Mondo Cannibale (1980)

Mondo Cannibale (1980) movie poster

director Jesús Franco
viewed: 10/04/2017

Mondo Cannibale is neither the best nor the worst cannibal flick ever, though it’s closer to the latter.

It’s kind of like H. Rider Haggard’s She as a cannibal flick with an origin story. With 17 year old Sabrina Siani as blonde cannibal queen. Her father, played by Al Cliver must return to rescue her.

It features some very ethnically diverse cannibals in hella face paint.

It’s crap for sure but it’s the first film I’ve seen that I’d definitely say that Jesús Franco elevated with his style. Maybe because it was less a pure Franco flick, not working from his own script.

Ah, well. Vive, Franco!

Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals (1977)

Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals (1977) movie poster

director Joe D’Amato
viewed: 09/06/2017

Ah, Laura Gemser…

I was first introduced to Laura Gemser and Emanuelle in Black Emanuelle (1975) and Emanuelle in Bangkok (1976) via Skinemax in the 1980’s. Lots and lots of skin and flesh and pretend sex (I’m sure I never saw a hardcore version of this stuff). Storytelling isn’t exactly secondary but certainly not the primary in this film series. Laura Gemser is the remarkable beauty so often in her altogether that drove this whole thing, and though I haven’t seen one of these things since the 1980’s, it’s really nice to see her again.

Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals, of course, is a “Black Emanuelle” movie and a cannibal flick too. Two exploitation tropes meet up and what do you get? A cannibal flick with a lot of sex scenes. Director Joe D’Amato goes all in for the cannibal bits too, some reasonably good gore.

The tastelessness of the cannibal genre is full-on here. Racism being core to this particular genre.

But really, I can’t help but think that the most bizarre moment comes early in the film when Gemser is undercover in a NYC mental ward when she basically sexually assaults a patient in a straight-jacket and then photographs her private parts.

Doctor Butcher, M.D. (1980)

Doctor Butcher, M.D. (1980) movie poster

director Marino Girolami
viewed: 02/27/2017

Cannibals and zombies and mad doctors, oh my!

This Zombie Holocaust came to me by way of Doctor Bucther, M.D., both good movie names in my book. Apparently nonsequiturs occur more in the original version, but the film’s madcap pace keeps you from really pondering how all this stuff fits together.

What starts out in a New York hospital as weird cannibalism apparently by immigrants from the Molucca islands (which throughout the film I heard as “Mulatto Islands”) then heads to said islands to investigate. Somehow an anthropology expert who grew up in the Molucca islands (Alexandra Delli Colli) never heard of such things and alongside head doctor (Ian McCulloch) find themselves investigating this biz instead of say, the cops.

This is where the cannibals and zombies and mad doctor are. The zombies turn out to not exactly be zombies but lobotomized people who’ve endured major surgical shenanigans by the local mad doctor of the title.

It’s gory and silly and racist and peppy. And hard to not enjoy.

The Mountain of the Cannibal God (1978)

The Mountain of the Cannibal God (1978) movie poster

director Sergio Martino
viewed: 10/09/2015

The Mountain of the Cannibal God might just be the biggest budget movie from the “cannibal boom” heyday.  It features actual movie stars like Stacy Keach and Ursula Andress, and the production values are miles above other films from the period.  If you think that this means that the film is going to be tamer or less exploitative than others, well,…it’s not.

Shot in Sri Lanka which is doubling for New Guinea, Mountain‘s racist exploitation is not of South American indigenous peoples but rather South Pacific indigenous peoples.  Like other cannibal films of its period, it features a good deal of real life animal snuff, including the gutting of a monitor lizard and most upsettingly, a monkey eaten alive by a large snake.  As off-putting as real life animal torture or mutilation might be, that aspect is a true hallmark of the genre and period.  For as gruesome and disturbing as it is, it is also extremely effective in heightening the faked gore of the film and accentuating the notion of nature’s inherent violence, of killing and eating as horrible but natural, suggesting something similar about cannibalism in man.

The Mountain of the Cannibal God is a much better produced film than any others of the period that I’ve seen.  Does it make it a better movie overall?  It’s got a lot more story going for it and Stacy Keach is actually pretty good as the troubled outdoorsman who leads Andress and her brother Arthur (Antonio Marsina) into the jungle in search of Angress’s lost husband.

As the movie lurches into its final half hour, director Sergio Martino unleashes the film’s goriest moments and its most gob-smacking shocks.

Cannibal Holocaust (1980) rightly earned its place as the ultimate cannibal exploitation film, but The Mountain of the Cannibal God might actually be the best made film of the period.

Oh, yeah, one last thing, most outrageous moment:  Stacey Keach is recalling his traumatizing life with the cannibal tribe, being forced to eat human flesh, something that he cannot get over.  Then he suggests the one way to deal with his trauma is to head back and kill the entire tribe, to which his companion nods his head and agrees.  It’s just a moment but it’s highly insane: therapy through genocide.  Yeah.  Right.

