Cannibal Terror AKA Terreur Cannibale AKA Terror Caníbal [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Severin Films
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (24th August 2015).
The Film

Devil Hunter (Jess Franco, 1980): In Santo Domingo to scout locations for her next film, actress Laura Crawford (Ursula Buchfellner) is abducted from her bubble bath by her ex-assistant Jane (Gisela Hahn), suave Thomas (Antonio de Cabo), and unstable Chris (Werner Pochath) for a six million dollar ransom. While Laura is held prisoner in a cave hideout on a remote island, Hollywood producer Goldstein hires mercenary Peter Weston (Al Cliver) to make the trade with the additional offer of ten percent of the ransom amount if he comes back with both girl and loot. Joined by shell-shocked Nam vet Jack (Antonio Mayans), Peter heads to the drop-point provided in a note delivered by a mysterious beauty (Muriel Montossé). On the island, Jane is unnerved and Chris driven nearly insane by the endless drumbeats of the nearby tribe worship a seven foot, bug-eyed, buck-naked being that resembles the top head of their totem pole who rapes and eats the hearts of nubile sacrifices. When Peter and Jack arrive at the beach, their plan to switch the real ransom money with fake money goes awry since Thomas has planned to exchange as an ambush. Amidst the gunfire that injures Jane and blows up Jack's helicopter, Laura flees into the jungle and is captured by the native. Swimming to the safety of an offshore yacht piloted by the woman who gave them the note about the meeting, Peter and Jack arrange a second exchange. The kidnappers head into the jungle to recover Laura before the exchange. Although Peter promised no funny business, he has snuck onto the island hoping to surprise them. As Peter and the kidnappers search the island, they are picked off as the "devil hunter" works up his appetite for Laura as the tribe's next sacrifice.

The attempts of Eurocine – a French sexploitation house run by father and son Marius Lesoeur and Daniel Lesoeur – to cash in on the Italian zombie genre – Oasis of the Zombies and Zombie Lake – were barely competent but possessed meagre charms; however, the French exploitation company's attempts to cash in on the Italian cannibal genre Devil Hunter, Cannibal Terror, and Cannibals test even the most patient and trash-hungry viewers. Devil Hunter was released stateside as Manhunter while Cannibal Terror went unreleased until Severin's DVD edition; however, both films wound up as probably the least deserving entries on the Video Nasty list in the United Kingdom (Cannibal Terror would be dropped from the list). Devil Hunter sports the busier adventure plot and the comelier damsel in distress in Playboy Playmate Buchfellner, some of director Jess Franco's better eighties presences in de Cabo (who also served as art director on some of Franco's seventies film), Mayans and Montossé (the latter two had already been bumping 'n grinding in Franco's erotica companion pieces Cecilia and The Inconfessable Orgies Of Emmanuelle), as well as the more outrageous cannibal creature; but the end result is an epic slog in any of its cuts (the UK pre-cert release ran just under 90 minutes when speed-corrected compared to 102 of the Severin DVD and Blu-ray) with listless pacing and Franco's own synth noodling sapping the suspense out of monster POV stalkings and splash-of-red-paint and pig innard-chomping.

Cannibal Terror (Alain Deruelle, 1980): Barely able to scrape by on petty thievery and turning tricks, two-bit thieves Mario (Mayans again) and Roberto (Antoine Fontaine), and prostitute Lina (Mariam Camacho) hit upon the idea of ransoming car executive Danville's (Olivier Mathot) young daughter Florence (Annabelle). When their fourth partner is involved in a very public traffic accident that brings the police, the trio contact club owner Don Pepe for help and he sets them up with an out of the way hideout. Pepe's "man Mickey" turns out to be a she who transports them across the border warning them that the road they have to travel skirts cannibal country just before the radiator overheats. When Mickey fails to return from a trip the river for water, the trio and their hostage make their way to the hideout of aged Antonio (Gérard Lemaire) and his much younger wife Manuela (Pamela Stanford). Although he owes Don Pepe a favor, Antonio is uneasy about abetting kidnappers and keeps his wife ignorant of their guests' identities and intentions. When Antonio leaves for a few days and Mario rapes Manuela, however, Antonio gets revenge by leading Mario into the jungle under the ruse of a hunting trip and leaving him tied up as food for the cannibals. Manuela realizes that her husband's guests are kidnappers, she has one of the locals get word to the authorities. Danville is able to find out ahead of the authorities the whereabouts of his daughter and the kidnappers and decides to execute a three "man" rescue mission with his wife (Sylvia Solar) and army buddy Alfredo. When they realize that Danville is on their trail, Roberto and Lina flee into the jungle with Florence and are captured by the cannibals. With the Danvilles and Antonio in danger of walking into the same trap, Manuela rounds up some of the locals for another rescue team.

Cannibal Terror is regarded as not just the worst of the three Eurocine cannibal films, but the worst Eurocine productions. The story is straightforward but the pacing is downright murderous. After a laborious thirteen minutes of set-up (with the theme music heard twice in its entirety), the film's first action set-piece in the abduction of little Florence happens entirely off-screen. Despite the film being helmed by unabashed hardcore pornographer Alain Deruelle, there is very little to titillate the viewer, and even a repugnant rape scene fails to provide requisite views of female flesh (although Stanford is seen getting out of an outside tub beforehand). The gore scenes are ropey but executed with gusto as the very Caucasian natives pull out the innards of a slaughtered pig repeatedly in close-up; however, these sequences are never as disturbing as the average Italian cannibal film feeding frenzy. The exchange of gunfire and arrows between the rescuers and the cannibals is better choreographed than edited, but boredom may have set in long before the kidnappers get what is coming to them and you may not care whether the little girl is rescued.

