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Anthropophagus (Shriek Show)
02-19-2006, 09:18 PM
Review Date: February 19, 2006
Released by: Shriek Show
Release date: 2/14/2006
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.66:1 | 16x9: Yes
Thanks to DVD we’ve seen a newfound appreciation for many of Italian’s forgotten genre filmmakers. Companies like Anchor Bay, Blue Underground and Media Blasters have helped to canonize popular filmmakers like Lucio Fulci, Dario Argento and Mario Bava, but they’ve also helped unsheathe several other esteemed Italian directors, like Aldo Lado, Sergio Martino and Luciano Ercoli. Of course, with the sheer number of Italian films made available to them, these companies have also had a hand in popularizing several prolific craftsman whose quality of work comes nowhere near their quantity of output. Joe D’Amato is one such example, his body of well over a hundred films means we’ll be seeing collections of his work well into Blu-Ray and beyond. Yet, despite the instant notoriety of his perverse concepts: snuff and beastiality in Emanuelle in America, sex, gore and cannibals in Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals, and well, Erotic Nights of the Living Dead, his films rarely live up to the strength of their concepts. A clutter of ideas in search of a narrative, his thrown together way of making movies continues to turn me off from his body of work. Which is why, up until now, I’ve never seen the most famous of his films, Anthropophagus.
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Anthropophagus has had a long and troubled history, which is no doubt why it is so sought after today. A key victim of Britain’s Video Nasty blacklist, and a film that has been released in several sub-par versions (all with different titles and lengths!), D’Amato’s fetus-eating perversity has not, until recently through Beat Inc. and now Shriek Show, been released uncut and in widescreen. While Beat issued an impressive two-disc overseas, Shriek Show brings us now, after months of delay, an even more grandiose two-disc set which promises to be the definitive version of the film available on digital. Is it?
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Explaining the story in a Joe D’Amato film is like trying to explain quantum physics to a goat: what’s the point? His narratives exist only to setup the next murder or sex scene, or sometimes both at once. But, in the spirit of Horrordvds.com formatting, I’ll do my best to explain the minimal plot. So, a couple decide to walk through Rome for a couple minutes. After the credits are completed and D’Amato has run out of city stock footage, they end up on a beach, where they are both attacked by what appears to be Jaws. Refrain. Now, Julie (Tisa Farrow) is going to a remote island to visit a few friends. The island is so reclusive that for most of the year it is inaccessible by any form of public transport. Luckily, there are several guys on a gondola she is on that smirk at the chance at laying Mia’s little sis, so they opt to give her a ride there.
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Before even reaching the island, a few of the passengers turn up missing, including the pregnant Maggie (Serena Grandi). Can you guess where her fetus is? That’s right, a monster is lurking the island and when he is not making attacks from underwater like a shark he is eating unborn babies. Nice guy. Anyway, the group continue on to the island in search for Maggie (kind of like L’Avventura, only with excessive gore and, you know, no artistry) but can only find her shoe. In a brilliant development of logic, the group decide to split up late at night, one by one, with torch in hand, and go into the most dank and scary confines of the island alone. Surprisingly, this choice gets them all basically killed, until Julie gets her few minutes to play Final Girl. It is only at the end that we learn, in a brief flashback sequence, who this monster really is (D’Amato probably first figured it out at this point, too) and why no fetus is safe in Italy.
http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/a-m/anthror2/anthror2_shot3s.jpg (http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/a-m/anthror2/anthror2_shot3l.jpg)Shriek ShowBeat Records
The gore is okay, I guess. That’s about all there is nice to say about Anthropophagus without coming down with scorn by all of D’Amato’s vigilant followers. Still, for a video nasty and something made in the heyday of Fulci, it isn’t nearly as latexed as it should have been. Fulci’s westerns even ran circles around this in terms of gore. In a serious miscalculation, D’Amato opts out of nudity of any sort. That’s like trying to explain to a goat…never mind. Instead we get probably the most myriad display of every horror cliché ever concocted, from Just The Cat scares to That Shadow Brandishing A Knife Behind You Is Only Your Boyfriend falsities. I suppose if you are misfortunate enough to get this as a gift from a fellow gorehound, you could probably at least make a pretty entertaining drinking game out of it. The second disc could make a good coaster, too.
