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Antonio Margheriti, a veteran of Italian horror and western films, directs this cannibal film at the height of the cannibal film boom following Fulci's Zombie. This time around we have an opening sequence of a pair of POWs being rescued in Vietnam by their captain John Saxon. Stuck away in a pit awaiting release, Giovanni Radice and Tom King get an unexpected visitor in a Vietnamese woman half burned from a flamethrower falling into their pit. Do they rally for release? No, instead they quickly grab the charred woman and begin biting into all sections of her body to quench their desire for human flesh. Captain Saxon is alerted to the presence of the pit, opens it and recognizes his men, rejoices at finding them and extends an arm to help end their imprisonment. The men continue to gnaw on their Asian buffet and finally Tom King jumps up and gets some Italian by biting into Saxon's forearm. The film then goes to the present where the two cannibals have been in hospital going treatment for many months and Saxon has nightmarish dreams and trouble looking at raw meat in his fridge. Well, to spin a long story short...Radice is released and soon feels compelled to bite into the neck of a beautiful blonde while she is being licked all over in a movie theater. He runs and walls himself in a strip mall flea market(the film was effectively shot in Atlanta) besieged by one of the most ridiculous groups of bikers in film history and the cops. Soon Saxon convinces him to leave and go back for treatment, but people everywhere now have been bitten and a new cannibalistic human rabies engulfs the hospital and other sundry areas of plot exposition. Cannibal Apocalypse is really an absurd film but is done very effectively on many levels. Don't see the bastardized version put out by Vestron Video but be sure to see the new DVD. It has a pristine print of the film, lengthy interviews with Saxon, Radice, and Margheriti and many other bonuses. It is a bloody film with about four or five scenes maybe going beyond good taste. There is also a rather sick storyline of Saxon and a babysitter. A European perspective perhaps. Saxon is quite chilling in his stoic manner and Radice stands out in his role. King is laughable any time he opens his mouth. The rest of the cast - though mixed with Americans and Italians - comes off pretty well. The nurse is gorgeous. I liked the fellow playing Dr. Morris and particularly like the guy in charge of the police. He has this craggy, dour look and some great lines for a film of this ilk. Despite a ridiculous story and dubious subject matter, Cannibal Apocalypse comes off rather well because of Margheriti's artful direction. His directorial eye managed to create several good scenes - not just the hyperbolic guts scenes but other scenes as well. The opening is very effective as is the chase through the sewer. Certainly not a great film but better than you might initially expect.- The musical score definitely is a standout.
John Saxon has spoken out against this movie many times and seems ashamed
for having been involved in it. The way he goes on about it you would think
that he was tricked into making an exploitation movie via some kinda
'Caligula'-esque ruse. But all I can say is a)just look at Saxon's career. I
love the guy but c'mon, 'Queen Of Blood', 'Enter The Dragon', 'Mitchell',
'The Bees' and 'Battle Beyond The Stars' aren't exactly Jean Luc Godard,
know what I'm saying? And b) I think if you sign up for a movie that
involves Vietnam vets infected with a "cannibal virus" you kinda KNOW what
you're getting in for, don't you think?
'Cannibal Apocalypse' attempts to cash in on both the 70s Italian cannibal cycle started by Deodato, and the the success of 'The Deerhunter' and 'Apocalypse Now'. It is absolutely stupid in concept, above average in execution, and isn't totally successful because of its timidity in showing disturbing in your face gore. I like the way Saxon and most of the others play the ludicrous material with a straight face, but unfortunately there are too many dull sections and not enough cannibalism! The movie begins well enough in the all too brief Vietnam sequence, but never lives up to the promise shown in the first ten minutes. It's quickly downhill all the way after that, only rescued by one or two blackly humorous scenes. What you end up with is a half-baked Romero rip-off. I say go straight to 'Dawn Of The Dead' or 'The Crazies'.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Cannibal Apocalypse only half lives up to its title - plenty of
cannibals, but no real apocalypse. The premise is fairly original, if
terribly stupid - somehow, in the seething cauldron of the Viet Nam
war, cannibalism becomes a contagious disease which three vets carry
back home with them. I know, I know, cannibalism is a social behavior,
not a pathogen, and the movie knows it, too, so some brief lip service
is paid to a theory of psychic mutation which is never really explained
and immediately forgotten. Unfortunately, since the infected aim to
kill and eat their victims, opportunities to spread the disease are
rare, and the outbreak burns itself out quicker than you can say
No, what saves this movie from being just an also-ran in the field of Italian zombie flicks is the presence of John Saxon, the face you've grown to love from about a zillion other cheesy 70's action flicks. Here, he's given a real plum of a role, as he gets to slowly change from a man horrified by his post-traumatic stress induced nightmares, to a full-on, unrepentant cannibal seeking to escape pursuit and find a place where he and his kind can live in peace and pursue their alternate lifestyle of wanton killing and consuming human flesh. Is that so wrong?
