15 March, 2008

Jess Franco's CANNIBALS (1980): DVD


Bloody disgusting! Jess Franco's answer to Ruggero Deodato's CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST. According to Uncle Jess, who is interviewed on Blue Underground's DVD presentation of CANNIBALS, his film is better! It was banned in the UK as a Video Nasty.

Dr. Jeremy Taylor (Pier Luigi Conti aka Al Cliver) attempts to launch a rescue expedition up the Amazon years after his wife was killed and his daughter was abducted by a local cannibal tribe. Finding backing from the sexually ambiguous Mr. Fenton (Franco regular Olivier Mathot) and the wealthy Barbara Shelton (Shirley Night), who invite their idle friends along for a pleasure cruise [!], he arrives back in the South Amercian rain forest only to survive another brutal attack from the same tribe who now worship his grown daughter (Sabrina Siani) as the White Cannibal Queen.

Jess Franco has made a number of cannibal films during his highly varied directorial career. They range from the exquisite (LA COMTESSE PERVERSE) to the ridiculous (DEVIL HUNTER). CANNIBALS (aka MONDO CANNIBALE, WHITE CANNNIBAL QUEEN, LA DEESSE DES BARBARES, LA DEA CANNIBALE, MONDO CANNIBALE 3: DIE BLONDE GOTTIN, UN FILLE POUR LES CANNIBALES) is not the worst, but it's close. Dismal photography, crudely inserted stock footage, excruciatingly protracted entrails eating interludes made even more unbearable by being shot in extreme close up and slow motion, doom this film to the lower rungs of Le Bad Cinema. Al Cliver is acceptable enough as the hero but Sabrina Siani looks spaced out and in need of something or other as the White Cannibal Queen. Besides wasting such interesting performers as Antonio Mayans and Pamela Stanford the film takes forever to get to its raison de etre, the cannibal scenes, and they're way beyond disappointing. Pamela Stanford would go on to make another Eurocine backed cannibal film, the even more wretched CANNIBAL TERROR (1981), which shares some other cast members and footage with CANNIBALS.

The BU disc is an excellent transfer but would have been a whole lot better if it offered the French language track, which improves the film considerably. I've had the French language version on video for years (as MANGEURS DES HOMMES) and it's 100%more watchable if only because of the fact that the voice casting in the English language dub is laughably poor. Ms. Siani sounds like she was dubbed by a clueless New Jersey party girl. Jess Franco's Mr. Martin is supposed to be a Portuguese guide but is dubbed by some guy who sounds like a backwoods hick. The 1.66:1/16:9 transfer is sharp and colorful and it's certainly the best this film will ever look.

The best thing about this presentation is an amusing and interesting interview with Uncle Jess, who explains that he was disgusted by Deodato's 1979 CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST because of its realistic depiction of cannibal atrocities and deliberately made MONDO CANNIBALE (original title) as a kind of regressive Hollywood-style adventure- fantasy. Not a bad idea. It works for the first scene with the parents watching the child falling asleep to her music box but Franco is quickly defeated by inadequate technical resources. The original French trailer is included.


Eurotrash goddess Pamela Stanford (Monique Delaunay), behind the gas mask in the above screenshot from BLUE RITA, made her final appearance in a Jess Franco film in CANNIBALS only to get eaten alive in the opening scene (what a waste!).


Dr. Jeremy Taylor (Al Cliver) recovers with the help of his nurse (Lina Romay) after losing his wife, daughter and an arm to a cannibal tribe while on an Amazonian expedition. He should have watched CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST first!


Mr. Fenton (Oliver Mathot aka Claude Plaut) and Barbara Shelton (Shirley Night) want to turn Dr. Taylor's rescue mission into a party on the love boat!


Jess Franco's first, and best, cannibal film, LA COMTESSE PERVERSE (1973) is a jet black comedy of manners set on island ruled by upscale flesh eaters played by Franco icons Alice Arno and Howard Vernon. Avant-garde photography and music make this a must-see, one of JF's all time best. Now, let's have it on a quality R1 English friendly DVD presentation of that!


The DEVIL HUNTER (SEXO CANIBAL/JUNGFRAU UNTER KANNIBALEN/THE MAN HUNTER/MANDINGO MANHUNTER/IL CACCIATORE DI UOMINI) DVD, probably the most wretched digital presentation of any Jess Franco film so far! The only compensation is that it's dirt cheap and you get the fun VOODOO BLACK EXORCIST (in scratchy VHS quality) as a second feature. From the notorious VIDEOASIA. Type the title in the blog's search engine for my archived review.


