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Sunday, October 04, 2015


Giving new meaning to the term "sausage fest."

THE GREEN INFERNO, directed by Eli Roth of CABIN FEVER and HOSTEL renown/infamy, was recently unleashed upon the nation's movie screens and its charnel house excesses are shocking the living shit out of today's movie audiences that are used to far more genteel fare. But what the average theatergoer at the local multiplex may not realize is that Roth's film is an homage to the even more extreme sights found in the cinematic abattoir that is the Italian cannibal genre. Italian cinema has never shied away from ultra-graphic violence and gore, and the ne plus ultra of the form were viscera-drenched cheapies shot in South American locations, featuring "savage" natives coming into direct and anthropophagous conflict with representatives of western society. The white people who have the grievous misfortune of running afoul of said cannibalistic tribesmen invariably find themselves stranded in the middle of some tropical hellhole with no communications with the outside world, no hope of rescue, and pretty much no way out, so in a story with horrible inevitability built in, the narrative is actually beside the point and the true point of the whole thing is the gruesome, sadistic violence and liberal lashings of body parts being devoured in lingering closeup.

When fans refer to genre entries as "gut-munchers," they sure ain't kidding.

I first encountered MAKE THEM DIE SLOWLY (originally released in its native Italy as CANNIBAL FEROX) during an excursion to Times square when I was sixteen. That was back in the bygone days when it was the birthright of kids in the Tri-State area to head into the Times Square/42nd Street area of Manhattan and have their innocence irrevocably stripped from them by the lurid sight of the Deuce's cornucopia of porn and exploitation movie theaters. Those temples of corruption featured garish marquees and posters that left little (or nothing) to the imagination while attempting to get patrons to part with their hard-earned cash, and the deal was often sealed due to the endless loop video displays that greeted passersby near the box office. It was while strolling by one such theater that I read a red-lettered marquee announcing "BANNED IN 36 COUNTRIES! MAKE THEM DIE SLOWLY!!!"and saw the ultra-gory trailer on one of the aforementioned video displays, so I was of course quite intrigued, but I was with a large group that was under the supervision of responsible adults, thus seeing the film right then and there was simply not in the cards. I put the film out of my mind and forgot all about it for the next six years, until a fellow student at my university brought it up as an exploitation landmark that my filmic education was in no way complete without me having experienced it. In no time I tracked down the film on a well-worn VHS copy at a dodgy video rental joint in Portchester and finally bore witness to what was at the time the most unabashedly gory and disgusting film that I had yet seen.

One of the film's more subdued moments.

The "plot" of MAKE THEM DIE SLOWLY is merely a flimsy excuse to get its white protagonists into the rain forest for graphic slaughter, and I've described it to the curious thusly: "An anthropology student and a few companions travel to the rain forest so she can prove her theory that cannibalism performed by the native tribesmen is a myth. Hoo-BOY, is she ever proven wrong!!!" Two of the white people, a drug dealer and his lover, incur the wrath of the natives by torturing and killing some of the locals, in one memorable case gouging out one man's eyeball and castrating him in front of his whole village while the dealer's on a coke-fueled rampage, and in no time all of the party are captured and subjected to tortures that, well, make them die slowly. Disembowelment, a woman hung from meathooks by her bare breasts, the top of a head being cut open so the locals could feast upon the fresh brains,

and, the bit that forever relegated the movie to grindhouse immortality/infamy, the drug dealer (Giovanni Lombardo Radice, billed here as John Morghen) has his penis hacked off with a machete and immediately eaten right in front of him, after which the wound is cauterized so he can survive to be subjected to yet more torture. Wholesome family entertainment at its best!

Kiss that dick goodbye!

The plot's barely extant and there's little or no character development, so it's painfully obvious that the filmmakers' sole intent was to craft the most visually repellent and viscerally disgusting movie humanly possible, a task at which they succeeded in no uncertain terms. MAKE THEM DIE SLOWLY is about as joyless, mean-spirited, and downright unpleasant as it gets, complete with the totally unnecessary and offensive inclusion of actual animal cruelty footage of the type that was too often shoehorned into productions of this type in misguided attempts to "liven up" material that was already well past over the the top. It's a movie that's absolutely not for the squeamish, but I recommend it as my preferred choice of film to cite as a prime example of its grubby little niche on the horror family tree. It's also an ideal movie with which to test the limits of one's friends' tolerance for extreme gore. Excessive even thirty-four years after first being vomited up onto the screen, it's a safe bet that the average cinema civilian is in no way ready to weather the flick's nauseating spectacle, but it's the perfect shameless gross-out show with which to break in the innocent. That said, proceed at your own risk.

My prized autographed photo of Giovanni Lombardo Radice during his cinematic triumph.

Poster for the American theatrical release.

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