15 April, 2008

THE MANHUNTER: VHS Review



1980 92 MINUTES Trans-World Entertainment (U.S.) DIRECTED BY "CLIFFORD BROWN" (JESUS FRANCO) WITH: AL CLIVER, URSULA FELLNER (Buchfellner), ROBERT FOSTER (Antonio Mayans), WERNER POCHATH, Gisela Hahn, Victoria Adams, Antonio de Cabo, Claude Boisson, Burt Altman (a zombie).
(a.k.a. SEXO CANNIBAL; IL CACCIATORE DI UOMINI; JUNGFRAU UNTER KANNIBALEN; THE DEVIL HUNTER; MANDINGO MANHUNTER)

Franco's most notorious venture into cannibal cinema, while not as extreme as ZOMBIE or CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, registers as a definite gross-out, as well as a ripe example of the director's cynicism.


The plot is lurid and unimaginative: A sexy starlet (Ursula Fellner) is kidnapped by ruthless criminals in a European city and whisked away to a tropical island. On the island, the kidnappers torture and molest the terrified woman until help arrives. This takes the form of hero type Peter Weston (Al Cliver, a.k.a. Pierluigi Santi) and his Vietnam vet sidekick (Antonio Mayans, credited as Robert Foster).

The starlet manages to escape before the heroes arrive. She runs straight into the arms of a local native tribe, who are intent on sacrificing her to their living god. Weston puts an end to the the cannibal's bloody rampage by pushing him off a cliff. He sails into the sunset with the topless starlet.

All of this plays even worse than it sounds. The only effective part is the opening, in which Franco intercuts a cannibal tribe pursuing a victim to paparazzi descending upon Fellner at her hotel. It's all down hill from there. The actors probably improvised the whole movie. Franco doesn't seem to give a damn here about his intended audience or fans. Gone is any gesture toward his personal obsessions and his sometimes imaginative use of low-budget filmmaking techniques.
The order of the day on this interminable Italian-French-Spanish-German co-production seems to have been, "Jump on the cannibal bandwagon, pull 'em into the theatres and rip 'em off." And you have to consider this was a Eurocine coproduction, the company who would also back the even worse CANNIBAL TERROR.

The only character seen practicing cannibalism is a seven-foot tall black man {Burt Altman?] with absurdly bulbuous eyes. He wanders around a questionable jungle setting bare-assed, and eats most of the cast. Whenever the cannibal eats flesh, we see him endlessly chew on what appears to be bits of cold cuts dipped in fake blood or perhaps barbecue sauce for flavor. It's sickening and somewhat laughable at the same time.

Almost every scene is technically inept. The cinemagraphy [credited to the usually stylish Juan Soler Cozar] is the some most dismal ever seen in a Franco production. At least half of the movie seems out-of-focus, under-exposed, or over-exposed. An atmospheric background vocal by Carloto Perla, set to music cues by Franco (credited under his own name), and Daniel White adds a sinister touch. The credits play against a blue background under which sounds of a jungle pursuit, heavy breathing, native drums, water splashing, can be heard. This is actually the opening scene which can be viewed in some editions but was covered by the credit cards here.

This ultra-rare TWE (Trans World Entertainment) video version is presented in full-screen format, but the gore scene close-ups appear in letterboxed format [hard-matted] at varying ratios. Wizard Video reportedly released this version in the U.S., as well, under the title MANDINGO MANHUNTER. Another available version, THE DEVIL HUNTER, is an out-of-print PAL format tape from Great Britain that contains additional gore and nudity.

There is a German DVD which reportedly runs around 100m. This TWE tape runs 92. The other US home video presentation DEVIL HUNTER, a very poor presentation from VIDEOASIA omits the opening credits altogether, a number of extreme gore scenes, some nudity and has a black matte across the bottom of the image which blocks out a considerable amount of visual information. This is on a double bill with Manuel Cano's 1972 VOODOO BLACK EXORCIST [a rip from the old US Video] titled TERROR TALES FROM THE HOOD.

Robert Monell

This review was originally written and published in 1998.

(c) 1998-2008 Robert Monell






8 comments:

Lars Jacobsson said...

I disagree with your take on this wonderful slice of Franco madness. Or, to br precise: I agree fully on your notes about the technical ineptness and general crapiness of this production, but I disagree strongly with the opinion that this is anything but Z-movie gold! And I think it's a personal Franco film in the sense that the many goofs and mess-ups are typhical of an uninspired Franco trying to rush together a film he's not that interested in, using lots of his typhical low-budget techniques like zooming, camera effects, strange natural lighting and the kind of hit-an-miss special FX that are typhical of his optimistic approach to filmmaking. When you think about it NOBODY could/would shoot this material in this way but Franco and that makes it personal in my book. Compare it with BLOODY MOON for example - it's a fun film IMHO but exept for a few quirks here and there it could easily have been directed by someone else (if I didn't know I would have suspected someone like J. P Simon). DEVIL HUNTER is, for better or worse, a Franco film. Even though he might have been embaressed by the film even during the shooting...

Franco's direction aside, a lot of the enjoyment factor of this bad mushroom trip of a movie must be tributed to the marveoussly awful dub job, especially the guy who dubs Werner Pochaths character (the angriest dude in euro-trash history?) is totally hilarious. "Shit! Flowers!". The Nam flashback sequence also have dubbing so cheezy you wouldn't expect it to exist outside of Godfrey Ho ninja films.

All in all i'd say it's among the best of the worst. And I can't wait for the Severin DVD!

Robert Monell said...

Thanks for your feedback, Lars. You know, in some moods I do enjoy those moments you have pinpointed, especially the audio-only Nam "flashback," and Godfrey Ho is a good point of comparison. I think the villains are very amusingly over-the-top as you point out. I do hope they give us several language tracks. I'm sure the TWE is missing footage, like under the opening credits. I also agree about BLOODY MOON, although he does play an acting role. It's kind of a Spanish-German imitation of a John Carpenter-Brain De Palma thing.

Svartglimmer said...

I like Devil Hunter!, sickly feverish, deranged, unclean, sleazy and wonderful

Douglas A. Waltz said...

I have the Troor From The Hood double feature. I liked the flick, but I can see where Robert is coming from with his critique of the film. I like the sleazy sheen that it seems to give off.

Foo said...

Hey, I've tried to find decent release for this DVD ever since you wrote the review on that Jay Slater's book.

Finallly Severin do it. I can't wait! Nice to read your blog, man.

Robert Monell said...

Doug: I also kinda like the sleazy sheen, as you put it. Very good characterization. Actually, I'm looing foward the the new DVD.

Robert Monell said...

Welcome to the blog, Foo. Thanks for the feedback. I wrote that review in the book and the review above more than 10 years ago, I think my opinion of the film has improved somewhat and may improve further with the new DVD.

Robert Monell said...

Welcome to the blog, Foo. Thanks for the feedback. I wrote that review in the book and the review above more than 10 years ago, I think my opinion of the film has improved somewhat and may improve further with the new DVD.