Color, 1980, 102m.
Directed by Jess Franco
Starring Al Cliver, Ursula Fellner, Robert Foster, Antonio de Cabo, Werner Pochath
Color, 1980, 93m.
Directed by Alain Deruelle
Starring Silvia Solar, Robert Foster, Burt Altman, Gerard Lemaire, Pamela Stanford, Olivier Mathot
Severin Films (Blu-ray & DVD) (US R0 HD/NTSC) / WS (1.66:1) (16:9)
Thanks to the massive international success of a string of Italian-shot cannibal gore films in the '70s and early '80s, it was only natural other countries would try to get in on the act. Some of the cheapest and goofiest imitations actually arrived the same year from France courtesy of Eurociné, a specialist in erotic or horror-themed titles with very, very low budgets. The company proved to be one of the havens for Jess Franco in the '70s, so they decided to recruit him for their most notorious cannibal offering, Devil Hunter, which was circulated in several edits including an English-language release as The Man Hunter. That film was brought to DVD in its most complete form to date by Severin in 2008 shortly after the company provided SD releases of the two other Eurociné 1980 gut-muncher titles, Cannibal Terror and Franco's Cannibals, with the former title joining Devil Hunter for an expanded Blu-ray edition in 2015.
Listed first on the packaging but presented second on the disc menu is Devil Hunter, which stars Lucio Fulci regular Al Cliver as Peter, a rugged ex-military mercenary brought in to save a beautiful blonde actress named Laura Crawford (Fellner) who's fallen into the clutches of some South American thugs. The ransom demands to get her back turn out to be the least challenging aspect of his mission since the island jungle is also home to a group of primitive natives who worship a blood-drinking, bug-eyed, naked cannibal god. Along the way, several of Peter's cohorts meet violent fates, and Laura and the locals provide the obligatory amount of nudity every five minutes or so.
Though hardly as outrageous as its Italian counterparts (no animal violence or genital mayhem here), Devil Hunter somehow ran afoul of the BBFC in the UK during the Video Nasties panic, which of course made it far more famous than it would have been otherwise. Technically the film is something of a mess with a very erratic visual style ranging from pale, dimly lit scenes to colorful, vibrant ones (an aspect reflected accurately in the Blu-ray), while the pace is equally uneven with lengthy jungle explorations alternating with sudden bursts of insanity involving naked dancing or actors dribbling stage blood at the camera. As far as junk food cinema goes it's all very entertaining though and well worth watching late at night when your critical defenses have been lowered.
The HD transfer bears the title of El Canibal and looks about as good as it could, clocking in at its most complete running time of 102 minutes. The LPCM audio options include the usual English dub (with a fleeting bit of unsubtitled dialogue pulled in where no English audio was available) as well as the more natural Spanish track, albeit without subtitles. The extra carried over from Severin's DVD is the 16-minute "Sexo Canibale," a typically colorful Franco video interview (conducted by an off-screen David Gregory) in which he recounts his Eurociné days, his lack of interest in cannibal cinema, the strong gymnast hired to play the title character, the back story of the gorgeous Fellner (whose real last name was Buchfellner and who didn't take acting seriously since she was dating a rich German producer), and his thoughts on Cannibal Holocaust. New to the Blu-ray is "Spirit of the B Hive," an 11-minute interview with stunt man and actor Bertrand Altmann ("Burt Altman"), who talks about doing stunts on Pardon Mon Affaire, his acting in both of these films, the DIY nature of the productions (with cannibal arrows crafted the night before a morning shoot), and the "eccentric" output of Eurociné's Marius and Daniel Lesoeur.
In a subgenre known for its absurdity, few other films can compete with the pulverizing stupidity of Cannibal Terror, a, uh, "minimalist" French/Spanish production that even more inexplicably earned a slot on the video nasty list. The plot, what very little there is of it, involves a couple of lowlife crooks who decide to kidnap the little daughter of some rich industrialist (or something) and hold her ransom in the jungle, which actually looks more like a forest on the outskirts of Paris. They decide to hide out with one of the locals, but he gets a little upset when they decide to rape his wife. So back out on the road they go, right into the middle of cannibal cookout central. Said flesh eaters are basically Caucasians wearing warpaint and bad hairstyles, even more ridiculous than the ones in Jess Franco's Cannibals. Then there's that beloved Eurociné dubbing, which never comes even remotely close to matching any single language spoken by mankind. The dialogue is easily as hilarious as Zombie Lake, while anyone expecting the no-holds-barred experience of Cannibal Ferox will be either amused or utterly deflated by watching the "natives" rubbing and mushing lots of animal guts for what seems like minutes on end. The cast only features a small handful of familiar faces, such as Sylvia Solar (Eyeball) and Jess Franco regulars Olivier Mathot and the ubiquitous Robert Foster (Sadomania), but surprisingly, Franco didn't direct this one apart from some stock footage yanked from Cannibals.
Continuing their raid of the Eurociné vaults, Severin came up with a surprisingly nice-looking DVD and an even better looking Blu-ray that wrings much better visuals than you'd expect based on cruddy videotape editions. Naturally it still looks like a cheap movie shot near someone's country house, but apart from some damage at the beginning, it's a remarkably solid presentation. The film was poorly dubbed in every territory in which it was released due to the international cast, so the uproarious English dub (which in classic Lucio Fulci style uses an adult to dub the child lead) is about as legitimate as any. The French track is included for comparison as well, again without subs. Extras from the DVD include the bongo-riffic theatrical trailer and a bonus "spicy" scene with Lorna the Exorcist's Pamela Stanford doing a topless striptease in front of a parrot, which was removed from the film for reasons only the Eurocult gods will ever decipher. Added to the Blu-ray is "The Way of All Flesh," an interview with director Alain Deruelle (credited as Allan W. Steeve), who also helmed several hardcore films as Alain Thierry. Running 20 minutes and shot at the Metaluna horror-themed store in Paris, it's a candid and sometimes very funny chat covering his start shooting nudie inserts for European, the reason for his two pseudonyms, his association with Eurociné and the Lesoeurs, the ubiquitous "blooming tortilla sandwiches" on the set of this film, his salvage job for Jailhouse Wardress, Jess Franco's sly "flim flam" method of keeping control of his films, and the consequences of shooting digitally today. Truly astonishing, this disc is easily the classiest Blu-ray release of the year. Or maybe not.