Cannibal Holocaust – The Most Shocking Part

Criterion 14mm BD case wrap cs3How often have I been disappointed in a good movie because I had built up impossible expectations?  Cannibal Holocaust is one of those rare movies that was preceded by an incredible amount of hype and still delivered far beyond expectations.  I sought it out in the early days of the internet and bought a VHS dub of the Japanese laserdisc.  To this day, I’m still nostalgic for fuzzy VHS tapes with burned in Japanese subtitles.

Cannibal Holocaust was my first experience with this particular subgenre and it was just completely unrelenting.  The best way to describe my reaction to that first viewing is unpleasant.  I didn’t enjoy myself and I told myself that I was probably never going to watch it again.  Don’t confuse those feelings for disappointment though.  Cannibal Holocaust delivered on everything that was promised.

Of course, when Grindhouse re-released it on the big screen and toured it around North America about five year later, my earlier proclamation went right out the window.  The opportunity to experience this with a crowd was not something I was going to miss.  My chance came at the inaugural Flashback Weekend in the summer of 2002.  I flew in with a couple of friends and enjoyed a pretty unforgettable weekend.

The screenings for this convention all took place at the nearby Pickwick Theater.  Since it wasn’t walking distance, anyone interested in the movie would congregate outside the hotel in order to be shuttled over.  As you can imagine, the ride there with a bunch of rowdy horror fans was both fun and funny.  There was a mixture of people who were already fans and others who where excited to check it out for the first time.  There were probably more of the latter as the movie had no legitimate North American release at this point.

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Can you spot me?

Cannibal Holocaust has the rare power to silence an unruly crowd.  On the way out, we all kind of resembled Krug & Company in the original Last House right after they killed Mari.  It was like we collectively realized we all participated in something dirty.  Having previously seen the movie did little to lessen the impact.  The contrast between the ride there and the ride back would have been comical if any of us felt like laughing.

After a while, I asked one of my friends what his first impressions where.  He exhaled and said, “I don’t know.  I couldn’t watch that turtle getting killed again.”

This was an easy sentiment to understand, but it got a lot better when a guy sitting next to us piped in as well, “You know what I thought was weird?” he asked.  “When all those girls were in the water playing with that guy’s shmeckie.”

The scene he was talking about shows Robert Kerman (Debbie Does Dallas and dozens of other XXX features) naked in the river attempting to gain the trust of some of the female cannibals by letting them fondle his genitals.  Admittedly, this would probably stick out in a normal movie.  This is not the kind of first impression technique I would recommend in any conceivable situation.  But here, it’s about as innocent as it gets.  The atrocities that take place on screen have a way of burning themselves into your brain.  The camera doesn’t flinch when conventional wisdom says it should.

To recap, several animals are genuinely hacked up, a woman is impaled through the ass and out the mouth, while another is bludgeoned to death with a stone dildo.  These are just highlights, but you get the point.  Still, the first thing that came to this guy’s mind was Robert Kerman’s shmeckie.

shmeckie

THE MOST CONTROVERSIAL MOVIE EVER MADE indeed!

I was tired and drained by the time we rode back.  I started to chuckle and it just got worse.  By the time I could compose myself I had tears in my eyes.  At that time and in that particular situation, that was probably the absolute funniest thing that could have happened.  I wish I could thank that guy.  It happened about 13 years ago and still makes me laugh.  That, and I now have a cool new name for male genitalia in my vocabulary.

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12 Responses to Cannibal Holocaust – The Most Shocking Part

  1. Great post! I love notable stories of first time theatrical viewings. I have not been able to bring myself to watch this yet, but I did see Umberto Lenzi’s Eaten Alive, and now I’m wondering why Robert Kerman needed to make a career out of being in cannibal films.

    Liked by 1 person

    • drhumpp says:

      Thank you! This was certainly a memorable screening.

