Eaten Alive! (1980)

Umberto Lenzi, unintentionally, started the whole Italian cannibal movie trend with 1972's The Man from Deep River.  The story of an American expat that kills a man in a bar fight in Bangkok and flees to hide out with a remote tribe in Thailand, eventually becoming accepted by them, it featured a small subplot regarding cannibals attacking his adopted people.  The movie was successful and started a trend, unfortunately including the infamous on-film animal killings the genre became known for.

Because The Man from Deep River was successful there was demand for a sequel.  Lenzi, who at the time was seeing much more success from making crime films, wasn't interested, so Ruggero Deodato took over for Jungle Holocaust, which was originally intended to be a sequel but eventually became its own story despite having Ivan Rassimov and Me Me Lai, who had starred in Lenzi's film, attached.  It did moderately well, but it was Ruggero's infamous Cannibal Holocaust that pretty much solidified the genre and sparked a number of imitators.  Those imitators included Lenzi, who responded by quickly throwing together his own movie, Eaten Alive!, which featured Rassimov and Lai as well as Robert Kerman, who had played the professor that found the film cannisters in Cannibal Holocaust

After a series of homicides a hit man, who is killed in an accident after taking out his latest victim, is found to have an 8mm film on him that contains a purification ritual.  The film also shows Diana Morris (Paola Senatore), an heiress who has gone missing.  Her sister Sheila (Janet Agren), with the help of anthropologist Professor Carter (Mel Ferrer), tracks the film to Papua New Guinea.  Once there she contracts the services of an American named Mark (Kerman) to take her to the village on the film.

Clues in the village lead to where Diana has gone, following along with a cult led by a man named Jonas (Rassimov).  Jonas has founded a religion based on various purification rituals and Biblical scripture, but mainly uses his station to act out his sadistic fantasies with his drugged female followers.  Sheila soon begins to fall under his spell, but Mark and Diana, with the help of a native woman named Mowara (Lai), plot to escape and tell the outside world know what is going on.  Problem is the location of Jonas's village is in the deep jungle, surrounded by hostile, cannibalistic tribes. 

I have to admire the set that Lenzi, who also wrote the script, had on him.  Not only did he try to make a buck off of Cannibal Holocaust, but decided to exploit the Jonestown massacre at the same time.  He also tried to do it as cheaply as possible, recycling footage from Jungle Holocaust, Sergio Martino's Slave of the Cannibal God and some of the animal killings from his own The Man from Deep River.  Unfortunately, despite a promising beginning and a delightfully creepy performance by Rassimov and quite solid job by Kerman as the antihero, the movie is all over the place in story and pacing.  

Lenzi also seems a bit too obsessed with trying to be nasty just to capture attention like Deodato did.  He had more success with Cannibal Ferox, which tried to play a lot closer to the other cannibal films, returning to Colombia for the action rather than go too far afield.  As a note, despite the action supposedly happening in Papua New Guinea, the movie itself was filmed in Sri Lanka.  That is why absolutely nothing in the movie seems to have any relation with Papua New Guinea, a fact I'm sure Lenzi and the producers of the film were hoping most people wouldn't notice. 

Eaten Alive! (1980)
Time: 92 minutes
Starring: Janet Agren, Robert Kerman, Paola Senatore, Ivan Rassimov, Me Me Lai
Director: Umberto Lenzi



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