Italian-made cannibal films are known for being gross-out affairs, filled with slick production values (as far exploitation movies go) and feverish levels of intensity. Some of them, like Ruggero Deodato’s CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, are even considered classics. But when other European countries attempt to ape the savage man-eating cycle, the results are usually awkward and unintentionally funny, much like Alain Deruelle’s CANNIBAL TERROR, a Spanish/French co-production honored as one of Britain’s “Video Nasties” in the 1980s. Previously released on DVD through Severin, the company now revisits the title on Blu-ray along with the late Jess Franco’s DEVIL HUNTER for an HD double feature of embarrassing guilty pleasure proportions!
Two bumbling, foul-mouthed thugs (one of them played by Antonio Mayans, aka Robert Foster, star of countless Jess Franco efforts) and a voluptuous floozy decide to kidnap a little girl who happens to be the daughter of an auto tycoon. While setting up the ransom plans with a gangster over the phone, they set out to the “jungle” to hide out in someone’s villa, but the area is filled with hungry natives in make-up evoking the early days of Motley Crue. Soon, the girl’s worried parents (Euro trash favorites Oliver Mathot and Sylvia Solar) come looking for her, and it’s rifles against bows and arrows.
Produced by the infamous Eurocine, long-time purveyors of sex and sleaze product, most of which was released straight to video in the U.S., CANNIBAL TERROR can be enjoyed largely for its all-around ineptitude. Even the disc’s back copy makes light of this (“… a mind-roasting exercise in atrocious acting, gratuitous nudity and gut-munching mayhem by a ravenous tribe of flesh eaters who inexplicably sport comb-overs and Elvis sideburns”). It’s true, the jump-happy cannibals look ridiculous, largely a bunch of (mostly male) Europeans in Halloween face paint who at times appear to be staring at the camera, waiting for their cue. On a whole, the film looks like it could be the rushed work of the iconic Jess Franco (it’s not), though ironically, even more absurd cannibal footage from Franco’s CANNIBALS (aka WHITE CANNIBAL QUEEN) is tossed in, so you know what to expect.
At times, the film seems to be made up as it goes along. Between the irregular cannibal action (tribe members pulling at butcher shop entrails and freshly killed pigs substituting as human carcasses) there’s gratuitous sequences such as this one: A middle-aged man (who is playing host to the kidnapping ruffians) conveniently leaves, saying he’ll be gone for two or three days. In the meantime, one of the thugs watches the man's beautiful, much-younger wife (Pamela Stanford, LORNA, THE EXORCIST) take an outdoor bath, and then chases her, ties her to some trees and has his way with her. The husband comes home early, learns of the rape from the devastated wife (though she seems fine partying it up later that night), takes the culprit out into the “jungle” for a hunting excursion, only to tie him to a tree and whistle for the cannibals to come and gobble the poor bastard up!
The absurdity never stops! Not only is the English dubbing hilarious, but the kidnapped girl is obviously voiced by a grown woman, a common practice with these sort of films (ever see the Italian-made Boris Karloff vehicle ISLAND MONSTER?). The natives’ hut is decorated with blankets and dime store plastic skulls, the “jungle” is just some woodsy locations with a neatly trimmed lawn, a severed head is achieved by displaying an actor popped up through a hole in a table, and during the thrill-packed climax (set deep in the “jungle”) you can spot sports cars shooting by in the background and a native boy sporting blue tennis shoes! The score is also priceless, at times sounding like a sped-up instrumental version of “La Bamba.”
Severin has done an excellent job bringing this non-classic to Blu-ray, with a top-notch 1080p HD transfer remastered and presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Clarity and detail are very sharp and colors are vivid. Except for a few grainy instances to be blamed on the original film stock, it looks as though it could have been shot yesterday. The English-dubbed 2.0 audio is also very clear, with the amplified animal sounds and bongo drums coming through boisterously, and there is an additional, equally strong French language track (with no subtitle option).
New to this Blu-ray release is “The Way of All Flesh: An Interview with Alain Deruelle aka Allan W. Steele” (20:49) which has the director (speaking in French with French subtitles) telling how he got his start shooting softcore (and later hardcore) insert nude scenes in 35mm, and that his name was changed to sound more American, and eventually getting the job to helm CANNIBAL TERROR. He mentions that they were shooting on the same sets as Jess Franco, and how some of the crowd scenes he shot ended up in his film. Also touched upon are the hiring of the cannibals, the dead pig which substituted as a human body, and the film’s “Video Nasty” status. Deruelle implies that this was an ultra cheap production in every way (we figured so!), and he mentions an incident at Cannes when the film screened and he was labeled the “culprit” by his producers (the Lesoeurs) which caused him to part ways with Eurocine. A deleted “spicy” scene (1:27) has Pamela Stanford stripped down to her pink panties and dancing before a living room crowd. The English language trailer (3:28) with some awkwardly funny narration is also included. An “easter egg” offers an interview segment with Jess Franco (6:06), where he’s asked if he had any involvement with both ZOMBIE LAKE and CANNIBAL TERROR.