      Cannibal Holocaust is a difficult watch. I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed it in the way I traditionally do with a movie, but it has some undeniable power. You’ll get the idea of what to expect from Eaten Alive.

      I usually prefer my movies uncut, but, at the request of Deodato, Grindhouse’s release has an animal cruelty free version that jumps over most of the offensive material. It might lessen the impact but it doesn’t change the story.

      I find it strange about Kerman too. I wonder why someone would want to do another one of these? It seems like it would be physically and emotionally draining to shoot in this kind of environment.

      I did meet Kerman at a convention once. I didn’t ask him that, but I did have an unusual exchange with him. That’s probably a story for another post though.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Tony Parsons says:

    Still haven’t seen it … possibly the animal cruelty’s holding me back… but will have to tick it off the list one day. I remember seeing a trailer and it looked amazingly intense.

    Liked by 1 person

    • drhumpp says:

      I don’t blame you. It’s not a pleasant experience in the least. I first saw it when I was actively seeking out more extreme movies. I’ve been meaning to watch A Serbian Film for a while now, but just never really feel like it. Am I getting old and soft?

      As far as Cannibal Holocaust, it’s still a pretty amazing movie. The cruelty free version is also a little easier to swallow. Just watch out for the scene with that guy’s shmeckie.

      Like

  3. The animal cruelty was the thing that made me dislike this movie and I am glad the makers of the film got in shit for it. If that had been absent, I might have actually enjoyed it a little bit, but I can never watch it again.

    Liked by 1 person

    • drhumpp says:

      I don’t blame you. It’s impossible to justify, but it was happening frequently in the genre.

      “Everyone else is doing it” isn’t exactly a good justification. Still, the genre has appeal for me that’s hard to explain. I rationalize that it’s not in practice any more so I’m not actively supporting it. Still, I usually buy the DVD/BDs when the come out.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. emmakwall says:

    Haha, I’m loving this!!! GREAT scene and thanks to that guy for really drawing our attention to it hee hee.

    I hate the animal cruelty too, not really in a tree-huggin-hippy way, more in a ‘who the fuck does the director actually think he is’ kinda way.

    The most memorable part of Cannibal Holocaust for me (save all the violence, rape and being impaled through sticks…) is actually the theme music, Riz Ortolani?

    Liked by 1 person

    • drhumpp says:

      The music is haunting and beautiful. Makes for a stark contrast with such a brutal movie.

      On principle, I feel like I should dislike the Italian cannibal cycle. I would not support a return to that style of film making in any way. But the movies have a pull for me. It’s hard to rationalize because there is so much reprehensible content. I know I can’t change what happened, but am I a hypocrite for supporting it?

      Liked by 1 person

      • emmakwall says:

        Not a hypocrite at all!!! I understand your point entirely apart from the words I didn’t quite understand (reprehensible? I’m a dunce!!)

        I know this sounds super harsh, but worst things happen EVERY day to people and animals alike. Though I don’t condone the animal cruelty scenes at all (like I said before in my eloquent way, who does the director think he is?!)- Cannibal Holocaust will always, quite rightfully, be in top horror lists. Worst things have probably still go on anyway, in films that we don’t even know about. I heard Steven Spielberg actually likes to have a llama on set that he can punch in the face when stressed out (okay that may be a lie).

        P.S just looked up reprehensible so now I’ve learned something!

        Liked by 1 person

      • drhumpp says:

        I agree with you completely. Still, I hate the idea of financially contributing to something that might actually cause more animals to get slaughtered in the future. I don’t think I would support such an endeavor now. I look at it as a bygone era that it is equal parts repugnant and fascinating.

        I had heard that Spielberg actually punched Tonkin snub-nosed monkeys because it made him feel cooler to abuse critically endangered species. The studio spread the word around about the llama so that he didn’t look like a total monster.

        Also, I think reprehensible is part of my vocabulary strictly because of all the reprehensible things I like. I’m kind of a reprehensible person that way.

        Like

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