Friday, 28 June 2013

Cannibal Holocaust: The Secret Behind The Lost Piranha Scene


Cannibal Holocaust is a notorious film for many many reasons, and has quite an intense and sordid history as it is. Adding to it has been a lot of Chinese whispers around a scene, allegedly removed, only existing as the above still. In a film about cannibalism, full of sexual violence and animal cruelty, there has been a sadistic cherry on top for a lot of horror fans; the piranha scene.

This has been relatively well clarified in the internet age, though there does still seem to be some fuzzy information about this scene. Was it too gruesome for the film? Was it released in more obscure countries? Is it really just something so sick that the true story will shiver you to your core? The answer to all of these are no.

I kind of long for the pre-information age days when rumours like this could spread and add to the notoriety. But here's the facts, right from director Ruggero Deodato's mouth. First, here is a slightly different still:


The basic story is there was a scene in the script that called for the Ya̧nomamö cutting off the leg of a Shamatari warrior and feeding him to the piranha in the river. Welp, they prepared the shot, but their underwater camera wasn't working, so they couldn't get an underwater feeding frenzy shot they wanted. Anyway, they trudged on, set up for the shot and coaxed some of the fishies to bite by using very bloody pork on the leg. When they raised the leg out of the water, they got this:


If you're not quite sure what I'm pointing out, it is the little ovals on the left leg. Those are the piranha. They hung from the meat, motionless, boring and ineffective. Ruggero abandoned the concept because he felt it really just didn't work.

 It's unclear if the stills above are from the film camera or a publicity shot from a stills camera. I would wager it's publicity. To put rumours to rest, the scene exists in no prints of the film, and it is highly unlikely anything was shot for the scene, possibly bar the one angle seen above, due to lame looking piranha, not uncontrollable beasts or any nonsense someone else might try spread.

Shame that there are fewer rumours and myths to expand the legacy of a film, but what am I for if not to ruin your fun?