A cannibal-movie that actually tries and succeeds to be different. This movie transcends the cannibal genre and becomes something else. You'll have to get past the silly & inept Vietnam opening-scene, but then this movie turns into an urban tale of virus-outbreak. A cannibal-virus, that is. There's some violence, there's some drama, there's some nudity, there's some very nice gore and there are four cannibal-fugitives on the run. Awesome mixture that works! Add to that a satisfying ending, and we've got a hit! A hit with John Saxon in it, no less. "Cannibal Apocalypse" indeed feels, at times, a bit like Romero's "Dawn of the Dead" (1978), but the one movie that kept coming to my mind was David Cronenberg's "Rabid" (1977). So if you're tired of all those "half naked cannibals eating human flesh and slaughtering animals in the jungle"-flicks, and if Umberto Lenzi's "Nightmare City" (1980) just made you laugh instead of anything else, then go watch Antonio Margheriti's "Cannibal Apocalypse" (aka "Invasion of the Flesh Hunters"). And make 100% sure you get a hold of the uncut version.
This is a movie that follows a lot of the conventions of a zombie
movie, the main difference being that instead of being dead, these
flesh-eaters are alive, just taken over by a virus that turns them into
deranged cannibals. It's an interesting concept, and this film features
a lot of interesting scenes that you just don't see portrayed too
often, such as a bizarre molestation in a film theater, and a long,
tense standoff with a crazed gunman in a resale store.
This movie shows the influence of Dawn of the Dead all over it, from the resale store biker rampage and standoff to the final scenes, in which a group of four with the exact same gender/ethnic makeup as in DotD hole up against outside invaders. The interesting twist this time is that THEY are the pursued flesh-eaters, rather than the other way around.
This movie, while having rich and deep cheese deposits, also actually has some quality to it. It sustains a creepy and tense tone tied around John Saxon's growing obsession with consuming human flesh, and his struggle and fear about giving into those impulses. Saxon carries off his 'upright soldier' persona so well that one both empathizes with his struggle, and fears what will happen once his intensity is channeled into being evil. The direction is actually very good, with many shots carefully composed to create and sustain a great deal of tension and menace. And then there's just the story, which covers the first days of a viral outbreak as it begins to spread and people begin to wake up to what is going on, which is also pretty fascinating.
There's also an additional layer of tension to the movie (compared to a traditional zombie movie) in that after someone's been bitten, you aren't sure WHEN they will start turning into a crazed flesh-eater. In a regular zombie movie, they're dead until they wake up again, here they're a normal person until suddenly they just snap, which is cool.
Though this is supposed to be an 'extreme gore classic,' it's pretty tame by today's standards. When your big gore payoff shot has been done to comic effect in Death Becomes Her, the edge is pretty much gone.
Okay, now onto the individually delightful cheese elements: Stock helicopter footage opens the picture. There should be some kind of film festival of movies that incorporate unrelated stock footage, the supreme champion obviously being Hell of the Living Dead.
A guy pets a dog with an obvious explosive around its neck. He explodesand then the funky disco music begins! What's more, the music was actually pretty good! Please note: potential cannibals should not keep huge slabs of unwrapped bloody meat in their fridge. I mean, obviously everyone does, but if you suffer from cannibalistic tendencies A young girl comes onto John Saxon (who wouldn't?) by wanting to borrow a hair dryer. Her hair is not wet. She then reveals herself as an unhinged psychotic while blowing him (um, with the dryer) while he's trying to have an important phone conversation (with another unhinged psychotic), which would earn a punch in the mouth from me (but I am not susceptible to nubile vixens). Motorcycle chase in warehouse/resale store! Hard-bitten detective asks about mad gunman: "Is he subversive? Queer? Black? Commie?" Uptight mother advises daughter to stop "acting like a hussy!" They set real rats on fire! That's not nice.
There are EXTENSIVE background materials on the DVD, one of which tells two interesting stories: 1) That John Saxon couldn't understand enough of the script (badly translated from Italian) to know that he was in an extreme gore flick, and 2) Radice tells an incredible story about refusing to kill a real pig, leading to his "accidentally" almost severing an assistant's hand with a meat cleaver. Oops. But the docs get boring pretty quickly.
Hey, there are lot of other reviews of bad and cheesy movies (plus a lot of good movies) on my website, Cinema de Merde, which you can find through the URL in my email address.