Lurid advert for Jess Franco's other 1980 French-Italian financed, Spanish lensed cannibal epic. This one also features Italian actor Al Cliver and had some German input from Lisa Films/Munich who sent Ursula Buchfellner to get stripped, bound and abused by kidnappers and then the towering cannibal god with bugged-out eyes. An appalling racist fantasy if there ever was one. Both films are candidates for a JF's all-time worst list.

This print is introduced as A Franco Prosperi Film, Directed by Jess Franco.

(C) Robert Monell, 2008







14 comments:

ecom said...

Substance also released this under the title WHITE CANNIBAL QUEEN likely sourced from VHS.

Anonymous said...

CANNIBALS is truly awful. I could not get through the whole film and I'm big on Franco. I saw it many years ago on VHS but watching the film again in stunning clarity somehow made it even worse. I'm sure the film would play better with the French track that you mentioned but I doubt that I could muster up much interest in checking it out. The awful cover art (possibly BU's worst) does the film no favors. That said, the disc is worth having or at least checking out for the great Franco interview.
Thankfully I had a decent dub of SINNER to wash the bad taste out of CANNIBALS out of my mouth. - Damian

scott said...

wow, really surprised to hear you prefer MONDO CANNIBALE over The DEVIL HUNTER!! I think Jess still made worse movies than these...

Robert Monell said...

Ecom: Blog reader John Charles sent some scrrencaps of that Substance DVD which were posted last year. Type the title in the blog search engine and you should be able to access it. It is indeed VHS quality according to John..

Robert Monell said...

Ecom: Blog reader John Charles sent some scrrencaps of that Substance DVD which were posted last year. Type the title in the blog search engine and you should be able to access it. It is indeed VHS quality according to John..

Robert Monell said...

Sorry about the dupe reply above, blogger!

Damian: I share your pain with this film! It's as bad as Franco gets, for sure. The English voice casting only makes it worse. The characters are mainly American but they got a group of dubbers who it just seems like they picked up off the streets! And Jess Franco is dubbed by a guy who sounds down home bayou, and he's supposed to be Portuguese. Totally destroys whatever minimal credibility which the film has. The French voice casting is much better and not as distracting or unintentionally funny. And the cover seems to want to discourage potential buyers.

Scott: I go back and forth. I used to actually prefer MANHUNTER, especially for the delirious music score, but it seems even more technically inept now and I find the treatment of the female cast to be truly despicable.

Lars Jacobsson said...

I LOVE Cannibals! This and Devil Hunter (an even bigger favorite) is actually two of my favorite Grade-Z atrocities! Jess Franco sometimes made som genuinely great, personal, exentric cinema and some real hack-jobs like this one and Bloody Moon, Diamonds of Kilimandjaro etc. I personally can appriciate both these sides and the turkeys is actually the films I revisit most frequently.

Robert Monell said...

Lars, you make a good point. There are two sides to Jess Franco: the hack who spews out Grade Z atrocities like this and the artist who makes multilayered exploitatiin. Sometimes I enjoy the hackwork also, in the right mood. BTW, the Spanish version of DIAMONDS is quite different from the French version on US DVD. I'll be covering that in the future along with European Tarzan films, so stay tuned.

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Robert Monell said...

Welcome to the blog, Wireless. And thanks for your positive comments and adding a link to your blogroll. I will be checking out your blog and adding a link on my sidebar.

scott said...

Hmm, robert when you say treatment of the female cast-do you mean Ursula Buchfellner and Muriel Montosse or the natives??

Robert Monell said...

IT seems like there's a pattern, they are treated as kind of slabs of meat, to be hung out for cannibal consumption or displayed or actually cannibalized. But maybe that's Franco's comment, it's hard to tell. At base level, it's crude exploitation, sexploitation, gore. D'Amato went once step further in PORNO HOLOCAUST and added hardcore to tropical/cannibal/zombie/sex hijinx!

ecom said...

I agree with you, DEVIL HUNTER would've been the more interesting film for BU to release but I wonder in what kind of condition the elements are. There are different cuts of the film and I've read that Eurocine supplied the material for the German disc and the quality wasn't all that good.

Robert Monell said...

Well, I'd still like to see it get a better DVD release than the VIDEOASIA, which looks even worse than the two previous US VHS releases and is even more incomplete. So, I would like at least to get this longest version [?] on R1 DVD.