Italian cannibal movies are one of the most notorious types of early exploitation movies, in that many of them most likely couldn't be made today. Even shocking, politically incorrect sub-genres like Nazispoitation, Nunspoitation and the "roughie" horror/porn movies could probably be made today. But Italian cannibal movies? They had real life animal cruelty, torture, rape, castration and all kinds of other unpleasantness on display. Granted, I'm sure you'd have better luck getting away with everything but the animal cruelty aspect, but that's it. Maybe the ASPCA were on an off day.
One of the most notorious entries in this world is "Cannibal Ferox" aka "Make Them Die Slowly", from the man who created the sub-genre, Umberto Lenzi. It claims to have been banned in 31 countries (I kinda doubt that), was one of the most infamous of the "Video Nasties" in Britain, and to this day is one of the most talked about and watched Italian exploitation films ever. While it is an all around vile, ugly and nasty piece of work, that's not to say that it's a good movie.
"Ferox" tells the heartwarming tale of Gloria Davis (Lorraine De Selle), an anthropologist who takes her brother Rudy (Danilo Mattei) and a slutty girl named Pat (Zora Kerova) to Columbia so she can disprove cannibalism.* However, they run into trouble with Mike Johnson (Giovanni Lombardo Radice aka "Italian Horror's favorite whipping boy"), a coked up psychopath whose on the lam from New York and Lt. Rizzo (Robert Kerman.) He's also pissed off the natives via some very violent and horrible actions, and everyone's going to pay.
When you get down to it, "Cannibal Ferox" is downright indefensible. I try not to say such things, as it's clear that the movie wants to upset viewers and make them physically sick. There are two things though, that make it so, and none of it is the sheer sadism and graphic gore on display (little of it is that convincing by the way), and it's the animal cruelty and the sheer hypocritical nature of it all. Lenzi just delights in showing animals getting killed, and though it isn't as disturbing when he shows something like an Iguana killing a Snake (it's nature after all), but showing the natives butcher a turtle and Mike kill and torture a pig are absolutely revolting. Shit like this is why man invented the fast forward button. Then there's the sheer hypocrisy of the film. It's fine that they're trying to make a statement about colonialism and racial prejudice, it's not cool to wallow in such sadism and wanton cruelty (real and fake) and then scold the viewer. It's like letting a dog roll in shit, then scolding it for doing so.
Granted, Radice is wonderfully over the top as Mike, and chews scenery with the best of them, and the score by Roberto Donati and Fiamma Maglione is catchy as hell (though a bit out of place at times), but that's all there is that's good. I know this is supposed to disturb the viewer, but in this case, that's not enough. Just because it's notoruiys doesn't mean it should be considered worth watching, no matter what.
*In reality, cannibalism among tribes is an incredibly rare thing, and only happens on a few occasions in a lifetime.