Meat is meat and a man’s gotta eat!!!

This latest batch of BRAIN HAMMER’S PICKS FROM THE CRYPT  is a fearsome feast of old school horror flicks that all feature heaping helpings of cannibal gluttony. I hope you’re hungry!

LET THE BLOODSHED BEGIN!!!

 

 ANTROPOPHAGUS (1980)

A chance meeting inside a cable car in Greece brings together a young tourist named Julie (Tisa “Zombi II” Farrow) and a small group of travelers (including the lovely Zora Kerova of “Cannibal Ferox” infamy) about to take a boat trip along the Archipelago. Julie hitches a ride so she can be dropped off along the way on a remote island where a babysitting job awaits her. When the group finally arrive at the island they are shocked to find it completely deserted. Julie is especially worried when she finds the large house where her employers were supposed to be waiting for her to be empty, with the sole exception of the family’s young blind daughter – who was cowering inside a wine barrel in the cellar!

The traumatized girl babbles a mad tale of a foul smelling savage beast that devoured everyone on the island, including her parents. The gang is skeptical and wind up paying for it with their lives. The “beast” in question is actually a man – a man who was long ago driven insane by a shipwreck and the tragic death and forced consumption of his wife and child. The now completely deranged cannibal killer mutilates and devours anyone who dares set foot on the island he now calls home.

The hideous looking madman (played very convincingly by co-writer Luigi Montefiori aka George Eastman of “Porno Holocaust” legend) immediately kidnaps the groups’ token whiny pregnant chick and stashes her away for late night snacking. Then the angry antropophagus sets his sights on Julie and her friends and slowly stalks after them in the night. It’s not the fear that will tear them apart…IT’S HIM!

ANTROPOPHAGUS is an especially nasty effort from the legendary director Joe D’Amato. (aka Aristide Massacessi – RIP) It plays out much like an 80’s slasher flick, punctuated with graphic moments of explicit violence that are more in the vein of some of D’Amato’s previous efforts like “Beyond The Darkness” & “Emmanuelle And The Last Cannibals.” It wouldn’t be a stretch to call this a slasher flick with a zombie killer. Although the antropophagus isn’t an undead ghoul, he is very much alive and consumed with bloodlust. The most infamous moment has to be the scene where George chows down on a freshly removed fetus! A skinned rabbit was used for this effect and it is convincingly pukeworthy.

The gory gut munching climax is also memorable, and is usually splashed all over the cover artwork just to spoil everyone’s fun. Although the film suffers from a coffin’s pace it never skimps on the splatter when the man eater gets down to business. The minimal plot (most of the film consists of people walking around in the dark looking for other people) and maximum carnage make this one an acquired taste, but gorehounds should certainly consider this a must see.

This film was “nasty” enough to have been banned on video in the UK for over 18 years. Several different versions have been released on vhs and dvd over the years, with alternate titles including “Antropophagus: The Beast” (the UK video title), “Savage Island,” “Man Eater,” and “The Grim Reaper” (the original US video title). These releases were all butchered to suit the timid tastes of censors. The folks at Shriek Show were good enough to release a completely UNCUT version of ANTROPOPHAGUS which was made from the original Italian negative. Shriek Show’s two disc release includes a wealth of bonus features including a 67 minute documentary entitled “Joe D’Amato: Totally Uncut 2,” an interview with stars George Eastman and Zora Kerova, a photo gallery, and more trailers than you can shake a severed limb at.

 

 

RAW MEAT (1972)

At the turn of the century a cave-in traps a group of miners deep within the caverns that will eventually house the London subway system. The unfortunate miners are forced to resort to cannibalism to stay alive, eating the flesh of the sick and dying. Incredibly, this horror somehow goes on for decades as the group continuously breed among themselves and consume their dead. After a century of this miserable existence only two disgusting descendants of the original group survive – a man and a woman. The man (Hugh Armstrong) knows better than to eat his diseased “wife” and wanders out of the catacombs into the subway system looking for fresh meat.

He stumbles upon a sleazy lawyer on the prowl for prostitutes, attacks him, and then drags him back into his lair. This is almost interrupted by an annoying pair of young lovers (David Ladd & Sharon Gurney) named Alex and Patricia who find the lawyer passed out (shortly after being attacked) on the bottom of the subway station stairs. When the sick woman finally dies the inbred cannibal killer becomes even more unhinged and goes out looking for a new female companion. The conveniently located Patricia seems as good a candidate as any and is quickly kidnapped. It’s up to hippy college student Alex and wacky police inspector Donald Pleasence (Halloween) to save the day and finally put an end to the tribe of once humans…the raw meat of the human race!

