Anthropophagous (Home Video Review)

Starring George Eastman, Tisa Farrow, Zora Kerova, Saverio Vallone

Directed by Joe D’Amato

Distributed by Severin Films

The irony of the infamous “Video Nasties” list, a U.K. creation of early ‘80s censorship, is that while dozens of films – 72, to be exact – were banned, cut, or otherwise compromised upon release many of those titles now enjoy a healthy shelf life thanks to the notoriety bestowed upon them. What was intended as a scarlet letter is now (and probably was then) a badge of honor. One such picture is legendary sleaze director Joe D’Amato’s Anthropophagous (1980) – also released under half a dozen or more alternate titles – a nearly-glacial slasher film that has earned a storied reputation on the backs of two revolting scenes. The other 87-or-so minutes are mostly devoted to watching our hapless horde of characters wander a deserted island and continue to splinter their group. The eponymous Anthropophagous doesn’t even appear in the flesh until close to the hour mark, but there is something foreboding and unsettlingly grim about these slower scenes that allows D’Amato’s deranged desert island disaster to captivate despite a lack of heavy action.

After the requisite opening kill, wherein a pair of German tourists is slaughtered on the shore, viewers are introduced to Julie (Tisa Farrow), an island hopper on vacation who joins up with a fivesome in order to visit some friends on a remote island that has few inhabitants and fewer visitors. All are eager, aside from Carol (Zora Kerova), whose tarot cards portend something terrible on the horizon. But everyone is out for a good time, so screw the cards! The group arrives at the island, drops anchor in the harbor and heads ashore, aside from the pregnant Maggie (Serena Grandi) who sprains her ankle disembarking and chooses to stay behind with the ship’s owner. Everyone else starts to explore the area and quickly realizes there is nobody home – unless you count the weird woman in black who scrawls “Go Away” on a dusty window and does her best to avoid any human contact. Maybe this is a sign? What is a clear sign is the desiccated, cannibalized corpse found hanging around a short while later. Time to leave!

Unfortunately, nobody is going anywhere because the boat has mysteriously drifted away from where it was docked. A couple of the guys dismiss this as nothing more than the captain sailing it off to avoid an incoming storm. Good thinking, guys. Everyone heads to a nearby house to hunker down for the night but they are surprised when Henriette (Margaret Mazzantini), blind daughter of the home’s missing family, jumps out and slashes at Daniel (Mark Bodin), cutting his arm. Once tensions calm Henriette explains the island is home to a madman (George Eastman) who smells of blood so strongly she knows when he is near. And not long after that same madman begins to systematically dismember, consume, and torture every person left on the island.

There are exactly two scenes that stand out in this film – the two that landed it on the Video Nasties list – and they are so gruesome and vile people still incredulously discuss them all these decades later. Hell, Severin Films made a plush toy commemorating the final denouement when ol’ Anthro takes a knife to the gut and, in true cannibal fashion, consumes his own innards. Top that, Hannibal Lecter. The other heinous scene in question actually manages to top the final act, with Anthro ripping the fetus from a pregnant woman’s womb and taking a big bite out of it. It is gnarly and a hundred shades of fucked up and firmly cemented this film’s reputation as one of the grossest ever made. These scenes along with two other relatively benign deaths – by these standards – were famously excised, leading to the well known The Grim Reaper cut of the movie, which is almost completely devoid of anything gruesome.

Outside of the infamy the bulk of this picture is mostly static. People mill about on the island, wondering what’s going on, never once stopping to consider they should leave immediately until it’s too late, and although it would be easy to dismiss all this footage as boring – because it kinda is – D’Amato filmed in a location that looks practically apocalyptic, lending an eerie quality that supplants the lack of character development by becoming one itself. The environment feels dangerous; dilapidated homes and empty streets are foreboding. These are his streets. In fact, if anyone gets character development it is Anthropophagous himself, as we learn his history and how he came to the dubious conclusion of being a cannibal. I like that D’Amato treats cannibalism almost like vampirism, suggesting the first act of consuming human flesh is enough to permanently alter a person physically as well as mentally.

Severin Films touts a new 2K remaster of the film’s 1.66:1 1080p image and it looks a helluva lot better than my old Shriek Show DVD. Dirt and damage have been minimized, allowing the picture to appear clean and blemish free. Colors are nicely saturated and distinct. Film grain is active and organic, providing a strong filmic appearance. Contrast is mostly stable though it gets a bit hazy at night. 88 Films in the U.K. released their own edition of the film on Blu-ray in 2017, and by comparison this edition is a bit brighter as far as I can tell. As usual, I found Severin’s transfer to be respectful in terms of cleaning up the image but also maintaining its “grindhouse” integrity.

Audio is supplied via either an English or Italian DTS-HD MA 2.0 track, both of which have similar sonic qualities so I went with the dub. It’s all dubbed anyway, right? Dialogue is punctual and clean; no hissing or pops. The score was performed on keyboards, with a lo-fi sound, and it often sounds a bit hokey or cheesy. At least it comes through with clarity. Subtitles are available in English.

Don’t Fear the Man-Eater: Interview with Writer/Star Luigi Montefiori a.k.a. George Eastman – This is a man with a sharp mind and he has plenty to say about his collaboration with D’Amato on this production.

The Man Who Killed the Anthropophagous: Interview with Actor Saverio Vallone, Cannibal Frenzy: Interview with FX Artist Pietro Tenoglio, Brother and Sister in Editing: Interview with Editor Bruno Micheli, and Inside Zora’s Mouth: Interview with Actress Zora Kerova are all newly-recorded interviews, too, that have been included.

There are also three trailers, all in HD (though rough).

Special Features:

  • Don’t Fear The Man-Eater: Interview with Writer/Star Luigi Montefiori a.k.a. George Eastman
  • The Man Who Killed The Anthropophagous: Interview with Actor Saverio Vallone
  • Cannibal Frenzy: Interview with FX Artist Pietro Tenoglio
  • Brother And Sister In Editing: Interview With Editor Bruno Micheli
  • Inside Zora’s Mouth: Interview with Actress Zora Kerova
  • Trailers
  • Reversible Wrap
Anthropophagous (1980)
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  • Special Features:
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