“I detest Cannibal Ferox… it’s the only movie in the bunch of horror/gore/splatters that I was in in the ’80s that I regret and wish I didn’t appear in.”
– Giovanni Lombardo Radice (Actor/Writer/Director, Cannibal Ferox)
If ever there was a movie that could be termed controversial, it is the 1981 exploitation horror Cannibal Ferox. Directed by prolific Italian film maker Umberto Lenzi (Eaten Alive, Nightmare City, The House of Witchcraft), Cannibal Ferox is a tale of cocaine, academic curiosity and death.
And I love it!
By rights, I shouldn’t love it, and here are a few reasons why: the film contains several scenes of severe animal cruelty (a reason why many people hate it); it could be seen as racist, portraying indigenous peoples as savage; it contains a lot of bloody violence and most of the characters in it are awful; it is a shameless rip-off of Cannibal Holocaust (directed by Ruggero Deodato and released the previous year); the film itself is awful (as in crap!).
I take all these points on board as being perfectly valid. If you’re into old exploitation horror films from the ’70’s and ’80’s, the film does have a certain charm, though. No small part of this appeal is down to the incredible soundtrack by Roberto Donati and Fiamma Maglione (credited here as Buddy Maglione).
The music consists of moody synth-based dirges interspersed with late ’70’s disco and trippy psychedelia (which quickly degenerates into creepy drone doom, taking the listener’s mood down with it). The opening track ‘NYC Main Title’ gives the impression of a tacky disco soundtrack but quickly gives way to ‘Cannibal Ferox Theme,’ a dark, sparse synth piece that sets the tone for the soundtrack as a whole . Side 1 ends with ‘NYC Brass,’ a short marching band track that creates a surreal, almost psychotic effect similar to the vaudeville song from Escape From New York.
Side 2 begins with the perfectly-titled ‘Kettle of Doom,’ which is exactly that: doomy chords and kettle drums with an eerie melody. It actually sounds more like doom metal than many doom bands today! The psychotic synth drone continues throughout the remaining couple of tracks before returning to the disco theme that opens the movie (which is also played over the end credits). The rest of side two is filled with four bonus tracks from another contemporary Umberto Lenzi jungle-flick Eaten Alive. These tracks are no less doom-laden than the ones from Ferox, but they feature some over-driven guitar chords and have a rockier sound. They are quite calming after the main soundtrack and fill out the album nicely. Cannibal Ferox is quite a short soundtrack and the bonus tracks add value. They may be the best four cues from Eaten Alive, and it remains to be seen if that soundtrack will be re-issued as a standalone disc.
This is the first title from the One Way Static label that I have bought. I’m very pleased with the quality of the disc, which plays extremely well and has been expertly mastered for vinyl. It’s a real treat to hear the warm bass on this record, and I only have very modest hi-fi equipment. The gatefold sleeve is very good quality and the artwork is truly awesome, as are the stills from the movie that fill the back cover, gatefold and insert. The insert also contains liner notes from cast members and Roberto Donati.
This is a killer soundtrack to a much maligned film (that I may cover in more depth in a future post) and one that deserves to be listened to on vinyl. One Way Static is fast becoming a cult label to rival UK-based Death Waltz Recording Company, and their vinyls are selling out fast. There may still be copies floating around on eBay, Amazon and various indie record shops though. They are not that cheap, but they are good!