Despite my dislike for the film, I’m not going to deny that Shriek Show has done an admirable job with the picture here. Like the previous Beat Records release of the film, Anthropophagus is presented here in 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen. Both appear to have used the same cleaned up master, and the print is relatively clear of major scratches or blemishes. The print gets grainy in parts, but again that can be said for the Beat release too. Adequate detail and sharpness is also something that extends over both releases. Really, when comparing the two transfers, the differences come only in terms of color, contrast and brightness.
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The Shriek Show disc has a brighter picture, which makes some of the darker scenes with the monster more discernable, but it also makes for a flatter picture. Shadows are weaker in the Shriek Show disc, whereas in the Beat they came through much darker and more pronounced. The brightness also has an effect on the saturation, the reds of blood, greens of the countryside and blues of lightning all seeming much less vivid than they do in the Beat release. The Beat release tended to present skin tones a little redder than preferred, but overall they had a more visually pleasing depth of color. Overall though, the Shriek Show release is still no doubt a quality presentation, although the R2 Beat disc still has the slight edge.
There are both English and Italian language options, both mono and not too impressive. Both tracks sound quite and distant, as if the audio were filtered through an old sock. Considering how grating that electronic score is, this could be a blessing. Language is generally easy to decipher, but it is pretty flat. There are moments, too, where some unflattering crackle can be heard overtop the ear bleeding “music”. The English track has a better flowing track, as some musical cues in the Italian track come in much choppier.
http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/a-m/anthror2/anthror2_shot5s.jpg (http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/a-m/anthror2/anthror2_shot5l.jpg)Shriek ShowBeat Records
There is a problem with the English track at the start of the film however, since for the first six minutes the film is in what appears to be mumbly Italian. This would be acceptable if the English subtitles worked at that point, but they do not. So the entire dialogue scene on the beach at the start is completely indecipherable (although I am sure we are not missing much). The subs work after the opening kills though, in case you want to read how bad D’Amato’s dialogue really is. Compared to the video this is a disappointing, problem-ridden track.
http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/a-m/anthro/anthro_menus.jpg (http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/a-m/anthro/anthro_menul.jpg)The Region 2 special edition had two discs of content, but when added up amounted to little more than 30 minutes of video extras. This new Shriek Show special edition more than triples that, with a number of extras both big and small. The big extra, and probably the big draw for D’Amato fans, is the 67-minute “Joe D’Amato: Totally Uncut 2”, which is a continuation of the documentary found on Shriek Show’s Images in a Convent DVD. Although the transfer is quite shoddy, it is nonetheless a warm celebration of the director’s work, rife with plenty of highlights from his films (read: lots of tits and gore). It is in Italian with optional English subtitles, and features interviews with D’Amato, George Eastman (who shows up again later on disc two) and Sergio Martino’s main man, Ivan Rassimov. D’Amato is a frank speaker free of any pretentions, and the highlight is no doubt when he calls Klaus Kinski a “whore”. Yes.
http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/a-m/anthro/anthro_eshot2s.jpg (http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/a-m/anthro/anthro_eshot2l.jpg)In addition to the lengthy doc is a new 12-minute interview snippet between stars Zora Kerova and George Eastman. The two play off each other well, and both have some fairly interesting things to say. Eastman talks about some of the fame he’s achieved from the film, while Kerova offers a more interesting anecdote on Fulci, and how he once said she acted like a “dead dog.” God bless him. There is an easter egg on the main menu with another interview, this time with SS Camp Womens Hell director Sergio Garrone. Garrone recounts early memories of D’Amato when he was just starting out in the camera department, but doesn’t have anything substantial to add. He hasn’t even seen any of D’Amato’s films, and looks all the better for it. This little egg runs a smidge over two and a half minutes.