Video

Devil Hunter: The film was a Video Nasty in the UK as DEVIL HUNTER but barely made a blip over here when released over here by TWE as MANHUNTER (and a cancelled Wizard Video release as MANDINGO MANHUNTER). The first DVD release was a so-so quality transfer from German company X-Rated Kult Video followed by an unauthorized release here through Video Asia utilizing a Japanese subtitled tape with the subtitles severely matted off. For Severin's 2008 DVD release, Eurocine had to utilize Spanish materials with the onscreen title EL CANIBAL. Although HD-mastered, the transfer had some issues with interlacing as well as contrast issues and uneven black levels that are still evident on the Blu-ray; although it is unlikely that the timing was ever consistent from shot to shot (and there are a couple shots where the sudden brightening or darkening may actually be clouds passing overhead). While the transfer is superior to everything that came before it on DVD, the HD version looks more like video than film for the most part and may come as a disappointment to those who like the raw look of the Franco Blu-rays from Redemption/Kino Lorber or the immaculate Blu-rays of the Erwin C. Dietrich Franco productions (although certainly superior cinematographically to anything that Franco actually shot on video).

Cannibal Terror: Originally a Video Nasty, but removed from the official list, Cannibal Terror was released uncut on DVD in the UK on the Screen Entertainment "Hardgore" label in 2003 and in the US – as one of the Eurocine titles to elude distribution by Wizard Video – in 2008 from Severin Films. While the DVD had English credits, Severin's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.66:1 widescreen transfer has French credits. The image is more pleasingly raw and grainy compared to the older Devil Hunter transfer. It's never going to be a pretty film in any sense, but it is faithfully represented here for all of its faults (although the cinematography is the film's most competent "asset").

Audio

Devil Hunter: While the Severin DVD featured the English and French tracks with optional English subtitles, Severin's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.66:1 Blu-ray features English and Spanish (mislabeled French) LPCM 2.0 tracks and no subtitles. A passage roughly seventy-two minutes into the film reverts to Spanish briefly but there are no subtitles for this sequence either. The English dub is truly painful, with Mayans' character given particularly awful voicing.

Cannibal Terror: While the DVD only featured the passable English dub track, the Blu-ray features English and French dub tracks in LPCM 2.0 mono. The French is a tad cleaner, and it plays better in the language, but there are no English subtitles to accompany the track (although the story is easy enough to follow without translation for those who find Eurocine English dubs more painful than comical).

Extras

Devil Hunter: Carried over from the Severin DVD is the "Sexo Canibal" (16:32) interview with Franco in which he recalls his working relationship with Lasoeurs and how he usually proposed the film ideas to them. In the case of Devil Hunter, the idea was proposed by Spanish producer Julián Esteban. While Franco did not like the Italian cannibal trend, he reasoned that this film was acceptable because it was not about a cannibal tribe but about a monster worshiped by the tribe that did the flesh eating. He genially recalls Cliver and Buchfellner, as well as the Portuguese gymnast who played the monster. He describes his approach to directing non-actors as to simply tell them exactly what to do and not try to act. Although he speaks thickly-accented English, English subtitles are also provided to clarify things. Newly-produced for this release is the "Spirit of the B Hive" (10:55) interview with Bertrand Altmann in which the French former volleyball player recalls how he was noticed for his athletic ability by Rémy Julienne's stunt team. Tiring of the actors getting the glory for his stunt work, Altmann started taking acting classes and working on the stage. His first film work was for Eurocine on Cannibal Terror and he fondly recalls the atmosphere on set, the cheap meals, and his trepidation about doing stunts on the cheap. He also recalls his brief work as a background zombie on Zombie Lake as part of an introduction to working on film (although he has mainly worked on the stage, he has had a handful of French film and television credits more recently). There is no trailer for the film.

Cannibal Terror: The only newly produced extra for Cannibal Terror is "The Way of All Flesh" (20:49), an interview with director Deruelle in which he discusses his beginnings as a filmmaker shooting erotic shorts and additional erotic inserts for films before moving on to hardcore features. While Eurocine showed no interest in producing hardcore films, they did distribute them and soon asked Deruelle to film additional footage to finish Jailhouse Wardress from footage culled from another Jess Franco women-in-prison film. He also recalls the stinginess of the producers and the monotony of the food. Of Franco's involvement, he states that they only reused the sets and extras (gypsies on the Spanish location shots and university students from the French) from the simultaneously filmed Cannibals and a few long shots. Deruelle claims to have parted ways with Eurocine after the disastrous Cannes screening in which Laseour senior put the blame on him for the resulting film and returned to hardcore porn until it gave way to video.

Carried over from the DVD is a spicy deleted scene (1:26) in which Stanford strips all the way down while partying with the kidnappers, the English-language theatrical trailer (3:27), and the Easter Egg interview with Jess Franco (6:06) in which he first identified "Allan W. Steeve" as Deruelle.

Overall

While neither film in this set is particularly satisfying, there is a perverse satisfaction in owning two of Eurocine's laziest horror efforts in high definition.

 


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