This one boasts an outrageous storyline, and an unbelievably creepy and claustrophobic setting. Director Gary Sherman did a fantastic job here (he also wrote the story) and later went on to direct two of my favorite genre flicks – “Dead And Buried” (1981) and “Vice Squad” (1982). The beautiful cinematography was done by Alex Thomson. Thomson and art director Dennis Gordon-Orr did an excellent job creating a superior rotting atmosphere. The highlight of the movie for me is the sequence where we first get a look at the cannibal’s lair with a lengthy tracking shot that slowly reveals several decaying corpses hung like cattle in loving close up.

The killer is also the victim of tragedy – a drooling, hopelessly inbred savage covered in sores. He manages to be sympathetic, despite the multiple violent murders and abductions he commits. He repeatedly yells his catchphrase “MIND THE DOORS!” and attacks his victims with great ferocity out of necessity. He’s hungry and horny, and far more interesting than the two young leads – who are both rather bland and unappealing. Donald Pleasence steals the show as you might expect with his blustery performance as the tea loving inspector in charge of the subway disappearance investigations. Christopher “Dracula” Lee makes a brief appearance in one scene and trades witty insults with Donald.

RAW MEAT was originally released in the UK in 1973 as “Deathline” and never had a US release. This film was for many years only available in an uncut form via pricey and poor looking bootleg vhs copies. MGM did horror fans a big favor by releasing an excellent looking remastered widescreen dvd with all the bloody mayhem intact. The original AIP trailer is also included. This is a cool flick that doesn’t get mentioned nearly enough and one of the most unique 70’s cannibal flicks for sure.

 

 

MOTEL HELL (1980)

The late, great Rory Calhoun (Hell Comes To Frogtown) chews up the scenery as “Farmer” Vincent Smith, a successful rural motel owner and cured meat salesman. It’s well known throughout the county that “it takes all kinds of critters to make Farmer Vincent’s fritters,” but no one suspects that Vincent’s trademark smoked ham is actually human flesh! Vincent and his dimwitted and tubby sister Ida (the late Nancy Parsons of “Porky’s” legend) long ago discovered the wonders of murder and cannibalism for profit and have made a comfortable living doing it for over 30 years.

We get to see the dynamic duo in action when a punk rock group called “Ivan & The Terribles” travel through town and suffer a little roadside sabotage thanks to Farmer Vincent. After a spectacular van accident the punks are buried up to their freshly slit necks in the Smith’s secret backyard garden. The unfortunate victims thus become “homegrown” cattle that Vincent & Ida will later happily slaughter, smoke, and then sell to their bumpkin kinfolk and eager tourists. Vincent & Ida are not your typical dimwitted backwoods savages though. They ponder the karmic implications of their actions and attempt to justify them as a means of ending overpopulation and famine at the same time.

A pretty young girl named Terry (Nina Axelrod) survives one of Vincent’s accidents and winds up falling in love with the silver fox (a bit of a stretch to say the least!). Vincent romances the girl for a long meandering chunk of the picture that involves extended scenes of picnics and water tubing. Vincent’s (much) younger brother Bruce – who happens to be the town sheriff also falls for Terry resulting in a deadly love triangle. At the film’s incredible conclusion the now completely deranged Vincent dons a giant pig mask for a bloody chainsaw duel to the death with his estranged brother.

Director Kevin Connor’s “Motel Hell” is a “meat” movie in the proud tradition of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and “Deranged.” It plays more for laughs than your typical cannibal effort and is also quite satiric. Not exactly thought provoking material, but it’s certainly fun stuff. My only real complaints are that it feels overlong and it’s never really as funny or as scary as it could have been. It’s still fairly creepy though, especially the whacked out scenes in the garden. The kick ass chainsaw duel at the end of the flick is the easily the highlight of the movie and rivals even the legendary battle between Leatherface and Dennis Hopper in TCM2.

MGM released MOTEL HELL on dvd as one half of a Midnite Movies double feature with the 1974 Jeff Gillen/Alan Ormsby classic “Deranged.” Both films were nicely remastered and the double sided disc includes the original theatrical trailers. Sadly, MGM used the heavily edited R rated version of “Deranged” for this release – which unfortunately makes this a good, but not great purchase. I would love to see special edition dvds of both of these clas-sicks.

