Media Blasters // 1980 // 90 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Paul Corupe (Retired) // March 31st, 2006
It's not fear that tears you apart -- it's him!
Anthropophagus may be the most notable horror effort mounted by Euro-skin and sin maestro Joe D'Amato, but that doesn't mean that it's particularly a good film. An ill-fated attempt to crossbreed the Italian gut-muncher with more traditional horror elements, it's a predictable failure that can't reconcile its ultimate gross-out moments with the director's subtler intentions. Nevertheless, Shriek Show/Media Blasters has seen fit to bestow this inessential horror opus with a handsome, uncut print and a jam-packed second disc of extras that is guaranteed to satiate your inner cannibal.
Talk about your vacations from Hell! Julie (Tisa Farrow, Zombie) is an American tourist traipsing around Greece who decides to tag along to a secluded island with new friends Daniel (Mark Bodin, Alien Terror), Carol (Zora Kerova, Cannbial Ferox), Alan (Saverio Vallone, Talent Agency), Arnold (Bob Larsen) and his wife, Maggie (Serena Grandi, The Adventures of Hercules). On arrival, the travelers discover the village there has been deserted, and they take shelter against a rising storm in a nearby decrepit manor. But something isn't right -- a woman keeps appearing in windows, one of the girls is locked in a cemetery, and most telling of all, there's an oatmeal-faced ghoul (George Eastman, The New Barbarians) who keeps trying to eat them.
While it was a nice idea for sleaze kingpin D'Amato to try and work some stormy nights, candle-lit corridors and ghostly happenings into his otherwise boring, run-of-the-mill gore outing Anthropophagus, any intended atmosphere in the film is completely undermined by the film's bloody set-pieces. You'd think D'Amato would have been familiar with this pitfall -- as with "adult" filmmaking, D'Amato's preferred medium, Italian gore films are all about money shots. Plot and tone are only added in as courtesies to the audience, and it's never expected that anyone will pay too much attention to them. Gore fans just want to see hatchets lodged in heads, knives plunged into soft bellies and jugular veins bitten in two, not mysterious diaries and barefoot girls creeping around in nightgowns -- it just feels out of place, and never musters even the slightest suspense, beyond a simple curiosity about when D'Amato will get the Karo syrup flowing again.
But the film's real death knell is that it's notably deficient in the gore department too. Anthropophagus gained a reputation when it was branded a "Video Nasty" in the UK, but with only one or two exceptions, there really isn't anything here that might cause a fuss today. After an appropriately bloody opening scene, meant to set the tone of the movie, it takes almost half-an-hour for Anthropophagus to pick up any steam. Overly talky and tediously paced, the plot simply drags along with its gaggle of unremarkable and uninteresting characters. When the guts are finally munched, it's almost laughably disappointing -- decapitated rubber heads and endless scenes of Eastman's killer stalking his prey to a whirling organ soundtrack. Even the film's two notorious scenes aren't particularly effective, with much of the gory detail happening just beyond the frame of the shot.
George Eastman, who also co-wrote and helped produce this tepid gore flick gets a gunky make-up job as the central cannibal, but he's just a shade too goofy-looking to inspire any real sense of terror or menace. Far too much time is spent on his back story, as though psychological understanding will help the victims-to-be survive his vicious attacks. Farrow, who doesn't actually look much like her sister Mia, is the sole stand-out in the cast, and she makes the best out of a bad situation by maintaining her character's cool in the face of torture and death, even during the incredibly gross finale -- easily the film's best asset, and that's not saying much.
Presented in a fairly attractive, 1.66:1 transfer, Anthropophagus offers up blood-drenched, vomit-soaked, axe-in-the-head shenanigans in all their digital glory. Colors are slightly subdued and a sheen of grain often crops up, but these problems aren't too noticeable. The mono sound is fairly limited in their fidelity, with the blippy, cat-on-a-Casio soundtrack coming off somewhat muffled, along with the slightly distorted dialogue, though the English track exhibits slightly better sonics. At the very least, I can say that the film surely looks and sounds better than it ever has on home video before.
What's really impressive, however, is the thorough package of extras that Media Blasters has brought together for this less than essential film. The first disc features four trailers for the film that are pretty much identical save for their titles along with some promos for other MB releases. The extras disc kicks off with two alternate American opening featuring different titles and scoring, and a 10-minute interview in which stars George Eastman and Zora Kerova appear together to share their recollections about making the film (they don't much like it either). The best feature on the set is undoubtedly "Totally Uncut Two," a 65-minute candid documentary about the notorious Joe D'Amato that picks up from the first installment, which was offered as an extra on the DVD for Images in a Convent. Featuring a wealth of interview footage with the late D'Amato, including a discussion about Anthropophagus, this Italian doc, presented with English subtitles, is the real treat on this disc, featuring wild anecdotes about his productions and amazing career. Rounding out the disc is a still gallery and more trailers, both for other MB releases as well as assorted sleaze from D'Amato's resume.
If I told you that Joe D'Amato made infamously bad and offensive sex films, would it surprise you if his attempts at horror were any less sleazy? I didn't think so. Gorehounds looking for a moist reward for braving the more plodding aspects of Anthropophagus will find themselves distinctly let down by this effort.
Guilty. Now pass me another hunk of large intestine, please.
Review content copyright © 2006 Paul Corupe; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Media Blasters
* 1.66:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (Italian)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 1980
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Original trailers
* Joe D'Amato documentary
* US theatrical opening
* Zora Kerova and George Eastman live public appearance 2005
* Photo gallery