While Italian genre cinema generated its fair share of classics throughout the ’70s and ’80s, filmmakers during that period were also quick to exploit successful trends. Lax copyright protections gave way to Italian rip-offs of such hits as The Exorcist, Jaws, Dawn of the Dead, Alien, The Evil Dead, and Mad Max, to name a few.
Not even Italy’s own productions were safe from imitation, as the cannibal subgenre proved. While 1972’s Man from Deep River is often cited as the originator, the international notoriety of Cannibal Holocaust ushered in the cannibal boom in 1980. Man from Deep River director Umberto Lenzi helmed another one of the subgenre’s highlights, Cannibal Ferox (originally released in the US as Make Them Die Slowly), in 1981.
Shot on location in the Amazon, the film follows three Americans to the Colombian jungles in search of an alleged cannibal village. Unfortunately for them, they find exactly what they’re looking for. It should come as little surprise that transgressive musician GG Allin was a noted fan of the controversial film.
Cannibal Ferox‘s exotic wildlife footage is undercut by real, graphic animal cruelty, along with racism inherent to the subgenre. It’s somehow even more exploitative than Cannibal Holocaust, as if Lenzi sought out to not just emulate it but to one-up it. The two films are similarly structured, cutting back and forth between the jungle and the city, but Holocaust‘s plot is more compelling, not to mention its innovations as proto-found footage.
Riz Ortolani’s Cannibal Holocaust soundtrack proved that disturbing imagery juxtaposed by lush music can be a dynamic pairing. For the Cannibal Ferox soundtrack, Lenzi enlisted Budy-Maglione — the duo consisting of Roberto Donati and Maria Fiamma Maglione, co-star of the film and wife of producer Mino Loy — to compose the score. The original motion picture soundtrack has been newly restored and pressed on vinyl by Grindhouse Releasing.
While Cannibal Ferox made its vinyl debut in 2014 via One Way Static, it was sourced from the monaural audio stem used in the film. The new LP boasts superior stereo audio from the master tapes, remastered by Eliot Kissileff and David Eck. Seven alternate takes and bonus tracks are included, bringing the album’s total running time to nearly 30 minutes.
Budy-Maglione employed an eclectic mix of instrumentation — from synthesizers and guitars to tribal percussion and flutes — to craft Cannibal Ferox‘s soundscape. The score, like the movie, opens with “NYC Main Title,” a disco-infused prog-rock jam that plays over the film’s opening credits with a toe-tapping rhythm that reflects the hustle and bustle of the city. It’s followed by the foreboding “Jungle Theme,” reminiscent of Fabio Frizzi’s work on The Beyond, which plays as the action moves to the Amazon River.
You might not expect a dreamy ’70s pop number from a track called “Jaywalkin’ Iguana,” but the album’s humorously matter-of-fact song titles occasionally reflect the tone of the music. “Jungle Jive” lives up to its name with a beat so catchy that it was sampled by underground rapper Ill Bill in his song “Legend Has It.” “Kettle of Doom” and “Pit of Doom” are appropriately foreboding. “Cannibal Village” brings to mind Goblin’s work on Dawn of the Dead, while “No Escape” is driven by a John Carpenter-esque synth line.
The Cannibal Ferox soundtrack album is pressed on three color variants: “Cocaine Crazed White” (limited to 100), “Jungle Green” (limited to 200), and “Carnage Crimson” (limited to 200). All editions are housed in a gatefold jacket alongside a Grindhouse Releasing turntable slipmat. If the cover artwork wasn’t lewd enough, the gatefold interior features images from some of the film’s most savage scenes of cannibalism, including genital mutilation. They’re accompanied by liner notes from film historian Tim Ferrante.
Cannibal Ferox‘s provocative tagline — “Too disgusting to watch! Too bizarre to resist!” — is an apt descriptor of the movie itself, but the new vinyl pressing provides the ideal way to enjoy Budy-Maglione’s score without having to witness the brutality.
Cannibal Holocaust‘s original motion picture soundtrack is available now via Grindhouse Releasing.