Event Report: “CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST” in 35mm at Alamo Drafthouse Yonkers with Robert Kerman Q&ABooks/Art/Culture,Features/Interviews,Movies/TV,News Ken W. Hanley
Over the past week, Alamo Drafthouse Yonkers has served as host for several awesome events for horror hounds. This past thursday, they hosted a screening of Blue Underground’s 4K restoration of Larry Cohen’s bonkers NY horror GOD TOLD ME TO, and a day later, offered fright fans a chance to see Brian De Palma’s perverse REAR WINDOW homage BODY DOUBLE. But the Alamo’s top tier horror event was none other than Saturday’s 35mm screening of the ever-controversial CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST (sponsored by Mondo and Chiller), with star Robert Kerman in attendance for a candid post-screening Q&A.
As fright fans began getting their seats, a cannibal film-themed pre-show played, highlighting some of the low-fi cannibal exploitation fare from the likes of Umberto Lenzi and Joe D’Amato. Afterwards. FANGORIA’s own Michael Gingold took the stage, introducing the film and addressing an elephant in the room: a group of people who had not seen the film before had brought their young child to the screening, causing an almost humorous air of unease among those who had seen the film. After sharing an anecdote about NY location of CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, Gingold informed the audience about the post-screening Q&A and let the show go on.
Now, this writer has had a strange relationship with CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST over his lifetime. Like many horror fans, I had a fascination with the extreme when I was a teenager, and SAW just wasn’t cutting it for my imagination. So I began seeking out some of the most provocative horror films I could find to test my limits: Miike, Jodorowsky, OLDBOY, IRREVERSIBLE, BATTLE ROYALE… you name it, I tracked it down. But according to the internet, the holy grail was CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, which included real scenes of animal cruelty and extreme gore.
The film was shockingly easy to acquire: I had Netflix’s Disc Service and was able to get it within a matter of hours after shooting it to the top of my queue. Having seen it, it was clearly a level of extreme I’d never seen before, but I was shockingly not quite affected by the film’s brutality (although a pair of friends who I lent the disc to were not as lucky).
However, I did not revisit the film until college, when I screened it on a double bill with EL TOPO for a midnight movie on campus, and it was that screening where I saw how much the film truly affected people. There were walkouts, gasps, everything; in fact, my endorsement of the film essentially ruined my friendship with an exchange student I had recently met.
The next time I had seen the film, it was last year’s new Blu-ray from Grindhouse Releasing, which had been pegged as one of the must-buy releases of 2014. And revisiting the film in high definition, I actually found myself profoundly affected by the animal cruelty. It really hit hard, and it felt as if you could really see the light leaving the eyes of some of those animals. In fact, it was that experience that kept this writer from reviewing the disc (which I had purchased on my own accord, and felt the discretion from reviewing the title.)
And while the animal cruelty is equally as abhorrent, there’s something just right about watching CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST on 35mm. The print was gorgeous, nearly pristine, but clearly aged in a way that lends itself to the altogether seedy aura of CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST. And in some ways, it helped the film remain a time capsule of that era of no-holds-barred Italian cinema in a way that even the most beautiful Blu-ray could not, and help prevent this writer from being as emotionally affected as the previous screening.
Afterwards, the lights came up and Mr. Gingold took the stage again, this time with star Robert Kerman in tow, who played Professor Harold Monroe in the film. Off the bat, Kerman let the audience know that he’s got an old school candor to himself, and was willing to talk about anything, comparing the animal violence in the film akin to a terrorist video. Gingold then asked Kerman about his participation on the film, which had come from a previous experience with Deodato on the film CONCORDE AFFAIRE ‘79, in which he spent one day on set and earned 18 minutes of screentime. However, he had no idea what he as in for with CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, and nearly walked off the film following his firsthand experience with Deodato’s animal violence.
Kerman also cleared the air regarding some of the most commonly acknowledged urban legends about CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST. When addressed about Deodato’s supposed trial for murder of his actors, Kerman called it a “myth”, stating the only legal trouble Deodato found himself in was regarding Italy’s animal cruelty laws, which also threatened having the film’s negative being destroyed. Kerman also claimed that the alleged “lost” actress from the infamous pole impalement was the film’s make-up woman, who gladly took a $1500 fee to strip nude and pose as the corpse when compared to her $75 a day salary.
Furthermore, Kerman made it clear that his relationship with Deodato was strained irreparably by HOLOCAUST, calling him “insufferable” and “the real cannibal.” Kerman shared an anecdote in which he joined Deodato in a Colombian village to find beef for his “liver eating” scene, where Deodato visited a butcher shop and provoked a bull that was going to be put down. “I wanted nothing more than to see that bull run down Ruggero,” said Kerman, leaving the audience in stunned silence. Kerman would also later elaborate on his walking off the set, claiming he spent an hour in the jungle alone before the producers convinced him that his lack of participation was not worth the breach-of-contract lawsuit.
Kerman also shared a fair amount of anecdotes unrelated to Deodato and the animal cruelty aspects of CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST. Kerman said the first time he saw CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST was in a 42nd Street grindhouse theater, stating, “I knew it was going to be extreme, but I had no clue it was going to be that extreme.” Kerman was also surprised that his voice was dubbed over, but did admit his voice was used for the audio recorder scenes in the jungle and for his voiceovers, including the infamous closing line of the film.
Kerman also shared his experience in Colombia, including an ill-advised decision to leave his hotel alone at night. “Right past the hotel entrance was guards with machine guns, and I saw why: there were men who looked like they were ready to kill me, except I wasn’t wearing any jewelry. Luckily, I walked like Clint Eastwood, like I had a gun on me, down the center of the street, and by some miracle, nothing happened to me. But man, it was stupid to leave that hotel; I had everything that I needed in that hotel.”
After the Q&A, Kerman set up a table to sign posters and CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST Blu-rays, take photos and spend time with the fans who have lined up way past their bedtime. Once again, the spirit of the night was quite communal; having all survived CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST the way it was meant to be seen, there was a badge of honor worn by all fright fans in an evening like no other.
For more horror events at the Alamo Drafthouse Yonkers, including the upcoming Hudson Horror Show and FANGORIA’s upcoming 35mm screening of THE HITCHER, check out the official calendar of events here.