Cannibals (US - DVD R1)
Gabe Powers takes a trip to the Amazon and is attacked by out-of-shape natives
Dr. Taylor (the immortal Al Cliver) and his family are on a quiet Amazon Basin river cruise when savage cannibals attack their boat. His wife is eaten alive, and his daughter taken hostage. Taylor manages to escape, minus one arm and his memory. After sitting around for several years feeling sad, Taylor finally remembers what happened and returns to the Amazon to retrieve his now fully-grown daughter (though why he wouldn’t just assume she had been eaten is beyond me). When he finds her it turns out the cannibals have made her their White Queen. Shame.
Savage, loin clothed cannibals ate the grindhouse profits during the ‘70s and ‘80s, and sleaze merchant Jesus Franco was not about to miss out on all the cold, hard cash. If Joe D’Amato could do it, he could surely do it just as awfully. Franco’s gut-muncher debut, Cannibals (aka: Mondo Cannibal and White Cannibal Queen, both way better titles), is one of the most notorious films in the notorious genre, but for all the wrong reasons.
The genre is infamous for its graphic violence, racist portrayals of native cultures, and most reviled scenes of genuine animal cruelty. Rugerro Deodato’s Cannibal Holocaust is likely the only feature in the cycle any critic has ever called a good film, but the genre represents exploitation cinema at it’s most exploitative, and has its place in film history, not to mention legions of rabid fans. Cannibals, features no scenes of animal cruelty, it does not portray any real native cultures in a negative light, its graphic violence is minimal. It also has no place in film history, or any fans that I am aware of.
Cannibals is a virtual potpourri of cinematic ineptitude, even by Franco standards. The film’s only redeeming quality is that it has no redeeming qualities. It’s a total bore for the majority of its runtime, but sometimes things get so incompetent you can’t help but point and laugh.
The cannibalistic ‘natives’ are all played by the whitest looking Mediterranean guys on the planet, retrofitted with saggy guts, hairy backs, and pale, pale flesh. Their face make-up, which isn’t ever consistent, doesn’t cover their obvious non-nativeness at all, and their constant mugging, laughing, and camera staring doesn’t help. The ‘deep jungle’ palm trees are lined evenly along irrigation ditches, and the deeper our heroes wander into this ‘jungle’, the more saguaro cacti and ferns start showing up. I’m kind of guessing that this ‘jungle’ is actually some kind of plant conservatory.
The feeding scenes, often the only reason to suffer through a bad cannibal flick, are all in extreme close-up and extreme slow motion. The transparently fleshed extras gnaw at the same piece of raw meat for up to three minutes while the soundtrack literally echoes with snorts and smacks. The length of these scenes, along with the elongated credits and padded stock shots of New York City, leads one to believe that the film came in about thirty minutes under feature length. Way to fill ‘er out, Jess.
Wise men have said that it’s not possible to polish excrement, but the good folks at Blue Underground keep proving them wrong. Cannibals is somewhat inconsistent, but very colourful, with shockingly high detail levels. The frame is quite grainy, but the grain is relatively fine, and film artefacts are almost entirely absent. The super slo-mo gut chewing extreme close ups are the grittiest parts of the transfer, but this seems to be due to extreme slo-mo process, or perhaps the footage was blown up to be in extreme close up. There is a tendency towards edge enhancement, and contrast levels fluctuate from soft to harsh, but blacks are rich, and details still rarely suffer.
If any one part of Cannibals lingers in the mind it’s Al Cliver’s ‘severed’ arm, which can be seen behind his back in several scenes. If two things linger, the second is Roberto Pregadio’s ever-repeating score. It seems he was only contractually obligated to write one piece of music, though it is catchy. Pregadio’s score, along with the rest of the English dubbed track, is pretty flat, but still relatively clear. The track is never muddied, and there is some definition to the feeding frenzy’s snorts and smacks. The dubbing is just about the worst you’ve ever seen, but is rarely distorted or tinny, even during screaming scenes. Check out Franco’s cameo, where he’s dubbed to sound like Richard Simmons’ gayer Alabama cousin.
Check out Sabrina Siani's ever-consistent facial make-up
This disc isn’t overflowing with special features, but really, who would want them? The extras begin with a Jess Franco interview, and end with a trailer. The interview, entitled ‘Franco Holocaust’ is quite amusing, and appears to have been filmed on the same day as the studios earlier Women Behind Bars release. Franco’s laid-back attitude, ever present cigarette, and broken English always make for entertaining viewing. The best bit is where he talks about the White Cannibal Queen herself, Sabrina Siani, who he regards as one of the stupidest women he’s ever met. Very funny stuff.
Cannibals is a rare delicacy for bad movie connoisseurs, and Italian cannibal completests will want a decent copy for their collections. Everyone else will probably want to avoid it, unless under the influence of hard drugs or alcohol.
Review by Gabriel Powers
This product has not been rated
Release Date: 13th November 2007
Disc Type: Single side, single layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono English
Extras: 'Franco Holocaust', Trailer
Easter Egg: No
Director: Jess Franco
Cast: Al Cliver, Sabrina Siani, Robert Foster, Lina Romay
Length: 91 minutes
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