Cannibal Terror (1981)

Cannibal Terror (1981) movie poster

director Alain Deruelle
viewed: 10/02/2015

This has got to be the Ed Wood of cannibal movies.  And by that, I mean the absolute worst cannibal film ever made.

Its badness can only be described as either epic or sublime or both.  How this movie hasn’t shown up on more lists of “worst movies ever made” I don’t know.  I haven’t seen every cannibal film ever made but I’m willing to bet this is in the running for the worst.  Though, it seems that the film shares some sequences and elements with Jess Franco’s Mondo Cannibale (1980) and so perhaps that film offers some promise of insane hilarity.

Tremendously bad, tremendously, wonderfully bad.

The cannibals look like they were recruited from the local Guitar Center or local dive bar and offered weed for their performances.  Painted with make-up from a drug store at Halloween, dancing at times like they’re desperately waiting for the bathroom, and showing less motivation than their macaw co-stars, they reflect verity on every other depiction of cannibals in every other film on the subject.

Mind = blown.

Cannibal Ferox (1981)

Cannibal Ferox (1981) movie poster

director Umberto Lenzi
viewed: 09/30/2015

Though director Umberto Lenzi made the film that started the cannibal exploitation movie genre with The Man from Deep River (1972)  and Eaten Alive! (1980) (neither of which have I seen), his notorious “video nasty”, 1981’s Cannibal Ferox (a.k.a. Make Them Die Slowly!) seems very much a poor man’s Cannibal Holocaust (1980).  Cannibal Ferox is often cited right next to Cannibal Holocaust as the most outrageous and noteworthy of the genre, and maybe rightly so, but it lacks a lot in comparison.

Unlike Cannibal Holocaust, there is no “film within a film”, no “faux found footage”, but there is a team of researchers from New York City who venture into the unknown jungles of South America in search of truths about cannibalism for university investigation.  In Ferox, though, this is a small group, two women and a man, who stumble upon another pair of Americans who’ve just encountered cannibals and are trying to make a hasty escape.  It turns out that one of the men is a real sadist, who finds in one of the women a willing accomplice.  And that while there is cannibalism, the real monsters are the “civilized” ones who come to the jungle seeking heinous paganism.

Like Holocaust, there are images of real violence to native animals including a large river turtle (who is actually dispatched quickly with a machete) and more disturbingly a strange rodent-like creature who is tied to a stake and then screamingly crushed by a massive snake.  The latter moment is pretty hard to watch, even for someone relatively inured to things.  As in Holocaust, these scenes of real violence accentuate the faked violence against humans, contrasting the real with the pretend.  It’s less effective here, however.

I’d always been curious about Ferox, and as I’ve been knocking off a few “video nasties” as I have been since watching the documentary on the subject, it seemed worth queuing up.  I may work my way through a few more of these, the only way to develop real perspective on the genre.

The Cannibal Man (1972)

The Cannibal Man (1972) movie poster

director Eloy de la Iglesia
viewed: 09/27/2015

It’s interesting to consider that the movies that got dubbed as “video nasties” by the British Director of Public Prosecutions were in some part selected because of the video cover art and not necessarily the content within.  I’ve been perusing a few of the films that I hadn’t seen before since watching a documentary on the topic, Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship & Videotape (2010), and it’s been an eye-opening sludge through the virtual video stores of the early 1980’s, brimmed with dubious films from as much as a decade earlier.

Eloy de la Iglesia’s The Cannibal Man is a curious case of a film.  For one, there is no cannibalism in it. Its Spanish title, La Semana del asesino, “The Week of the Killer”, is closer to accurate.  While assuredly bloody with both some gruesome effects and scenes from a real-life abattoir, it’s much more psychological of a horror film, almost a male version of Repulsion (1965), or maybe more specifically a closeted gay man’s version of Repulsion.

Marcos (Vicente Parra) lives like a squatter in the poorer slum of his city, works blandly in a slaughterhouse, and seems a semi-normal nice guy.  But one night, on a date with the young woman from a wealthy family, he accidentally kills a cab driver in a dispute, and then his life moves off the rails.  There is a class issue in dispute, but even more significantly, he meets a young man with whom he develops a strong homoerotic relationship with.  Now, he’s forced to cover his crimes with more bloodshed, while repressing himself in ways both clear and unclear.

It’s been suggested that this film had a political agenda, a critique of life under the Franco regime.  I can’t personally contextualize it that far, but the homoerotic relationship is quite plainly spelled out.  It’s interesting how at the end, it is this relationship that compels Marcos to turn himself in rather than to kill his would-be lover or commit to him.  Actually, I’d have to say that there might be a variety of ways to interpret these aspects of the ending, though I don’t know what else to pull from it at this point.

