Color, 1980, 92 mins.
Directed by Joe D'Amato
Starring Tisa Farrow, George Eastman, Saverio Vallone, Serena Grandi, Margaret Donnelly, Zora Kerova, Mark Bodin, Bob Larson
88 Films (Blu-ray & DVD) (UK R0, RB/R2 HD/PAL), Shriek Show (DVD) (US R0 NTSC) / WS (1.66:1) (16:9)

AnthropophagusAnthropophagusHot on the heels of his very unrated, taboo-bashing 1979 horror film Beyond the Darkness, director Joe D'Amato jumped right back into extreme gore territory and created a vehicle for his most famous leading man (and frequent screenwriter), George Eastman, a.k.a. Luigi Montefiori. The result, Anthropophagus, received D'Amato's widest American theatrical release under the title The Grim Reaper, albeit with some of its nastier highlights completely removed. In the U.K. it was far more notorious with its uncut version banned as a video nasty until 2015.

Following a brutal attack on two beach-goers in Greece, our story begins with American tourist Julie (Farrow, fresh from Zombie) catching a boat ride with some other travelers she meets on a cable car. Among the sea-goers are siblings Alan (Vallone) and Carol (Cannibal Ferox's Kerova), Daniel (Bodin), and married Arnold (Larsen) and pregnant Maggie (future sex starlet Grandi). Upon arriving at a secluded island, they find no population around at first and decide to explore a large, decaying mansion where they're surprised by a traumatized, knife-wielding blind girl (Donnelly) who leaps from a vat of wine. As it turns out, there's someone else in the vicinity... and he's barely even human anymore.

It's not much Anthropophagusof a surprise to reveal that Anthropophagusthe murderous maniac on the loose in this film is played by Eastman, who doesn't really show up until the well into the film but leaves an absolutely indelible impression with his grisly makeup and savage kill scenes. At first he's tearing out throats with his teeth, but by the final stretch the film refuses to pull any punches as it smashes a handful of horror taboos, many scissored from prints around the world when this first opened. (Grandi figures in the most notorious one, which is still pretty shocking stuff.) The first third or so of the film is pretty uneventful with only a couple of mild jump scares and a lot of wandering around, but it's chock full of atmosphere and really delivers the shocks once it gets going. That includes a rousing, intense final showdown throughout the house that climaxes with a deranged punchline for Eastman's character, and Farrow makes for a fine horror heroine here that makes one regret this would be her last appearance on film to date. The bizarre electronic score by Marcello Giombini (who had a hell of a year also doing Terror Express, Erotic Nights of the Living Dead, and Beast in Space around the same time) is also a major asset, moving from perky travelogue music to pounding synth riffs for the second half. Unfortunately his work was completely removed from the original American release, but thankfully it's been back in place for most releases ever since. Anthropophagus

Initially released in its murky, heavily censored U.S. form on VHS from Monterey Video and bootlegged several times on DVD since then, Anthropophagus was a hot collector's item in the '80s and '90s on the gray market circuit with various releases from countries like Greece and Japan offering a taste of what the full-strength version was like. An uncut two-disc DVD set finally showed up in 2006 from Media Blasters, who was in the middle of a crazed D'Amato Anthropophagusreleasing frenzy that hasn't been matched since, and at the time it was a real sight for sore eyes with a pretty solid transfer and options of the English track or the Italian one with optional English-translated subtitles. It's a toss up which one is preferable as neither one features the actual actors' voices, but try both and see which one you prefer. The Italian is a bit more literate and respectable, but the English is lots of fun. It's worth noting that this film was shot in 16mm and blown up to 35mm for theatrical screenings, which is why circulating prints look so bad and it's been such a nightmare to put on home video ever since with its often Anthropophagusgrainy, unpleasant appearance. The first DVD contains the film's Italian theatrical trailer (which features some alternate takes of a few shots), plus an alternate trailer as The Savage Island and video promos as Anthropophagus the Beast and The Grim Reaper. Also included are bonus trailers for Frankenstein's Bloody Terror, The Being, Just Before Dawn, and Shadow: Dead Riot. Disc two is mainly dedicated to the feature-length Joe D'Amato Totally Uncut 2 (67m1s), a follow-up to the doc seen on the label's Images in a Convent release. Extensive interview footage with the late maestro himself is interspersed with tons of film clips and discussions about films ranging from the famous to the very obscure, with occasional contributions from Eastman and Ivan Rassimov thrown into the mix. A 2005 Q&A screening appearance with Eastman and Kerova (11m36s) called "Spilling Their Guts" is very lo-res and shot from a weird angle through some wine glasses, but it's fun to see the pair together reminiscing about their departed director and his kind temperament.

The first Blu-ray of Anthropophagus arrived in 2016 from 88 Films, initially as an exclusive from its online store. The transfer was an improvement over its SD predecessors but still left many underwhelmed with its drab look and Anthropophagusvisible lack of color correction. The film features both the English and Italian LPCM tracks with optional English subtitles Anthropophagusdirectly translated from the Italian version. Extras included the home video debut of the documentary 42nd Street Memories (81m46s), which later bowed in the U.S. on the Blu-ray of Pieces, as well as the Italian opening titles and the four trailers from the Media Blasters disc.

The remastered 2017 version from 88 Films (which is region free versus the region-locked earlier version), with the same LPCM English or Italian tracks and, in a nice touch, the addition of English SDH subtitles in addition to the English translated subs for the Italian version. The film has undergone some much-needed color correction that makes it a far more robust, impressive viewing experience; the blood is now a vivid red, skies are blue, and flesh tones look dead on. This release also corrects the tendency of several past transfers to try to brighten the film up too much in the middle of the film when the house is supposed to be shrouded in darkness and characters are walking around trying to see by candlelight. Here the day-for-night color timing and black levels are back down to where they logically should be; for instance, one key attack sequence with Eastman striking during a lightning storm should only show him in shadowy glimpses with his eyes and teeth flashing, an eerie effect absent on the previous two discs. (See comparison the third and fourth grabs below for a couple of examples.) For some reason this version also runs nine seconds longer than the prior disc, though both are transferred from the original 16mm negative (bearing the title The Savage Island). Incidentally, the Shriek Show transfer ran even shorter at 91m20s.

AnthropophagusAnthropophagusExtras-wise this is basically a new edition as well. "The Eastman Chronicles" (31m13s) features the always candid and hilarious thespian chatting about his long, very collaborative relationship with D'Amato as an actor and writer, starting in 1971 and moving through a wide variety of genres over the years. The breakneck schedule of some of their films (some down to ten days) meant they could only do so much, but he has very warm memories of a man who "wanted to be liked by everybody." He also goes into D'Amato's technique for shooting porn scenes (apparently Mark Shannon's vitality "knew no limits") and also recalls frequently working with actors Gabriele Tinti and Laura Gemser, as well as his rationale for writing this film so he could play the lead and film in Greece (which didn't come to pass since he shot everything in Rome). A brief "never before seen" deleted scene (54s) is also included, which would have come around the 22-minute mark with the tourists accidentally reeling in a severed foot! The Italian opening, closing credits, and theatrical trailer are also included along with an interview featurette with film historian Alessio di Rocco (3m16s), who touches on this film's history within D'Amato's Filmirage company, with D'Amato using various ploys from his porno days to work around the local censors. The reversible cover sleeve features two different poster art choices, with the more gruesome one obviously given preference on the front.

88 FILMS FIRST BLU-RAY

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MEDIA BLASTERS DVD

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Reviewed on July 27, 2017.