11/4/08

Tuesday Terror: Anthropophagus (1980)

Welcome to the first edition of Tuesday Terror. Each week you can be sure The Bug is going to bring you the finest in guts, gore, and general horrific goodness. I elected to start off tonight with a flick that started off the career of another esteemed genre reviewer, Joe Bob Briggs. The Grim Reaper was the first film reviewed by Joe Bob in his column for the Dallas Times
Herald. Way in the back of their entertainment section on page 34 the article got an immediate response, or as Joe Bob says on his site "resulted in such a frenzy of popular support (two people called the paper, or one more than had ever been the case in the staid institution's first 100 years of existence)", and from there the Drive in King was born. A few columns in the future Joe Bob even attended Cannes (pronounced Cans I assure you). He was sadly mislead that Cannes is where all the French Drive In's were. There in a hardtop movie house he saw Anthropophagus and called shenanigans as it was the same movie he had seen properly, as God intended, within the confines of his blue Dodge Dart a few months prior. So tonight I proudly bring to you my review of Anthropophagus which I watched as Tom Savini intended, from the comfort of my couch with a Diet Dr. Pepper in hand.

Anthropophagus(1980) starring Tisa Farrow, George Eastman, and Saverio Vallone. Directed by Joe d'Amato.
Synopsis

The film opens on a couple of German tourists enjoying their stay on a quiet Greek island. They stroll along the narrow streets with their dog until they make their way down to the beach. The gent lays back and puts on his headphones so he can enjoy the soothing sounds of prehistoric German techno while the lady strips down to her bikini and goes for a swim. It all seems like an idyllic day until curiosity killed the female German tourist. While she was out swimming she caught sight of a small rowboat listing in the water. She goes over to check it out, and she gets dragged under the water with it soon turning red. The music lover has no idea this is going on as he is entranced by bargain bin Kraftwerk. So when the dog tries to warn him and he ignores it, the dog shows the most sense of anyone in this film and makes a hasty departure. The audiophile's relaxation is brought to an abrupt end soon after as a cleaver splits his head in two.

From there we meet a group of 5 other tourists, 3 guys and 2 gals, out for a boat trip of the Greek isles. They are joined by their new friend Julie (Farrow) who is on route to a mysterious island to take a summer job as a nanny. The affable bunch agree to take her out to the island on their boat. Bad omens mount before they even get there as one of the girls, Carol, gets disturbing readings on her Tarot cards. When they do arrive, they find the island totally devoid of life until they spy a strange woman walking around town. They attempt to find her, but all they come up with is two words on a dusty window saying "Go Away" and a corpse. The group decide to leave the island, but when they go back down to the docks, their ship has listed out far into the sea.

With no other choice, they shack up for the night in the home of Julie's would be employers. Deep in the night Julie is awakened by a piano being played and begins to search the house. She is joined by Daniel, one of the tourists who has developed a crush on Julie. They find the piano in the basement and a cat walking on the keys, but just when they think everything is well, the blind daughter that Julie was supposed to be nanny to leaps from hiding and stabs Daniel in the back. They bandage Daniel up and calm the girl down. She is in hysterics about a man who she can smell coming. When asked what she smelled when he was around, she replies simply "Blood". After Daniel gets caught by Carol, who has a crush on him, trying to give Julie a kiss, Carol runs off into the night with Julie right behind her trying to settle things. This leaves Daniel and the blind girl in the house alone. When Daniel hears a noise he goes to investigate, but finds nothing, but he returns to find a beastly crater faced man in the girls room. The killer attacks Daniel and rips out his throat with his teeth.

The next day with their numbers dwindling the gang head out to try and find Carol and find answers about who killed Daniel. They find the Boardman Villa, and Julie recounts the story of the family which was lost at sea and never heard from again. They investigate the house and begin to find clues to unravel the mystery of the killer and his culinary proclivities, but with each step they bring themselves closer to the truth and closer to the killer who waits to make each tourist a tasty snack.

Film Facts
-Anthropophagus was one of the British Video Nasties is is now only available in Britain in cut form as The Grim Reaper.

--Fake bones were used along with real ones for the scenes in the tombs. When cleaning up, the crew took some of the real bones with them. Rather than return them, Director d'Amato took them to his home.

-The fetus used in the infamous scene is actually a skinned rabbit. However even the BBC news reported on it as a "snuff film".

--d'Amato followed up this film with a "sequel" titled Absurd in 1981 (a.k.a. Zombie 6: Monster Hunter). A proper sequel was directed by Andreas Schnaas in 1999 called Arthropophagus 2000.

-Anthropophagus comes from the Greek anthro pophagos meaning man-eating

The Bug Speaks
For the most part I had an enjoyable time watching this film which made it unlike my experience with the other Italian cannibal film I recently watched At The Mountain of the Cannibal God. The main difference is the lack of animal violence in this film. Unlike Mountain or the infamous Cannibal Holocaust no animals were harmed during the making of this film. Well, except for the aforementioned skinned rabbit.

Until that moment happened, I was beginning to wonder what the fuss was about. The movie had been adequately acted and like most Italian fare of the era, well shot. However it did not blow my socks off, but when that scene happened, I knew what it was about. (THERE BE SPOILERS IN THE END OF THIS PARAGRAPH. SKIP ON DOWN IF YOU DON'T WANT IT.) In a nutshell, one of the tourists is a pregnant lady. The famished killer strangles her to death, pulls the unborn fetus out of her, and snacks on it. It is graphic, vile, and thoroughly in the tradition of the over the top nature of Italian gore and exploitation. Sure it didn't make me want to vomit like seeing the monkey killed in Mountain, but it was surely an eye opener.

Apart from the shocking moment of the film, it has many qualities that I really enjoyed. d'Amato's use of the narrow, abandoned streets gave the film a very claustrophobic feeling even though much of the action happens outside. He also utilizes the point of view shot very well to both convey the everyman aspect of the tourists and to prolong the appearance of the killer. Still there are almost as many detractions to the film with the main one being the music. It seemed in the synthy vein of Fulci's Zombi, but it was so poorly done it never added anything to the atmosphere. In fact the new wave free jazz that played over some of the scenes actually took me out of the moment. This is really too bad because it messes with the tension that d'Amato had built effectively.

When Joe Bob reviewed The Grim Reaper back in 1982 he gave it a 3. I hate to be a copycat, but I have to say that it's what this film deserves. If you're a fan of Italian cinema or cannibal flicks then it's worth checking out, for the horror fan that's looking for something more in their face, there are others in the milieu that are better recommendations.

Bug Rating

3 comments:

  1. I'm a D'Amato fan and an even bigger George Eastman fan--so I really like this movie (I didn't say love--just like). This is a great write up for the film--which I also first heard about from Joe Bob's review (from one of his books that was a collection of his newspaper reviews). A 3 is very fair for this film. The final scene in the well is very effective IMO.

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  2. I am half way through watching all the 74 video nasties and this one is in my Netflix Cue. Unfortunately, the sequel is not available as far as I know. I even tried Zombie 6, but no luck. There are about six or eight video natsties not available on Netflix, but the rest are there. I'm having fun watching this stuff!

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  3. As always, great review!

    I like the idea for Terrifying Tuesday!!

    This one is a film that I have always been aware of, yet have never watched - based on this review, I suppose that I will have to remedy that situation :-)

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