Color, 1985, 90 mins. 21 secs. / 88 mins.
Directed by Ruggero Deodato
Starring Lisa Blount, Leonard Mann, Willie Aames, Richard Lynch, Richard Bright, Michael Berryman, Eriq La Salle, Gabriele Tinti, Valentina Forte, John Steiner, Karen Black, Babara Magnolfi
Code Red (Blu-ray) (US RA HD) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9), Anchor Bay (DVD) (US R1 NTSC), CMV Laservision (DVD) (Germany R2 PAL) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)
Though he tried his hand at everything from action films to sexy melodramas, director Ruggero Deodato will always be best remembered as the most accomplished and extreme filmmaker associated with the Italian cannibal wave he exemplified with just two films, Jungle Holocaust and the notorious Cannibal Holocaust. An unofficial and surprisingly high-profile spiritual successor to those 1970s films actually came his way in the mid-1980s in the form of Cut and Run, an all-star plunge into the violent, dog-eat-dog world of South American drug running. There may not be no actual flesh-eating here (and thankfully no animal deaths this time around), but it's abundantly clear from the opening frames who was in charge behind the camera.
While a brutal gang of natives led by the machete-wielding Quecho (The Hills Have Eyes' Berryman) executes an attack on the water against some drug-dealing locals in South America, a puddle jumper carrying an American news crew lands nearby. Reporter Fran Hudson (Blount) and cameraman Mark (Mann) are trying to locate Tommy (Aames), the missing son of their station boss (Bright), who has now fallen into the clutches of a maniacal cult leader and cartel kingpin, Colonel Horne (Lynch), a Jonestown escapee trying to set up another kingdom of death and destruction. Of course, he's also using Quecho and those natives to wipe out anyone who crosses him or pushes against his business, and once Tommy joins the Americans' ranks, they find themselves stumbling into a den of madness and murder.
The six years since Cannibal Holocaust certainly made a difference here as Deodato is primarily interested in serving up fast-paced cinematic junk food, done with enough panache to keep both action and horror fans happy. There's still a bit of commentary about modern culture's complicity in violence here with the whole news broadcast angle (including Karen Black in a few scenes as an executive back home, which becomes pivotal in the on-air atrocity that caps off the story), but any attempt at deeper social commentary here is quickly swept aside by the barrage of beheadings, shooting, poison darts, and foot chases. Blount, Mann and Aames bring some much-needed gravitas to their roles and give the film a much slicker feeling than the material might suggest, with Lynch and Berryman doing their usual villain routines. The real fun here lies in the supporting cast with a wild assembly of Italian character actors mashed together including Steiner (Tenebrae, Salon Kitty), Gabriele Tinti, and Suspiria's Barbara Magnolfi. If that weren't enough, you even get a pre-ER Eriq La Salle in pimp threads as an informant with a fondness for strip clubs. However, the most valuable player of all is actually composer Claudio Simonetti (Opera, Demons), whose pounding, catchy score is so good that Deodato kept him on to do the amusing slasher film Body Count a year later. (Sadly, the masters for both scores have supposedly been lost and no official soundtracks have ever been released in any format.)
Most American viewers took little notice of this film upon its initial release from New World, including an R-rated VHS release that played like a standard action film with a weirder cast than usual. However, it soon became clear through the horror fan publication circuit including Video Watchdog that this film had actually been prepared in two very different versions: Cut and Run, the English-language version intended for mainstream consumption, and Inferno in diretta, a stronger, more vicious offering closer to Deodato's usual extremes with about two minutes of extra and alternate footage. The most infamous of these was a gory, still shocking "wishbone" sequence involving John Steiner that has proven to be elusive from a film source in subsequent years. The full-strength version first reared its head on Japanese VHS and Hong Kong VCD, with a handful of other VHS editions in Europe reflecting it as well. That unrated cut became a hot collector's item on the trading circuit, and when it came time to bring the film to American DVD in 2002, Anchor Bay had its work cut out for it assembling a full, English-friendly cut. The solution was to use Italian-language inserts for the extra footage (highlights of which include a gorier and nudity-laden edit of the opening attack, quite a bit of extending reporting coverage with Blount, and that wishbone scene) with English subtitles, though a longer English-language version did exist on VCD. (The wishbone scene is of significantly lower quality on the DVD and appears to be from VHS.) The film can also be played with its Italian-language track, albeit without subs. Extras include the trailer, a Ruggero bio, and most notably, "Uncut and Run" (16m20s), a featurette with Deodato, Lynch, Simonetti, and screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti offering their unvarnished memories of the film including appraisals of its strengths and weaknesses, including a multitude of ideas being jammed into the script, the Brazilian influence on the score, the impact of Vietnam atrocity images from the news, and the commercial demands of creating the two distinct versions.
