Saturday, February 16, 2013

THE CANNIBAL MAN (1972) movie review

Cannibal Man, The (1972) d. de la Iglesia, Eloy (Spain) 98 min.

Unfortunately lumped in with the array of Italy’s gruesome gut munchers of the 1970s and ’80s, many may be surprised to find that this particular Video Nasty surprisingly contains no actual onscreen cannibalism whatsoever. Although it does open with some lunch-buckling slaughterhouse scenes that precipitate the Italians’ use of mondo jungle footage, viewers would be better prepared for what to expect (and what not to) had the film been allowed to keep its original title, La Semana del Asesino (The Week of the Killer) for its U.S. release where it was also known as Apartment on the 13th Floor.

After killing a taxi driver in an act of self defense, low-income meat packing employee Marcos (Vicente Parra) retreats home with his girlfriend Paola (Emma Cohen). Terrified that he will not be believed in court due to his social status, Marcos refuses to go to the police – when his mate insists, she becomes the second in a line of murders he must keep committing in order to cover up the last.

A much, much better film than anyone would have a right to expect considering its title and BFCC stamp of disapproval, director de la Iglesia was one of the more daring and subversive filmmakers to operate during General Franco’s regime and there’s a wealth of social commentary to be had amidst the backdrop of a single man’s downward spiral into bloodshed and madness.

One of the most interesting relationships in the picture is that of Marcos to a strange, young gay neighbor living in an upscale apartment nearby. Nestor (Eusebio Poncela) seems to be privy to the random acts of violence occurring under Marcos’ roof, but refrains from alerting the authorities perhaps out of some sense of camaraderie between the two social outcasts. There is a haunting and intimate swimming pool sequence that will linger in the mind as long as any instance of bludgeoning or dismemberment.

That said, horror fans need not be chagrined. Though this is no empty-headed splatter-happy exploitation flick, heads are bashed in, body parts are lopped off, and the stinking corpses pile up (to the extent that Marcos is consistently coming home to a pack of dogs lingering around his house, attracted by the rotting meat inside). And, when he runs out of perfumes and air fresheners, he hits upon a gruesome but clever solution to disposing of the awful offal evidence...and it’s not what you think.

Blue Underground has done their usual top-notch work here, with a widescreen print that nicely juxtaposes the bleached sandy landscape with the earthy brown tones of its residents. Sound is sharp and free of distortion, and even though the English dubbed track is our only audio option, it’s rarely distracting. The only true disservice they’ve committed is inappropriately pairing it on their “Midnight Movies #8: Cannibal Double Feature” with Jess Franco’s wildly inferior 1980 quickie Cannibals (aka Cannibal World and White Cannibal Queen), further perpetuating fan expectations for a juicy flesh feast instead of an intense and rewarding character study of an unintentional serial killer. But at only $14.95, why not enjoy a taste of both and see which you prefer?

THE CANNIBAL MAN is available for sale now at Blue Underground


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