Cannibal Ferox (Umberto Lenzi / Italy-Spain, 1981):
(Make Them Die Slowly; The Woman From Deep River)

Consciously positioning itself as the final entry in the loose Cannibal troika, the film reverses Cannibal Apocalypse and Cannibal Holocaust by opening in the kind of New York City glimpsed solely by Euro sleazemeisters (five-o'clock-shadow lighting across skyscrapers, "Save their souls" signs, dubbed-in incantations of the word "shithead") before abruptly heading over to the jungles. The interrupted-and-transposed narrative is from Buñuel, Death in the Garden possibly, and Umberto Lenzi proceeds accordingly: Lorraine De Selle and Danilo Mattei ask directions from an uniformed local, who, having tapped the ass of their comely traveling companion (Zora Kerova), points the trio of gringos towards the green vastness (the "Paraguayan Amazon," it is said) with a jolly "¡Viva América!" NYU student De Selle is in this "poison paradise" researching her dissertation on how cannibalism is an "invention of colonialism"; lingering, documentary views of animal slaughter (anaconda vs. trapped mongoose, jaguar vs. monkey) illustrate not only the laws of Nature but also the director's shamelessness in exploiting them, for Man, of course, is the worst of beasts. The trekkers bump into Giovanni Lombardo Radice, who has awakened the fury of the natives by being a murderous, coked-up asshole, plenty of carnage awaits them as the heroine's political thesis is resoundingly disproved -- a fresh body is gutted for the first bit of intestine-munching, and Lenzi zooms into De Selle's tremulous eyes for the despoiling of her innocent/ignorant gaze. "Red River Valley" segues into yet another turtle-disembowelment, the flattop gag from Hannibal (and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom) finds its deadpan origins here, though not before Radice gets a vasectomy via machete. Lenzi flexes his own cruelty by having sacrificial slut Kerova tearfully recall her estranged father before getting metal hooks shoved through her breasts; still, the most potent close-up offers up an American Express card held by indigenous hands, conquistador greed updated for the grindhouse '80s. The message? "Violence breeds violence," naturally, so the smarty-pants anthropologist sidesteps it and grabs her diploma, numbed by the spectacle. With Walter Lucchini, Fiamma Maglione, and Robert Kerman.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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