Color, 1971, 98m. / Directed by Eloy de la Iglesia / Starring Vicente Parra, Eusebio Poncela / Anchor Bay (US R1 NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)


Nothing promises a rollicking good time like a movie opening up with a graphic slaughterhouse tour. A brutal and strangely melancholy film, Cannibal Man (or technically, The Cannibal Man) begins with humble cow butcher Marcos (Vicente Parra from Soft Skin on Black Silk) contentedly chomping away on a beefy sandwich and hanging out at a bar where a TV commercial proclaims "It's good because it's got meat!" Marcos hops into a cab along with his girlfriend (Emma Cohen) but gets into a spat with the driver and kills him in a rage. He ignores his girlfriend's insistence that he go to the police and finally strangles her just to keep her quiet. Pretty soon almost everyone he knows stumbles across evidence of the crimes and has to be added to the rising body count, with the unfortunate result that Marcos' apartment becomes awfully crowded. Hmm, could his job possibly be the answer to his problem? Meanwhile his sympathetic gay neighbor (Pedro Almodóvar regular Eusebio Poncela) observes everything from afar and makes a surprising offer...

One of Spain's more notorious exports, Cannibal Man was originally titled La semana del asesino (or The Week of the Murderer, since he kills once a day) and circulated in Europe under a more subtle title, Apartment on the 13th Floor. Director Eloy de la Iglesia was one of the major directors to push Spanish censorship boundaries with this film and a number of powerful gay-oriented films like El Diputado, Los placeres ocultos, El Sacerdote, and the unforgettable Colegas, all of which eventually found an audience on video. While Cannibal Man certainly doesn't skimp on the red stuff, it's ultimately not as graphic as the late '70s splatter epics and quite different from the flamboyant bloodletting of Italian thrillers around the same time. The fetid atmosphere of decay and frustration is overpowering, with the most horrific use of a single apartment since Roman Polanski's Repulsion. The social implications of a Spanish society which ultimately cannibalizes itself are hardly subtle, but it's this kind of treatment that allowed directors like Iglesia, Jess Franco, and many others to flourish under their new government. Anchor Bay's DVD looks fine under the circumstances, though this film will never be visually glossy. The grimy colors and grainy film stock are transferred in all their original grindhouse glory, while the dubbed English audio (why?) isn't too harsh on the ears. A Spanish print would have been preferable, but presumably this is all the distributor, Atlas, was willing to offer. The disc also includes a nondescript English-language theatrical trailer (and yes, it did briefly play US movie houses in the early '70s). Phil Hardy's Aurum Encyclopedia of Horror reports an original running time of 120 minutes, but as with Autopsy, this could be misinformation passed on by the original press materials.


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