In the beginning of this film we meet a documentary team of three young men and a young woman. They are heading for the south-American jungle to search for real cannibals. After a while the crew is reported missing and a rescue team is send from the US. This team gets in touch with an amazon tribe called the Tree-people. The tree-people gives them the only remains of the first crew - the film rolls containing the material this crew shot during their search for real cannibals. Back in the US we get to see these films. We now get to see exactly what happened to the first crew
The film caused some scandal in Italy at the time of its release. Ten days after premiering in Milan, the film was seized by the courts, and the director, Ruggero Deodato, was arrested and charged with obscenity. He was later charged with murder and faced life in prison on the belief that several of the actors were murdered for the camera. Deodato contacted Luca Barbareschi and told him to contact the three other actors who played the missing film team. He presented the actors, alive and well, to the courts, and thus, the murder charges were dropped. The film remained banned in Italy for another three years.
The animal slaughterings in the movie were real, which ultimately resulted in the movie's being banned in its native Italy after the snuff film rumors were proved false. The killed animals were a coatimundi (erroneously referred to as a muskrat in the film), a turtle, a snake, a tarantula, a spider monkey, and a pig.
The in-film-documentary, "The Last Road To Hell", which features several executions, consists of authentic footage supposedly from Nigeria and South East Asia.
Deodato was inspired to make the movie after seeing his son watching the violent news on TV and noticed how the journalists focus on the violence. He also believed that some news angles were actually staged to capture more sensational footage, hence the similar angle seen in the film.
This movie has gained the title of the most notorious movie of all-time, and is often claimed to be banned in over 50 countries worldwide. If true, it would easily hold the world record for the most heavily banned film.
Deodato wanted a scene in which the natives fed an enemy tribesman to piranhas but he didn't have a working underwater camera. Only still shots of that scene exist.
The iconic image for the film shows a "cannibal" girl impaled on a stick. Upon being summoned to court in order to assert that no actors were harmed during production, Deodato explained that the girl simply sat on a bicycle seat attached to the pole's base, while holding a small pointed balsa wood piece in her mouth. The fake blood was then added. Deodato commented that the girl had an unusually calm temperament to be able to remain so still during the filming.
According to a 2005 interview with Carl Gabriel Yorke (Alan Yates), Yorke said that when rehearsing for the sex scene with Francesca Ciardi (Faye Daniels), she suggested that the two go out in the middle of the jungle and "actually do it". Yorke declined, stating that he was with somebody back in New York. As a result, Ciardi was very upset with him during the entire shoot
When Carl Gabriel Yorke (Alan Yates) arrived in the Amazon for shooting, he wasn't given a script or an idea of what the movie was about. As soon as he arrived, director Ruggero Deodato shouted "That's my star! Get him into makeup!" Almost immediately, the first scene they shot was the amputation of one of the character's leg. Yorke later in an interview said while staying there in the jungle, he didn't know whether this film was a Hollywood production or simply a snuff film.
A large advertisement for Dracula (1979) is visible in the opening shots of the streets of New York City.
Immediately after a pig was shot and killed in the movie, Carl Gabriel Yorke botched a long monologue Deodato very much wanted to be included in the movie. After rehearsing the line several times and doing fine, Yorke says he screwed up during filming because he heard the pig squeal and die. Retakes weren't possible because they had no access to any more pigs, which they would only use to shoot and kill.
Originally, Deodato had a fake monkey head with fake brains in it to have the natives eat instead of actually killing and eating a monkey. The natives talked him out of it, however, as monkey brains were a delicacy to them.
The pistol used by Robert Kerman in the movie was a Smith and Wesson .32
Director Cameo: [Ruggero Deodato] A man sitting on a blanket outside of the NYU university.
The scene where an actor kills a monkey was shot twice, so two monkeys were killed for that scene.
Though uncaring towards the nature of his film during shooting, Ruggero Deodato now regrets everything he did, mostly the actual animal killings. He said once that he wishes now that he never made the movie.
Robert Kerman's character had to be dubbed, but all other actors' real voices were used.
Claims of this being a snuff film are still rampant. Even as recently as 1993, authorities at a Birmingham comic fair seized the film on this belief.
There have been six unofficial sequels to Cannibal Holocaust. Natura contro (1988) was There have been six unofficial sequels to Cannibal Holocaust. Natura contro (1988) was the first movie to call itself Cannibal Holocaust II (in Italy, Turkey, and the UK). Other movies that tried to incorporate themselves with Cannibal Holocaust were Schiave bianche: violenza in Amazzonia (1985) (Cannibal Holocaust 2: The Catherine Miles Story on European DVD), Mangiati vivi! (1980) (Cannibal Holocausto 2 on Argentinian DVD), Mondo cannibale (2003) (V) (known as Cannibal Holocaust 2: The Beginning in Japan), and Nella terra dei cannibali (2003) (V) (also known as Cannibal Holocaust 3: Cannibal vs. Commando in Japan). If all these movies were considered actual sequels, Cannibal Holocaust would have four "part two"s in its series.
Second part of Ruggero Deodato's "Cannibal Trilogy" also including Ultimo mondo cannibale (1977) and Inferno in diretta (1985).
The turtle killed in the turtle killing scene was a Yellow-spotted river turtle or Podocnemis unifilis.
In ten days after its release, the movie grossed what would be about $5 million dollars today (approximately $1.9 million in February 1980) before the film was seized by the courts and Deodato arrested. Because of its infamy and several subsequent re-releases, it is claimed that the film has grossed $200 million worldwide (inflation not adjusted), though this has never been verified.
Despite his character's behavior during filming, Perry Pirkanen cried after filming the infamous turtle scene.
Cannibal Holocaust (1980) was the second highest grossing film in Japan in 1983, behind only E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982).
A small segment of music from Non si sevizia un paperino (1972) was reused by Riz Ortolani in this film.
The actresses used in the scene in which the professor bathes naked in a river were hired from a local brothel.
The actress in the adulteress punishment was actually the head of wardrobe, Lucia Costantini. Apparently, the production team was unable to find any local women to agree to be in the seen. Costantini was completely covered in mud to give the appearance that she was a native.
The father of the actor who played Miguel was murdered during filming. Production was delayed slightly as the actor went home for the funeral. He can be seen crying over his father's death in the scene in which Professor Monroe, Chaco, and Miguel are sitting outside the Yanomamo village immediately following the discovery of the bone shrine.
The tribe names in the film, Yanomamo and Shamatari, are actual native tribes in South America. Neither tribe is accurately portrayed in the film.