some skin from Ms. Agren, something of a fanboy favorite from her Lucio Fulci days. The usual klutzy dubbing provokes a few laughs as well (don't miss the dodgy southern accents), and Ferox fans will find much of the music score strangely familiar. As usual Rassimov looks sinister and magnetic, even though his motives rarely make any sense, while Agren fans will delight in her nude recreation of Ursula Andress' famous gold body painting scene. While Ruggero Deodato's Cannibal Holocaust found an excuse for its ragged 16mm appearance, you'll find no such justifications here (except for that can of 8mm film at the beginning); Lenzi shot this one fast, loose and quick, so it's a credit that, repugnant animal atrocities aside, the results turned out to be this fast-paced and entertaining. (A side note to Radley Metzger fans: look for Score's Gerald Grant as a badly dubbed cop in the opening ten minutes.)

After circulating seemingly in every country in the world on VHS, Eaten Alive first appeared on laserdisc and two(!) DVD editions from Holland's EC Entertainment. The second DVD was an anamorphic upgrade and looked passable given the condition of the elements, while Britain later chipped in with Vipco's heavily scissored DVD (running a scant 81 minutes), which renders the film even more senseless. The American disc from Shriek Show is anamorphic and looks strikingly good, considering the hodgepodge mixture of 35mm and 16mm stock. Even the recycled footage looks better and more seamlessly integrated here than before, aside from the Me Me Lai "hot coals" bit from Jungle Holocaust which sticks out like a sore thumb. The U.S. disc includes the usual batch of trailers and a trio of interviews, with the show easily stolen by the gregarious Robert Kerman's lengthy interview. Happily discussing his legit and more, ahem, exotic film roles, he offers a candid assessment of his work in Italy's most notorious trio of cannibal films and even offers a misty recollection of a more recent fan convention experience. Umberto Lenzi (in Italian with English subtitles) and Ivan Rassimov (in his own voice, finally!) have much shorter interviews and sketch out their own approaches to the film and the state of exploitation filmmaking in Europe during the early 1980s. The colorful packaging (which doesn't list out the interviews for some reason) is polished off with R. Ian Jane's brief liner notes.


Mondo Digital Reviews Mondo Digital Links Frequently Asked Questions