Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #260
Number of Views: Two
Release Date: August 9, 1980
Country of Origin: Italy
Running Time: 90 minutes
Director: Joe D’Amato
Producers: Joe D’Amato, George Eastman, Oscar Santaniello
Screenplay: Joe D’Amato, George Eastman
Special Effects: Giuseppe Ferranti
Cinematography: Enrico Biribicchi
Score: Marcello Giombini
Editing: Ornella Micheli
Studios: Filmirage, Produzioni Cinematografiche Massaccesi International
Stars: Tisa Farrow, Saverio Vallone, Serena Grandi, Margaret Mazzantini, Mark Bodin, Bob Larson, Rubina Rey, Simone Baker, Mark Logan, George Eastman, Zora Kerova
Suggested Audio Candy
Marcello Giombini “Main Theme”
Notoriety can be a funny thing. Back in 1984 when the BBFC compiled their naughty list of supposed video nasties to prosecute, certain films were plucked from obscurity and deemed inappropriate for audiences. The guilty parties were promptly removed from video store shelves and regarded as exploitative. Yet, thirty years after the fact, these movies have become more sought after and are now collector’s pieces. Had they not been lambasted then many of the chief offenders would have faded into insignificance, especially given the fact that many of them were pretty dire. There’s no such thing as bad press and Anthropophagus: The Beast is living proof of that theory.
I choose to use the title Anthropophagus The Beast when, in actuality, Joe D’Amato’s film had more aliases than Fletch and was released numerous times Stateside under each in turn. The Man Eater, Antropophagus, Man Beast, Cannibal, The Savage Island, The Grim Reaper; there were many guises for D’Amato’s low-rent shocker but none which rolled off the tongue to quite the same effect. Commonly regarded as one of the more mean-spirited nasties, it is still the subject of much debate now. However, time is the great healer, and it is hard now to see what all the fuss was about.
In truth, it is nowhere near as exploitative as was originally stated and there are only a handful of instances which stand out. Most notable is the scene where a pregnant woman has her unborn baby pulled from her womb and feasted on before her very eyes. Actually, that sounds like a fairly astute reason to withdraw it from public consumption although, by current standards, it barely registers as nasty. Crude effects belie the scene in question and the fetus in question more closely resembles a hot water bottle smeared in burrito beans. However, the intention is there, whether it looked plausible or not.
When all is said and done, Anthropophagus is a fairly standard slasher with little to commend it. It takes almost an hour before the bloodletting begins in earnest and it relies more on slow-building tension than an abundance of gross-out tactics. This would be all well and good as characterization is never a bad thing but the weak script and hammy performances make for a fairly meandering affair. When the grue comes, it is every bit as schlocky as it was discredited for but it’s infrequency leaves long drawn out periods of inactivity which make for a rather insignificant affair.
It focuses on a group of tourists, most notably Mia Farrow’s sister Tisa, who set sail to an uninhabited Greek island in search of sun and sandals, only to discover that they aren’t as alone as they first thought. Instead, they share cohabitation with a cannibalistic bearded heathen who has been stranded on the isle ever since murdering his wife. There are also other curious subjects which act as red herrings just to keep things ticking along as the beast of the title closes in on the seafaring holidaymakers and put them to task one-by-one. The men deserve slow painful deaths for their bouffant hairstyles and cringeworthy sweaters alone.
The location is perfect, a mass of winding whitewashed backstreets, punctuated by antiquated buildings which are less than inviting. It gets by largely on creating atmosphere and this is achieved via flashes of lightning and a multitude of poorly-lit basements and attics. As aforementioned, it aims at slowly cranking the tension and is in no rush to introduce us to The Man Eater. When he does pop up, he does little except stand bathed in ominous light, occasionally grunt, and chew the scenery a lot. Yet I would have no wish to run into him in a darkened alley post-dusk.
He is not choosy with regards to gut-munching and this extends to noshing on his own intestines when the food dries up. In this respect, he is nothing more than a survivalist, cleansing the food chain of lesser mortals as he bids to enjoy his protracted vacation unperturbed. When he does catch up with an entree he uses meat cleaver and knife to carve his intent and, when on downtime, he likely skims stones in the surrounding shoreline and makes faces at himself. It must be hard keeping yourself amused being such a hermit after all. As the beast in question Klaus Weltmann, George Eastman is actually fairly compelling, with burly frame and expressive eyes cutting an ominous shape although his make-up is far more effective in instances of sparse lighting and somewhat gelastic in broad daylight.
Anthropophagus: The Beast is one for completionists only (myself inclusive). It is simply too long in the tooth for many and hardcore gore-mongers will find little to justify the buzz outside of a few isolated instances of grue. For those of us who are fixated with those vilified so-called nasties from yesteryear it is more than worthy of a cursory glance. Joe D’Amato was prolific in the sleaze industry right up to his death in 1999 and this is one of his rare forays into the cannibal sub genre. Expectation is best kept lowly as time has not been particularly kind. If nothing else, Anthropophagus is still a pretty awesome mantle and, from a director largely responsible for shabby porn flicks, it does pose something of a landmark.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 6/10
Grue Factor: 4/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers: After signaling its intent at the front end things go alarmingly quiet for the next hour. It’s only really in the final act that Anthropophagus begins living up to its infamy. Ventilation, necks bitten, bone splintering, womb chow down and the old abdominal banquet await those with patience but, while admittedly gory for its time, there’s little we haven’t seen executed with more panache by Lucio Fulci.
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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