20 October, 2008

DEVIL HUNTER/EL CANIBAL: the Severin DVD


Mandingo Manhunter meets Cannibal Man!

Starlet Laura Crawford (Ursula Buchfellner) is abducted after arriving in a South American city. The kidnappers take her to the remote jungle island of Porto Santa Ana and contact her US based producer demanding a six million dollar ransom. Soldier of fortune Peter Weston (Al Cliver aka Pier Luigi Conti) is hired to deliver the money, bring the victim back safely and hopefully trick the criminals out of the loot and save the producer's investment in her publicity! In the meantime, a huge, nude cannibal god roams the island, kept alive by sacrificial victims fed to him by the local tribe. When the money exchange goes awry the kidnappers, Weston and Laura Crawford are trapped on the island without means of escaping the hungry monster.

Preposterous as the above plot set up is I have always enjoyed SEXO CANIBAL, at least somewhat more than the even more ridiculous, and disgusting, MONDO CANNIBALE/CANNIBALS, its 1980 flesh eating companion. That's not saying much, but I have a high tolerance for European Trash cinema. I still find it rather amazing that it took four countries, Italy, Spain, France, and Germany, to pony up the funds for this slapdash action-adventure-sex-gore spectacle.



Severin's rather glossy 1.85:1/16:9 anamorphic transfer of Jess Franco's 1980 expedition into Cannibal Exploitation terrain has been eagerly awaited and I can say I'm very pleased that they have unearthed a rather terrific looking (for the most part) 101+m print. I'm especially happy to have finally seen the opening scene which was covered by the opening credit cards in the abysmal late 1980s TWE video, THE MAN HUNTER, which I rented out from BLOCKBUSTER two decades ago, copied and have suffered through ever since. That's illegal and That's Dedication!

I sampled the French language track and, as I suspected, found that the film plays somewhat better with it as far as I'm concerned, English language subtitles are included as is the vintage English language track (which adds to its Grindhouse ambiance). Onscreen title: EL CANIBAL.

I can also report that the David Gregory documentary interview with Uncle Jess, SEXO CANIBAL, is brimming with our favorite director's cigarette smoking antics along with behind-the-scenes glimpses into the making of a film in a genre the director scorned with little in the way of resources [the famous bug-eyed look of the nude, towering Cannibal {NOT Burt Altman but a Portuguese-African gymnastic champion} was created by utilizing ping-pong balls with tiny eyeholes]. He also comments about working with Al Cliver, Ursula Buchfellner (whom Jess found to be more talented than MONDO CANNIBALE's Sabrina Siani, whom he ungraciously terms "a piece of...meat"), adding his rather interesting analysis of Ruggero Deodato's CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST (1979). A lot of information and entertainment packed into just over a quarter of an hour.


Severin's DEVIL HUNTER is at least 10 minutes longer than any version I've seen and now has the feel of a fullscale Eurosleaze Epic. Besides the previously blocked out footage at the beginning there's a lot of extra nude native dancing with Franco's telezoom exploring the exposed genitalia of the black dancer and Ms Buchfeller. There's even one shot, through the spread legs of native leader Claude Boisson revealing that he didn't wear any underwear beneath his native shirt. Too much information! The final struggle between the nude black cannibal and Al Cliver is also longer. There is also some extended dialogue in various scenes.

This is an interesting, luminous transfer of vault elements which sometimes is a bit soft, almost fogged, but that looks due to shooting conditions as much of his film seems to have been shot out of focus. That's not unusual in a Franco production (cf FEMALE VAMPIRE) but the POV shots of the cannibal are obviously deliberately either unfocused or filtered with something and the non POV shots of the cannibal's encounters with various human meals are also fogged. For me it just adds to the sense of jungle delirium and sex-gore transgression. Purists may be less forgiving. In terms of color it certainly looks better than ever beflore.

The vintage English language track is very full-bodied, some may say loud, and since most of the characters are Americans I guess it works. I'm just pleased that both the English and French tracks were included. The interview is really worth the price of admission. Jess is in full-cannibal-ridicule mode and I had to break out in sustained laughter as he describes how in the Italian cannibal films of that era they always eat the "nasty" parts rather than the "nice" parts like "tits." Jess once again proves to be a world class raconteur.

Although it wasn't his idea and he still dislikes the cannibal-exploitation genre Jess seems to have enjoyed doing this more than CANNIBALS aka MONDO CANNIBALE even though he seems to be less talented at action-adventure than jungle fairy tales. He notes that this was a "monster" movie for him rather than a cannibal film, the monster just happens to like to eat people and is the god of the locals. As far as Franco's 1980s jungle filmography goes I personally prefer his non-cannibal LA ESCLAVA BLANCA (1985), a even more low-budget and "naive" jungle outing which delights as a perfect Saturday Matinee item.

(C) Robert Monell 2008




6 comments:

Mark said...

As always, great review of the disc Robert. Believe it or not, this is one Jess film that has escaped me thus far and the somewhat negative reviews I had read over the years helped keep me away. However, I am more excited than ever to see the movie now. It sounds like a lot of fun and of course another interview with Jess is always a good time.

Curious to see if Severin is going to pull out some more Francos for 2009. Still some great 80's period films we haven't seen on Region 1 disc yet not to mention, fingers crossed, if we might ever see something come out of the Denesle estate. I think that would excite me, as well as everyone else who reads your blog, the most.

Robert Monell said...

Thanks for your kind comments, Mark. DH is definitely a fun movie, a monster-sleaze epic, and this new DVD is the only way to see it. It's certainly not among the best of JF's films and is probably best described as bad fun. Severin is working on at least one rarely seen Tier One JF title for next year that I know of and hopefully such films as LORNA, THE EXORCIST and other De Nesle product will be found and released in the future.

Kimberly said...

I haven't seen this Franco film myself but I'm looking forward to checking it out soon. I've been curious about it so I enjoyed reading your thoughts on it, Robert! I still prefer Franco's 60s/70s era films but I'm slowly warming up to his later work as well.

scott said...

Hmm, you tempt our curiosity too much..

"one rarely seen Tier One JF title .."

you can't say or speculate?

scott said...

It's almost 2009 and none of the films of full De Nestle productions have been released yet. I'm losing more and more hope of this happening... like Golden's GEMIDOS DE PLACER with subtitles.

Robert Monell said...

It's almost 2009 and none of the films of full De Nestle productions have been released yet. I'm losing more and more hope of this happening... like Golden's GEMIDOS DE PLACER with subtitles.

Scott, the De Nesle titles are being investigated by at least on DVD company. The rights holder is apparently holding out of a lot of cash last I heard, but it's possible that something can be worked out. I'm trying to drum up some interest in a GEMIDOS R1 DVD. Please join our discussion of this over on www.cinemadrome.com.