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Several murders happen in Manhattan and at the Niagara Falls that have
one thing in common: they are all done by some Asian usinga blowpipe and
poisoned darts - but unfortunately before this native can be captured and
questioned, he is run over by a car.
Now there is only one clue for the police to go on, Sheila's (Janet
Agren) sister Diane (Paola Senatore) ... thing is nobody knows where Diane
really is. With the help of professor Carter (Mel Ferrer), Sheila does a
bit of research though and finds out her sister is in New Guinea, with a
sect, Brother Jonas' (Ivan Rassimov) Purification Sect.
That means of course Sheila has to go to New Guinea, and set out into
the jungle to find the sect, accompanied by rough-edged and cynical but
kind hearted jungle guide Mark (Robert Kerman) ... and even on the way to
the sect's jungle hide-out, Mark and Sheila encounter cannibals. Somehow
though they make it to Brother Jonas' jungle paradise, and they find Diane
alive and well, but they also find out how highly perverted Jonas'
version of the paradise is: He keeps his followers in line by handing them
drugs, keeps them from running away by having the camp situated in
cannibal country, his guards, led by sadistic Karan (Franco Coduti), keep
a close watch over his followers, and women he regards as his personal
prey to be shagged at will.
Sheila is soon drugged into submission, but Mark makes an unsuccessful
attempt to get away. Upon returning, he pledges allegiance to Jonas, but
secretly he plots a getaway with Sheila, Diane and native girl Mowara (Me
Me Lai, the pin-up girl of the cannibal genre, if there ever was one).
Finally, the moment of their escape has come, but Sheila has been
highly drugged and constantly tries to escape the others and return to
Jonas - and that with Jonas' guards behind them and the cannibals in front
The unavoidable happens of course, Sheila breaks loose from the others
and runs off, Mark after her, and the other two girls are captured by
Karan and his men. But Karan has the bad idea to rape the two women right
there on the spot instead of getting them out of cannibal country, and in
the end the girls as well as Karan and his guards fall prey to the
The effects of the drugs meanwhile wear off on Sheila, and she and Mark
seem to make good their escape ... until they seem to be overrun by
cannibals. It isn't until the last minute that some helicopters - somehow
alarmed by professor Carter - show up and save them.
Jonas, hearing the helicopters approaching, hands out poison to his
followers and has those killed who refuse to drink it, as he rather dies
than goes to prison - but somehow, it seems that wiley devil manages to
Back in New York, Sheila has to admit she failed in her mission to save
her sister, her tale about the cannibals is to be hushed up by the
authorities, and she finds out she's penniless because her sister has
given all their inheritance - quite a sum - to Jonas ... but at least she
now has Mark on her side.
Occasionally, Mangiati Vivi is called a classic of the
cannibal genre, and for some reason, it is perpetually re-released,
which might be more than the film deserves. It's true that Umberto Lenzi
started the cannibal genre with his film Il Paese del Sesso Selvaggio/Deep
River Savages back in 1972, a well-done, violent adventure movie in
which the actual cannibals played only second fiddle. By 1980 however, the
genre was fully developed, thanks to films like Ultimo Mondo Cannibale/Jungle
Cannibal World (1977) and Cannibal
Holocaust (1980, both by Ruggero Deodato), Emanuelle
e gli ultimi Cannibali/Emanuelle
and the Last Cannibals (1977, by Joe D'Amato) or La Montagna
del Dio Cannibale/The Mountain of the Cannibal God (1978, by
Actually, the cannibal genre was already past its prime, and one can't
help but noticing it with this film (and even more so with Lenzi's
cannibal movie from 1981, Cannibal Ferox): The plot is just too
darn silly and too clichéd to convince anymore, there are plotholes
aplenty, to come up with even more violence some real life animal-killings
(either by natives or by other animals) are thrown into the film without
any relation to the story, also a hefty portion of sleaze is added, and to
top it all of, Lenzi tried to blend the standard cannibal formula with his
version of the Jonestown Massacre, then a rather recent news item.
Ah, and by the way, quite a few scenes from Deodato's Jungle Holocaust are bluntly re-used here,
including Me Me Lai's rather graphic death scene, as well as portions of Lenzi's own Deep
River Savages and Martino's The Mountain of the Cannibal God
(the castration scene).
The outcome is pretty much as bad as you'd expect, but somehow, you
might find the film unintentionally funny - provided you have got a strong
stomach and are able to look through the not terribly convincing gore
effects -, and you might even find this film enjoyable, if for all the
wrong reasons. So maybe I'm wrong, maybe this is a classic of the genre
after all ...