Vietnam vet Norman Hopper (John Saxon) has suddenly begun to relive the nightmare of war in his dreams. He receives a phone call from an old army friend, Charlie Buckowski, that he rescued in Nam, Buckowski and another man Tom Thompson had been found in a Viet Cong prison with a craving for human flesh and both had since been in a mental hospital for psychological analysis. Hopper turns down the offer of meeting his old mate as he is struggling with demons of his own, he believes his wife may be an adulteress, he is also attracted to the very young girl next door and more importantly he is stressed at his increasing craving for raw meat and blood. Buckowski goes on a shooting rampage and kills a few people and is locked up again, but then escapes along with Thompson and he urges Hopper to help them escape the city. Saxon a fluent Italian speaker and a veteran of many Italian films, jumped at the chance of working with the great Margheriti and was immediately impressed by the directors rapport with actors and his talent behind the camera, Saxon was also attracted by the seemingly novel idea that war might be spread by a virus, he was shocked though when during filming he suddenly realised that the virus was a cannibalistic one and he refused to be in any of the scenes containing such acts. For those who like the adventure aspect of a jungle set Cannibal film, this might disappoint slightly, except for a few flashbacks this is entirely set in Atlanta and plays more like a Nam Vet action film with some gore on the side. Still though, the characters are interesting and time is given to their development, Saxon impresses as the troubled Hopper, which is hardly surprising, but he may have been helped somewhat by his depression at the time, due primarily to financial problems he had after the break-up of his marriage. His fellow actors including John Morghen recount that he was rather aloof and distant and not much fun during filming. Margheriti was renowned for his period set Gothic costume dramas and Cannibal Apocalypse was a big change of style for him, gone are all his trademark stylings and in come the more appropriate washed out colours and a steely grey look of the city. The gore is for the most part pretty tame by genre standards but its still effective. The faux disco score was tacky as hell and at times seemed inappropriate to the visuals, but this is still a fun film, and is recommend to fans of the genre
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Originally released theatrically with an X-rating as CANNIBALS IN THE
STREETS and then to video (in the U.S.) in a severely cut version
called INVASION OF THE FLESH HUNTERS that eliminated nearly every drop
of blood from the film and made many scenes incomprehensible, this film
is now finally available uncut, remastered and restored under its
original title on DVD. The film now looks pretty good (earlier versions
were very murky looking), there is some strong and effective anti-war
content and the story has held together pretty well over the years, but
viewers should be forewarned that it's a lot tamer than most other
Italian CANNIBAL shock-horror titles.
Also here, pretty surprisingly, is one of star John Saxon's strongest lead performances. He's army sergeant Norman Hopper, who, while serving a tour of duty in the Vietnam war, stumbles across a POW camp where two friends; Charlie Bukowski (John Morghen/Giovanni Lombardo Radice, who earned his title "Italy's pin cushion" for roles like this) and Tom (blaxploitation star Tony King), are being held captive in an underground pit. During a gun fight, a woman is caught on fire and falls down into the hole, where Morghen and King feast on her corpse. Larry is understandably horrified, but figures the two are just raving mad with starvation and rescues them. Years later in Atlanta, Georgia (where this was filmed), Norman is happily married to Jane (Elisabeth Turner, no... not THAT one) and living peacefully in suburbia. But the war comes home when a very manic Charlie escapes from an asylum, starts sinking his teeth into victims and ends up trapped in a department store battling it out with both a biker gang and the fuzz. Norman is called in to talk some sense into his friend, and does temporarily. Charlie is hauled off, but not before informing out hero that they, along with Tony (who's in the same mental institution as Charlie) and others have picked up some strange, very slow-progressing cannibal virus somewhere while in Vietnam... and anyone who has been bitten in the meantime is also infected. Before long, Norman is finding himself biting a seductive teen neighbor (Cinzia de Carolis as "Cindy Hamilton") in a naughty spot and, climatically, on the run from the police with his two former military pals, plus a nurse, in the sewers underneath the city.
Well, I hated the music and there's more ho-hum action scenes than horror, but Morghen (though badly dubbed) is very good as the sweaty, frantic Charlie, Saxon is excellent in a rare lead role with some actual substance, there's a very downbeat ending and several standout gore scenes, the most memorable being when Morghen's stomach is blown away by shotgun blasts. That footage, plus the good picture quality and all the extra content on the excellent DVD, earn this a few extra points (the FLESH HUNTERS VHS I'd only rate as 3/10).
The DVD includes long, excellent, in-depth interviews with director/writer Margheriti and stars Saxon and Morghen, that not only cover this film, but also their careers and their feelings on their careers. Saxon's recollections are pretty amusing. He claims he'd never watched this entire film, but he was afraid while filming that he was taking part in a CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST-style mondo-gore effort, which this is certainly not. Others extras include trailers, the alternate opening sequence and a tour of the shooting locations.
