Devil Hunter (US - DVD)
Gabe is up for more cannibal hunting with the incomparable Jess Franco...
When a hot blonde actress is kidnapped (somehow she’s maced to sleep) and taken to a jungle location, the ‘Devil Hunter’ (Al Cliver) is called in to get her back, hopefully without needing to pay the ransom. Unfortunately for the Hunter, and the kidnappers, and anyone else who happens upon the area, local savages like to kidnap white girls themselves, and offer them as sacrifice to their island’s local monster cannibal man (a naked, black body builder wearing fake, bulgy, I Walked with a Zombie eyes).
I know what you’re all thinking – don’t I get enough Jesus Franco ‘films’ from my Blue Underground associations? Did I really need to seek out the interests of Severin Films, and get their Jesus Franco collection sent to my house too? Well, Jesus Franco movies are funny that way – it’s almost impossible to sit through a single one of them, yet it’s equally impossible to not seek out his rarest releases, especially when they were originally banned in England by the BBFC. I shouldn’t have asked Severin to send more Franco monstrosities, but I couldn’t help myself, and I know I’m not alone.
I’ve been craving the entirely unavailable (save an OOP German disc that didn’t have subtitles) Devil Hunter (aka: Monster Hunter, Mandingo Hunter, and Sexo Canibal, among others) since I first read about it in David Kerekes and David Slater’s ‘See No Evil’, a chronical of the UK’s Video Nasties phenomenon, and then again in the Jay Slater edited ‘Eaten Alive!’. Both accounts made the film out as the ultimate in exploitation ineptitude – an entirely irredeemable pile of racism, sexism, sex and violence, dubbed by morons, and shot like a weekend safari. Kerekes and Slater even went out of their way to list some of the film’s more ‘unique’ line readings, and I found myself laughing out loud.
But just like last time, I find myself struggling to make it through Devil Hunter, because Franco’s disinterest in the project is palpable and toxic. The film is, without a doubt, more entertaining than either of the director’s other two Italian cannibal cash-ins, Cannibals and Cannibal Terror (there’s some evidence to assume that all three films were made in tandem), but it still lacks any sense of reasonable pacing or, evidentially, any interest in plot. I believe most of the director’s fans have come to expect this kind of behaviour, and Devil Hunter has a reasonable sense of ‘fun’, but even the die-hards might find their attention waning at this one.
As it so often seems to happen, I can’t find a logical reason for Devil Hunter being banned on video. The only genuinely rotten accusation one can throw against Franco is that of bad taste. Every female character is topless at some point (and there are a few previously cut shots of nude crotches), but the rape and sex scenes are surprisingly tame (I’ve seen network television get away with worse), and the violence is minimal and extremely unrealistic (it’s pretty well documented that Franco was generally uncomfortable with graphic gore, so there was no reason to expect Umberto Lenzi levels of stomach turning violence). Kerekes and Slater theorize that the BBFC may’ve been uncomfortable with the film’s frank racism, but the more likely possibility is that the film was simply banned due to the presence of cannibals (or cannibal in this case).
Devil Hunter isn’t one of Severin’s crowning achievements, but this is still the best available copy apparently in any market. The clearest problems with the otherwise solid transfer are the slightly off framing and its many interlacing effects. The interlacing problems, which also rear their head in the form of awkward panning effects (much like a NTSC to PAL transfer) are a bit of a surprise considering that the film was apparently remastered in high definition. Given the overall cleanliness and clarity of the print I believe the mastering claims, but something seems to have gone wrong while downgrading the footage to 480. Fans should be happy at the overall lack of compression artefacts (though there are a few lumps of print damage artefacts throughout), and the reasonably sharp details. Too bad the dark bits are so cloudy.
This disc represents the first ‘official’ release of the English dubbed version of the film. All previous ‘official’ releases came from Germany, and featured only a German dubbed track, and zero subtitles. The dubbing on the English track really is terrible, just as bad as I’d always read it was, and the foley work is hilariously either off-synch or too loud throughout the film. There is one strange moment on the track when the soundtrack quickly winds into fast forward just before stopping for a second, as if the tape broke, but this is mostly a well mastered track, though one that loses definition during loud music. We can’t blame Severin for the mono track’s lack of depth, nor can we fault them for the unusually loud yet sparse audio among relative silence. There is one point towards the end of the film where the English track inexplicably turns into a Spanish track, but things are back to ‘normal’ by the next scene. Unfortunately, unlike similar Blue Underground and Anchor Bay discs, this one doesn’t default to display English subtitles (not that you’re likely to miss any important plot points). The French dub is also available for those that simply can’t take the English track.
Our one and only extra is an interview with the cigarette smoking machine named Jesus Franco. Franco is sitting in the same chair he sits on during his Blue Underground interviews, but he’s wearing a different sweater, and the framing is a little different. Franco is a great storyteller, though his English is bad enough to require subtitles. The director talks about his general disdain for the Italian cannibal cycle, and in turn his hesitation towards making these films, his actors, including Cliver, the models, and the giant black guy with the ping-pong eyeballs, and the difficulty of filming bad movies.
Unlike Cannibals or [/i]Cannibal Terror[/i], which are pretty much irredeemably dull, Devil Hunter make actually go over well at a bad movie party. I don’t recommend non-fans watch it, especially not without the proper blood alcohol level. Fans should be happy simply about the film’s availability, but the reasonably clean widescreen video, and English dub track are good incentives. I’d be interested to know if the interlacing issues with my disc were a problem across all discs, but have a feeling no one that reads this is going to own a copy. I’ll leave you with my personal favourite bad line exchange from the English dub.
“Tell your friend that if he doesn’t reply in thirty seconds I’ll blow your head right off. Go on, tell him” (says the villain, who could have just as easily shouted this across the beach)
“And if I don’t do it?”
“I’ll blow your head off, right now.”
(under breath) “Aw, man.”
Review by Gabriel Powers
This product has not been rated
Release Date: 28th October 2008
Disc Type: Single side, single layer
Audio: Dolby Digital Mon English, French
Extras: Sexo Canibal - Interview with Jess Franco
Easter Egg: No
Director: Jesus Franco
Cast: Ursula Fellner, Al Cliver, Robert Foster, Gisela Hahn
Genre: Adventure and Horror
Length: 102 minutes
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