Director Jess Franco, a guy who hasn’t needed an introduction for decades, dabbled briefly in the “cannibal” genre when Ruggero Deodato’s CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST became something of a sensation. In 1980, Franco gave us CANNIBALS (aka MONDO CANNIBALE, WHITE CANNIBAL QUEEN), one of the more asinine jungle gut munchers of the bunch, as well as this effort, which really doesn’t fit the category at all, even though everything on the surface would dictate otherwise. Also known as SEXO CANNIBAL, MANDINGO MANHUNTER and a handful of other exploitive titles, DEVIL HUNTER, the second feature on this combo Blu-ray, unveils another mind-numbing Franco sex and sadism parade, which looks like another excuse to vacation in exotic Spain.
Blonde bimbo actress/model Laura Crawford (Ursula Buchfellner, here billed as Ursula Fellner) is checking out locations for a new film and seems totally blissful, staying in a fancy city hotel. During a relaxing bubble bath, she is double crossed by her assistant Jane (Gisela Hahn), allying with two thugs (Antonio de Cabo and Werner Pochath) who proceed to abduct her. Laura is taken to some ruins on a jungle island, is chained up and molested, and the kidnappers demand a ransom be paid: $6 million. A movie producer hires brave Peter Weston (Al Cliver, ZOMBIE) to rescue her for the sum of $200,000 and promises him 10 percent of the $6 million if he returns with the loot and the girl. Peter takes along his pal Jack (Antonio Mayans, aka Robert Foster), a timid Vietnam vet, and they flee from their helicopter before it crashes – the kidnappers double crossed the would-be rescuers with a surprise attack, but Peter had it coming as he handed them a bag full of phony cash. Since no one can make a civilized exchange of girl for money, Peter and Jack have to thwart the gun happy kidnappers and locate poor Laura, now kidnapped by dark-skinned natives who want to sacrifice her to their monstrous cannibal god, known as “The Devil.”
Because of some spattering of the red stuff (which looks like bright house paint) and several brief scenes of human organs being torn out, DEVIL HUNTER managed to get on the infamous British “Video Nasty” list, but after viewing it, you’ll scratch your head as to why. This is not at all a cannibal film since the natives here don’t indulge in that kind of carnal activity. Rather, the monster god of the piece (played by a giant black actor, naked and sporting bloodshot ping-pong ball eyes) likes to eat the hearts of the victims sacrificed to him. With such a perilous plot as just described, you would think DEVIL HUNTER would at least be somewhat tense and captivating, but it’s tediously paced and so poorly edited, that it just drags from one silly scene to the next, with long stretches void of dialog. At the beginning, Franco intercuts Laura’s abduction with scenes of a native girl being seized, tied to a tree and sacrificed to the hungry Devil, but again, the poor, dragged out editing fails to make any impact and the film is wholly another exercise in bad filmmaking, but thankfully, with a lot of female nudity on display.
The unintentional laughs are largely caused by the English dubbing, which has Antonio Mayans’ character of Jack sounding like a dim-witted southerner, and his arrival on the island, bringing on a flashback to the Vietnam War (helicopter noises and all) is an absolute riot. The German-born Ursula Buchfellner, who was all of 19 when this film was shot, is totally nude for much of the running time and she is absolutely stunning to gaze at. The very Anglo looking Al Cliver is at least fun to watch as the hero who gets to battle the giant pong-eyed naked menace during the climax. There’s a clever bit of him a climbing a rocky mountain, done in the style of the “Batman” TV series, where the actor is on the ground and the camera is tilted to make it appear as if he’s ascending upwards. With an kooky eccentric score (credited to Franco himself) which mixes haunted house piano clinks, jungle drums and ghostly wailing, and a large tiki idol (left over from “Gilligan’s Island”?) which bounces as it hits the ground, DEMON HUNTER is ripe for bad movie enthusiasts and Franco completists alike.
Severin Films has upgraded their DVD of DEVIL HUNTER with this Blu-ray. Presented in 1080o HD, and remastered from the original Spanish negative, the 1.85:1 transfer is extremely clean and blemish free. Detail is sharp, a light sheet of grain is well-maintained and colors are stable, though the cheap production values shine through in a lot of badly lit scenes, even if most of the show was shot outdoors. The English and French language options (2.0 tracks) are provided, both post-synced affairs (no subtitle options available). During the English version around the 1:12:48 mark, the dialog goes to Spanish for about a minute, but then quickly returns to English. This could be that no English track was available for the brief scene (which involves two trackers tracing footsteps). The version here is uncut and runs a whopping 1 hour and 42 minutes(!).
Carried over from the previous DVD, Franco sits down for a camera interview (a featurette entitled “Sexo Canibal”, 16:34), and you can sense that even he writes off the carnal shenanigans of DEVIL HUNTER, as he smirks while answering questions. As he reflects on the film, it’s obvious that the director has no love for the “cannibal” genre, and only dabbled in them briefly when they were popular. Franco claims that Altman, the actor who played the monster, was something of an athlete and he describes the great beauty of his star Buchfellner as “impossible.” A new featurette “Spirit of the B Hive: an Interview with Bertrand Altmann” (10:57) as the French actor talks about appearing in CANNIBAL TERROR and that he hardly has any memory of the film’s director but that atmosphere of the shoot was friendly. He also talks about his roles in DEVIL HUNTER and ZOMBIE LAKE. (George R. Reis)
BACK TO REVIEWS