Less of a shocker and more of a complex moral and emotional film, quite surprising in its way.  Not exactly what one thinks of when one thinks of “video nasties” whether or not someone got a meat cleaver to the face or not or buckets of cow blood stream freely throughout.

Cannibal Holocaust

Cannibal Holocaust (1980) movie poster

(1980) director Ruggero Deodato
viewed: 11/18/2011

An exploitation film that uses exploitation to critique exploitation winds up somewhere between the “meta” and the ironic.

Controversial in its day, perhaps in parts still as shocking as ever, and doubtlessly innovative in its narrative approach, Ruggero Deodato’s Cannibal Holocaust is an icon of outreness.

A team of documentarian film-makers from NYU head into the “Green Inferno”, an area of Amazonian forest in which primitive cannibal indigenous tribes dwell.  But when they head out to make their latest hard-hitting foray into the world of documentary, they disappear, not to be heard from again.  So another professor sets out with a new guide to find them.  As he and his crew dig into this dangerous landscape, they come upon many horrors and clues, and ultimately find the skeletal remains of the film crew and their film canisters.  The professor treks back to New York City, where he has the footage developed.

So while most of the film is a regular narrative film, a key component of the narrative is the “found footage,” which depicts much of what happened on the documentarians’ sojourn, and ultimately depicts what became of them.  Unlike the more recent surge in “found footage”-style horror films, the whole of the film of Cannibal Holocaust is not made out to be “real”, only the documentary-style portion.  When the film was made, the footage still stoked controversy and question.  Was this real footage?  What happened to these people?  Was this the equivalent of a “Snuff” film?

Deodato does work the angles to evoke the most from these segments.  First, we are shown some documentary footage, supposedly from a prior film of the crew, which depicts real human executions in Africa.  In a sense, the gauntlet is thrown down here.  Here is real death.  Interestingly, it is at this point that one of the professors suggests that these documentarians would “fabricate” their documentation by creating events in which these things happened, getting “the perfect shot” by working with staged activity.  So, here, just where the veritable death is depicted, the question is raised over its verity.

Furthering this sense of graphic violence in reality are sequences of slaughter of real animals: an opossum-like rodent, , a baby boar, and most graphically, a huge aquatic turtle.  These scenes continue to be controversial as animal abuse, but really drive home this sense of truth to the violence.  Like the Mondo film genre that used a lot of real world violence and somewhat influence this film’s aesthetics and sensibilities, there are levels of reality within whatever context these images were created or how they were presented (in the context of a narrative).  They are exploitational in and of themselves, animal snuff films, if you will.  Though these images are perhaps also not a-typical of animal slaughter for food preparation.

Deodato portrays the documentarians as true exploiters, both of the native people, but even more extremely in creating situations that are by no means natural and real.  They terrorize the villagers with their weapons and ultimately set fire to the village, killing their pig, raping women.  Deodato gives his moral center of the film, the professor who sought out the footage, the words that question who are the savages, the primitive cannibals or the a-moral urbanite intellectuals.  Because even when most of the truth has been uncovered, there are still executives who want to air the footage for the public to consume and respond to.  Though ultimately, they decide to burn the footage.

Only this is the added irony.  Surely it’s all fake (except for the animal slaughters and other documents or executions, right?), but the whole thing is still created for titillation and shock value.  I find the film to play on those multiple levels of critique and irony, of shock and shame.  It has some disturbing elements, certainly.  But for a movie with such a clearly “shock value” title, Cannibal Holocaust, it isn’t without a self-awareness much more elevated than your average exploitation film.  Strangely much more thought-provoking for me than I was expecting.

American Cannibal: The Road to Reality

American Cannibal: The Road to Reality (2006) movie poster

(2006) dir. Perry Grebin, Michael Nigro
viewed: 10/02/07

I am not sure what I read about this film that made me think to queue it.  I wasn’t even sure if it was a real documentary or a fake one.  I guess that matters.  Yes, watching this, I have to say that it matters.

The film, ostensibly, is about two would-be writers/producers, working their shill to find a show to make some headway in Hollywood.  Their riffing ideas lead them to a show that is a fake or “surprise” reality show in which people think they need to become cannibals to survive.  The whole thing is a disaster and never really finds realization.

It’s ripe fodder.  Reality television.  An oxymoron if there ever was one.  People put into false situations, all under the pretense of being themselves, all really in hope of becoming famous.  It’s a bizarre world, one which is, as I said, ripe for analysis and thrashing.  It’s something that culture is yet not finished with and so I don’t know that the story is yet fully ready to be told or understood.  Sure, it’s ready to be lampooned.

The film has the guerrilla style of a reality show itself.  It offers little intertitles that tell little facts that don’t really give more than the filmmakers might know at the moment.  There is no sense that this film has any bigger sense of itself and its closeness to self-parody keeps it from feeling like something that anyone should actually care about.

Actually, it suffers the worst crime of all…it’s boring.

What can be gleaned from this film, I leave for others.  I will glean nothing.