42nd Street Cinema

Eaten Alive! (1980)

Returning to the jungle once again, after laying the foundations with Man from Deep River/Il paese del sesso selvaggio (1972), Umberto Lenzi brings us his second cannibal feature Eaten Alive!/Mangiati vivi!/Doomed To Die. Establishing itself as a precursor to his more notorious Cannibal Ferox (1981). Lenzi wrote the screenplay and directed, with Luciano Martino serving as producer on what would be his second cannibal outing. The plot bears a resemblance to the 1978 Jonestown Massacre.

Starring: Robert Kerman, Janet Agren, Ivan Rassimov, Paola Senatore, Me Me Lai, Fiamma Maglione (as Mag Fleming), Franco Fantasia, Franco Coduti (as Gianfranco Coduti) and Mel Ferrer.

Like many of it's predecessors (and successors), Eaten Alive! plainly characterizes the act or rather, the cultural practice of cannibalism as a strictly primitive, bordering on feral activity that is frowned upon by the 'civilized' Western World.
As far as cultural taboo goes, cannibalism still ranks high and although, the generalized belief of a 'exclusivity' to primeval tribal culture has been quashed by the likes of the Armin Meiwes case, it is a subject that has inspired some of the most provocative cinematic excursions.
However in a paradoxical sense, Eaten Alive! contains more killing and consumption of small animals than people, nonetheless they're still 'eaten alive'. It's sadly, an insensitive trait prevalently found within the cannibal/jungle adventure genre.



Opening with a series of murders beginning in Canada and ending in New York, perpetrated by a small tribal man with a blowpipe and a bad bowl haircut. After the opening credits, the narrative fully kicks in and we are introduced to Sheila (Agren), who has been contacted by the Police with information regarding her missing sister. It becomes evident that her sister Diana (Senatore) has got mixed up with an 'ecology freak' called Reverend Jonas Melvyn (Rassimov) and has subsequently disappeared.

Based on the advice given to her by one Professor Carter (Ferrer), she sets off on a journey to the savage jungles of New Guinea, where she meets Mark (Kerman), a Vietnam Vet who earns money by arm-wrestling the locals. Mark's introduction clearly owes to a scene from The Deer Hunter (1978), in which De Niro's character searches a gambling den in Saigon for Walken's character, only to find him playing Russian roulette with the locals.
After hiring Mark, the two set off into the depths of the jungle in search of Rev. Jonas' camp. Dodging cannibals and killer crocs the pair find themselves in the domain of Rev. Jonas, who has become a complete megalomaniac. He drugs Shelia and begins to indoctrinate her with his beliefs, it's is then up to Mark to save the day and rescue Shelia and her sister from the controlling Jonas.



While Lenzi's film isn't a patch on Deodato's Cannibal Holocaust (1980), it does contain some truly disturbing scenes, especially in the later half of the flick. But do they make up for the banal story, haphazardly editing and continuity errors? Perhaps they do, one thing that definitely makes up for it is Kerman's performance, you can clearly tell he had a lot of fun making this.

I found that the real horror doesn't come from the gore or bloodshed, as most of the effects are amateurish. It comes from the situation the characters are placed within. Taken from the comforts of the First World and placed in the lawless jungle, surrounded by dangerous animals, ever-hungry cannibals and a cultist nutcase, the uncertainty of their fate offers an honest and nihilistic reality check. Another great example of this is Deodato's Last Cannibal World/Ultimo mondo cannibale (1977) but that's worth saving for another review.

3 comments:

Tower Farm said...

I gotta say I found this one a little boring overall...but I did love the crazy reverend and the bizarre part where the main woman is painted gold. At least is adds a little something new to the otherwise "paint-by-numbers" feel of these early 80s Cannibal movies, which always look to me like they were filmed on the same day in the same locations.

forestofthedead said...

I enjoyed the combining of a fanatical religious cult with the cannibal aspect.
Great review.

pay per head call center said...

Eaten Alive is a classic of my youth.. I really love it I know the special effects r bad but I love it hehehe. Another movie that I love is Cannibal Holocaust you have to watch this movie :)

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