Sold directly in the U.S. via Ronix Flix (with a limited slipcase) and internationally through Diabolik, the 2017 Blu-ray from Code Red utilizes a new HD scan of the New World version as its base and offers both the R-rated version (with all of its alternate shots intact, for the first time in the U.S. in decades) as well as the unrated version. The latter is built from the HD scan with standard def inserts for the extra two minutes of footage, which is noticeable but less intrusive than it sounds for the most part; the effect is pretty similar to the composite method used on Severin's Bloody Moon release. For samples of the upscaled inserts, click here, here, or here. Hopefully someone can access the Italian negative someday and do that whole cut directly in HD, but for now it's likely as good as we'll get. In a nice touch, the added footage is now in English here as originally intended (nice to have Blount's voice back) apart from one brief snippet of a broadcast report, which is still subtitled. The DTS-HD MA English track sounds fine if unremarkable given the flat nature of the original source, which has always sounded pretty modest. (There's also a lot of audio scratchiness under the New World logo out the beginning, but don't freak out; it goes away during the film proper.) Detail obviously gets a huge boost here compared to the old DVD (which now looks quite blurry by comparison); the framing has been adjusted from 1.85:1 to 1.78:1 with some additional slivers vertically and a bit less horizontally, not really affecting compositions much either way. Color timing shifts here to the rosier side compared to the heavy yellow look of the DVD, with skin tones looking a bit flushed but more natural during the jungle scenes and the green foliage appearing more vibrant. Compression seems fine, with the contents filling up almost all of the dual-layered Blu-ray.
Four new interviews are added, starting off with the 31-minute "Run Like Hell" with Deodato chatting about how this came about (replacing another director who had already been scouting in Colombia, presumably Wes Craven whose unproduced Marimba was the genesis here) in the wake of Cannibal Holocaust and Raiders of Atlantis and became one of his most high-profile efforts. He's full of stories about the cast, most notably about Black taking care of Richard Bright when he was tipsy on the set, and even chats a bit about the crocodile and snake wrangling. In what appears to be part of his interview session seen on other releases, Steiner appears for a new interview (10m23s) in his real estate office, from a very goofy angle, sharing recollections about his American co-stars and his collaborations with Deodato (and a bit about Antonio Margheriti as well). A lengthy discussion with Mann (29m58s) covers his hiring on the film and his good rapport with Aames, as well as his thoughts about the sometimes moody but professional Deodato and extensive stories about his other films and some favorite fellow thespians. Best of all, Aames himself is here for a new interview (41m59s) with a lengthy talk about having "a blast" making this film just after Eight Is Enough and exploring his adventurous side by spending time in the Venezuelan jungle. His Deodato bit is especially priceless ("Don't you dare throw those guts on me!"), and the whole piece is remarkably detailed as he has a razor-sharp memory about some crazy occurrences during the shoot including "partying hard" with Lynch, a pretty horrifying abusive tidbit about Valentina Forte, and a story about a downed plane that halted shooting and led to an encounter with a local, enthusiastic fan. Some of his other projects get touched on, too, including his work with Lee Van Cleef, Dan Curtis, and Vincent Price. Basically he's fun and animated throughout, and it's pretty much worth picking up this disc for his segment alone. Aames also appears for a brief video intro to the film (1m53s) with Code Red's Banana Man, explaining why he chose "Aames" as his stage name, and the New World theatrical trailer is also included.
CODE RED BLU-RAY
ANCHOR BAY DVD<
Reviewed on December 12, 2017