01 November 2023

Cannibal Holocaust (4k blu-ray)

Cannibal Holocaust Cannibal Holocaust
Cannibal Holocaust Cannibal Holocaust
Cannibal Holocaust Cannibal Holocaust

Ruggero Deodato’s Cannibal Holocaust was remastered in 4k for the first time by 88 Films in the UK last year, and their new transfer was released on UHD blu-ray and standard blu-ray discs. The film’s opening titles were digitally recreated for the 4k version, using a slightly different typeface [pictured left] compared to the original version [right]. The new titles include several typos: Franco Palaggi and Franco Di Nunzio’s first names both mistakenly appear as “FRANKO”, and ‘authenticity’ is misspelt “autheticity”. (A full stop is also missing.)

As a UK release, the 4k version has been censored by the BBFC, though only one sequence—the killing of a coati—has been cut. As if to offset the typos and censorship, the 88 Films discs also include an excellent new audio commentary by horror expert Kim Newman and writer Barry Forshaw. The US blu-ray, from Grindhouse Releasing, is uncensored, though for purists the only truly complete version is the Dutch Ultrabit DVD edition: in this print, the documentary sequence The Last Road to Hell is a few seconds longer.

The film is notoriously shocking, and remains one of the most famous titles caught up in the ‘video nasties’ moral panic in the UK during the early 1980s. Its genuine cruelty to animals is, of course, indefensible, but it’s also notable as the first ‘found footage’ horror film, directly influencing The Blair Witch Project and indirectly inspiring the wave of Blair Witch imitations that followed.

Cannibal Holocaust is undeniably an exploitation movie—from a cycle of cannibal-themed Italian horror films that began with Man from Deep River (Il paese del sesso selvaggio)—though it transcends that reputation with its critique of the mondo documentary subgenre. As discussed in Killing for Culture, mondo films mutated from the relatively mild Mondo Cane to violent ‘shockumentaries’, a trend that Cannibal Holocaust both condemns and exploits.

Surprisingly, the film has been available uncut on DVD in Thailand for more than twenty years, prior to the introduction of the rating system. (As noted in Thai Cinema Uncensored, Thai film censors are concerned far more with politics and religion than with violence.) It was shown at Bangkok’s Jam Café in 2015, and a screening at Thammasat University was planned in 2020, though this was cancelled due to the coronavirus lockdown.

Cannibal Holocaust is not the only film whose title sequence has been mangled on blu-ray. All standard blu-ray releases of Ingmar Bergman’s classic The Seventh Seal (Det sjunde inseglet) feature a Swedish title screen with a missing word: “SJUNDE INSEGLET”. (The definite article “DET” has been omitted; 4k UHD blu-ray releases are unaffected.)