Maybe the fact that this particular cannibal movie wasn't directed by one of
the usual suspects (Lenzi, Deodato) is what makes it so tolerable. Saxon
plays a soldier who goes back to some south Asian country to rescue his POW
buddies. He doesn't seem too bothered by the fact that when he finds him,
they're eating human flesh, or that one of them bites him, and infects him
with some kind of cannibal virus. Fast forward a number of years, and Saxon
is gettin a hankerin for some human meat. This all happens about the time
that his buddies decide to break out the mental hospital they're in. It all
ends up with Saxon and his buddies infecting a bunch of people, and running
from the law in the sewers. Cannibal city, baby.
Radice getting his abdomen blown clean out with a shotgun is reason alone to watch this movie (if you can figure out how they did this effect, let me know). The rest is pretty standard, as far as movies go, but it is a lot better than most cannibal movies. At least it takes place in the city and not in some jungle. Worth a look, if you're a cannibal or John Saxon fan.
In your face horror/action violence is here for you if you want it. Dawson
also directed Flesh for Frankenstein and Blood for Dracula, but the films
are often credited to Paul Morrisey. Influenced by, and occasionally
imitating both Fulci's Zombie and Romero's Dawn of the Dead, Cannibal
Apocalypse is graphic, silly, exploitative fun. It is far similar to the
films produced in the wake of Romero's social comment filled classic than
the cannibal subgenre suggested in its title that animated after the success
of Deodato's Cannibal Holocaust.
Opening with an American attack on a Vietnam camp where two POWs, Charlie (Giovanni Lombardo Radice, of Cannibal Ferox, House on the Edge of the Park and City of the Living Dead) and Tommy (Tony King of The Last Hunter & Sharkey's Machine) are found feasting on a young native girl. The leader of the US squad, Hopper (ex-male model and great regular genre actor, John Saxon) is bitten by one of these madmen, driven to cannibalism by Vietnam horror. Cut to 1982, Charlie is released from an asylum. Top of his to do list is ring his old mate, Hopper. Now married and having an affair with the Lolita-like girl next door (Cinzia De Carolis from Argento's Cat O' Nine Tails) has began developing a taste for human flesh. Fear of becoming a member of his mate's cannibal group, he chooses not to see Charlie. Disappointed with his friend he falls of the wagon and chomps down on a pretty girl in the local cinema.
To cut a long story short, Hopper eventually teams up with his old Nam mates and they go a cannibal spree around the city, infecting all those with a rabies-like virus.
Gore highlights, courtesy of FX wizard, Giannetto De Rossi (Zombie, The Beyond, Living Dead at Manchester Morgue) include - a girl having her breast torn away and eaten, a doctor having his tongue bitten out then spat next to his dying body, a garage mechanic having his thigh sliced like a slab of beef and, the best of all, Charlie has his stomach blown through and the camera lingers on the large football sized hole in his midriff. The gore isn't that offensive but it is excessive. The film was banned in the UK along with many other cannibal films during the Video Nasties scandal and still remains so toady. A DVD is available though on region one full of extras.
I have not seen all that many cannibal films, in fact, the only other
one I have seen is the zombie/cannibal mash up, "Zombie Holocaust". I
have seen previews from some of the other cannibal films and from what
I have seen, I just am not all that keen on seeing them. The reason I
wanted to see this one is because it sounded more interesting than
those films in that it does not take place within the jungles and
cannibalism in this film is transferred much like rabies. It also
starred John Saxon and he does a rather good job here which is funny in
that he really did not like making this film. Of course, the director
was not all that happy about this one either. Nor was the one actor who
played, Bob in City of the Living Dead, basically saying that this is
the worst film he played in. So apparently, the way to make a good
cannibal film is to bring a bunch of people together who do not want to
make the film and force them too and the result ends up being a very
nice Italian splatter film.
The story has a Vietnam veteran who is trying to cope with nightmares he is having about the time he saved his buddies in Nam. Apparently, one of them, chomped his arm and now he has started to have cravings for meat. One of his friends goes on a rampage during what is sort of a weekend pass out of a mental institution and soon he and his buddy still locked up begin to melt down and revert to the flesh eating that they ended up turning to when in Vietnam. Turns out they also transfer this condition to others and soon the police are having to try and stop the three Nam buddies and a nurse, before they can infect the entire city with this strange virus.
The film was good and fast paced as it never lingered to long on pointless plot points to pad out the film like so many lower budget horror films tend to do. There is ample gore, but never does it go overboard like other cannibal films. Granted, I have never seen ones such as Cannibal Holocaust, but I have seen the trailer and it is quite bad. I also felt sympathy for the John Saxon character and that helped the film too. The man has struggled and kept this strange urge to eat human flesh controlled, but due to a lapse of good judgment by mental health officials his buddy got to him causing him to spiral downward quickly. The film is not perfect as they could have explained the virus better, but overall it was a nice film that passed time quite well.
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