 

CANNIBAL GIRLS (1973)

A pre-SCTV Eugene Levy & Andrea Martin star as Clifford & Gloria, a groovy young couple who plan a romantic winter getaway in a small town in the middle of nowhere called Farmhamville. Their trip quickly takes a detour into disaster when Clifford’s beat up old car breaks down. The young lovers try to make the best of the situation and check into the local motel. The elderly manager of the motel welcomes them with open arms, and then proceeds to tell them about a horrifying local legend.

According to the legend, a terrible trio of incredibly sexy and homicidal young girls once lived in a nearby farmhouse. The sirens once lured a trio of incredibly horny and stupid young men to a violent demise, and then feasted upon their flesh. Then the girls mysteriously disappeared and were never seen or heard from again. Clifford & Gloria are understandably freaked out by the story, but are stuck in town until their car can be repaired. Clifford then attempts to seduce Gloria with the power of his folk rock balladry in a scene that made me wish I had a pair of scissors handy to shove into my ears and perhaps some bleach to splash into my eyes.

Later that evening, Clifford & Gloria are escorted by the motel owner to a cozy little bed & breakfast isolated deep within the surrounding woods. The proprietor of the b&b is a bizarre and bearded hippie type who calls himself Reverend Alex (Ronald Ulrich). The rev wastes no time before leering at Gloria, and then inviting himself to join them for dinner. The entertainment for the evening is also provided by the Reverend, who regales his guests with tales of his family’s proud history of of executions and venereal disease. The meal is then served by the Reverend’s three lovely female companions, and because this is a horror film, no one makes the obvious connection to the local legend. Clifford & Gloria ultimately decide to spend the night with the gang, which is a rather foolish decision for characters in a film titled “Cannibal Girls” to make. These girls do exactly what you think they do!

Eugene Levy is an ugly, ugly man. That thought kept running through my mind over and over again while I was watching this flick. I’ve always found him to be a bit creepy looking, but to see him back in the early 70’s sporting a huge afro, mutton chops, and mustache is something else altogether. He looks like the mutant offspring of Gene Shalit & Tony Iommi. Now that I got that verbal abuse out of my system, I can comment on his performance in the film – it’s actually really good. Eugene’s talent for improvisation is obvious, even at such an early stage in his career. Andrea Martin & Ronald Ulrich also do a great job fleshing out the threadbare script with a lot of witty, off the cuff dialog.

But what about the cannibal girls, you ask?!? Simply stated, they are fucking amazing. The lovely ladies are played by Randall Carpenter, Bonnie Nielson, and Mira Pawluk, and all three are incredibly gorgeous. The highlight of the movie for me was seeing the girls parading around in their sexy, matching outfits. These girls also know how to deliver the bloody goods. I was pleasantly surprised to see that this film has more than it’s fair share of splatter. I also enjoyed the fact that the comedy never completely overshadows the horror. This is a very self-aware & campy horror film, bordering on parody, but it also never feels like it is entirely trying to take the piss out of the genre. It comes across as more of an amusingly satirical tribute to the trashy low budget drive-in flicks of it’s era. It would be nice if the horror filmmakers of today could learn how to do that sort of thing properly. Sadly, they just don’t make them like this anymore!

The good folks at Shout! Factory have quickly become a horror & exploitation fan’s best friend with their top notch dvd and blu-ray releases. CANNIBAL GIRLS is no exception. This special edition release marks the long overdue debut of the film on home video in the States. Even a bare bones dvd release would have been cause for celebration, and this special edition release – which is loaded with bonus features gets the party started in a BIG way. The “scrumptious” bonus material includes brand new interviews with director Ivan Reitman, producer Daniel Goldberg, and none other than Eugene Levy himself! There’s also radio spots, the original theatrical trailer (which rules), and an alternate audio track that features the infamous William Castle styled “WARNING BELL,” which supposedly warns tender-tummied viewers of any upcoming carnage. Best of all, the warning bell doesn’t really work. It usually starts a bit after the blood, or stops short before the gore is gone. They don’t call them exploitation flicks for nothing!

CANNIBAL GIRLS is currently available on dvd from Shout! Factory. Consider this one Brain Hammer approved and highly recommended!

 

KEEP THE BLOOD FLOWING!!!

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One Response to “Meat is meat and a man’s gotta eat!!!”

  1. Davesplatter Says:

    It takes all kinds of critters to make farmer Vincent’s fritters.

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