Cannibal Apocalypse: Special Edition
Not to be confused with the infamous Cannibal Holocaust, or any of a number of other Italian cannibal and/or zombie movies from the disco era, 1980's Cannibal Apocalypse (also known as Apocalypse Domani, Cannibal Massacre, The Cannibals Are in the Streets, Cannibals in the City, Hunter of the Apocalypse, Invasion of the Fleshhunters, Savage Apocalypse, The Savage Slaughterers and Virus) is an amusing, fans-only addition to the genre, even if it lacks the outlandish appeal of its more fantastic family members. John Saxon stars as Norman Hopper, the leader of a trio of Vietnam vets who returned to the states with a supplement to the trauma of serving in an unpopular war: a taste for human flesh (the amusingly vague pseudo-scientific explanation: " a biological mutation due to a psychic alteration"). Setting aside its typically Italian characteristics, Cannibal Apocalypse fits nicely into the wider horror genre of plague movies; movies in which a mysterious epidemic of gruesome murders (often involving the eating of people by people) is spread contagiously through a small-to-large community. Director Anthony M. Dawson (a.k.a. Antonio Margheriti, he is also credited as having directed Andy Warhol's Frankenstein and Dracula films, not to mention Yor: Hunter from the Future) eschews the opulent touch of his contemporary Italian cohort Lucio Fulci (The Beyond, Zombie) for the more clinical, verité approach of American director George A. Romero's influential Dawn of the Dead, not to mention that of the plague genre master, Canadian David Cronenberg (whose early films Shivers and Rabid are the best of the lot). Like Cronenberg, Dawson's style is low-key and he intentionally plays with audience expectations, shifting characters from heroism to villainy and back again in a matter of minutes, resulting in audience sympathy for both the victims and the cannibals. Of course, he also includes some showy, gut-churning gore, including one remarkably silly and satisfying special effect during the film's otherwise unspectacular climax. Saxon, the king of early-'80s B-movies, uses his charisma well, adding strength to a typically weak cast further beset by typically poor post-production dialogue dubbing. Also starring John Morghen (really Italian horror veteran Giovanni Lombardo Radice) as a character named after, but not related to, Charles Bukowski, and with a typically disturbing synthesized score by Alexander Blonksteiner.
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Image Entertainment has put together a solid package for Cannibal Apocalypse, beginning with a pristine anamorphic transfer (1.66:1) and a servicable Dolby Digital mono track. Accompanying the feature are some fairly serious supplements, beginning with scholarly and diverting liner notes by film curator Travis Crawford and followed by the fine hour-long documentary Cannibal Apocalypse Redux, featuring introspective interviews with director Margheriti and actors Saxon and Radice. The Italian director's sober contemplation of this fairly innocuous exploitationfest might seem a non sequiter, but is offset by Saxon, who admits to never having seen the film or knowing what happens to his character in the end, reluctantly muttering the phrase "poles being shoved up peoples anuses," and Radice declaring, "The screenplay was absolutely absurd. It was one of the stupidest things I've ever read in my life." More than once Margheriti drops Quentin Tarantino's name as he basks in the Hollywood wunderkind's affection for this particular chapter in his career. There is also a negligible video tour (6 min.) of the film's Atlanta, Ga. locations, plus both European and Japanese trailers for the film, a gallery of international poster art, and an alternate cut of the film's opening sequence (8 min.), which is barely different, if at all. Keep-case.