http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/a-m/anthro/anthro_eshot5s.jpg (http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/a-m/anthro/anthro_eshot5l.jpg)Another batch of supplements are alternate openings for the film, one with the title The Grim Reaper, and another for The Savage Island. The credits for the Grim Reaper are actually much more desirable than the ones used in the actual cut of the film, since they provide ominous shots of the monster’s mansion rather than pointless city shots of needless promenade. The Savage Island credits are just English translations of the Italian ones included in the film. Kind of interesting, but not really.
http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/a-m/anthro/anthro_eshot4s.jpg (http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/a-m/anthro/anthro_eshot4l.jpg)The two-disc set is rounded off with a boatload of trailers, found scattered over both discs, both visible and as easter eggs. Disc one features the same migraine-inducing trailer for the film, but with no less than four different titles. You know what they say, no matter how you package shit, it still stinks. Then on disc one there are trailers for Just Before Dawn, The Being, Shadow: Dead Riot and Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror. Disc two has a hidden lot of D’Amato trailers, including one with a young Klaus Kinski. Advertised trailers are for Hiroku the Goblin, Choking Hazard, Plaga Zombie: Mutant Zone, and Rojo Sangre. A photo gallery is also included.
It should be noted that this is the full, uncut version of the film presented here for the first time in North America. It is some 10-minutes longer than when it was first premiered in North America, and even three minutes longer than what the back of the box states, since Anthropophagus runs 91-minutes, not the advertised 88. Overall, a healthy batch of extras that will no doubt please D’Amato fans, and there are some juicy bits of interviews that will appeal to broader fans of European cinema as well.
http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/a-m/anthro/anthro_shot0s.jpg (http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/a-m/anthro/anthro_shot0l.jpg)Ripping off the likes of Jaws, The Tenant, Suspiria, L’Avventura, and Zombie, and filled with every horror cliché in the book, Anthropophagus could easily be a prequel to the Scary Movie franchise had it the intelligence to laugh at itself. Instead, it is an occasionally gory, but mostly inept, scattershot of generic horror moments presented with a poker face. No build up, no payoff, just enough fetus eating to get you from one cliché to the other. Shriek Show’s video presentation is clean and overall solid, if not quite as good as the Region 2 Beat Records release. The audio has some problems, but is for the most part serviceable. The extras are what will make this the disc the Anthropophagus for D’Amato fans to get, since it sports a thorough documentary and some other worthwhile supplements. The disc has succumbed to much delay, but as of now is probably the best overall release of the film available today. Too bad the film in question is hardly worth all the lavish treatment.
Movie - D
Image Quality - B+
Sound - C
Supplements - B+
Running time - 1 hour 28 minutes
"Joe D'Amato: Totally Uncut 2" feature-length documentary
Zora Kerova & George Eastman interviews
Shriek Show trailers
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02-20-2006, 05:02 AM
Wow, Rhett...Right on the money. Excellent review. I especially like the "packaged shit" comment, that's exactly what I was thinking when I saw all the trailers. :)
02-24-2006, 02:47 PM
The beginning of the film is not in "mumbly Italian"; it's in German. The couple on the beach are German tourists, mentioned again about an hour into the film. The audio there (the language and the volume) strikes me as an artistic choice, not a mistake.
03-01-2006, 08:56 PM
Dead on review, Rhett!
I've been watching lots of films from the video nasties list, and this one really was one of the weaker releases. It had one good jump-scare for me. Having seen only two D'amato flicks, I would definately recommend Buio Omega way before this. This one had its gore, but thats about it.
/m/ ABE \m\
04-17-2006, 06:06 PM
Nice Review Rhett. I agree with you on the most part the film is pretty tedious and incoherent. Saying that though It did have some nice gore and I felt the film ended with some satisfactory tension and suspense, Albeit probably too little too late. When it was all said and done. It didn't leave me hating the film as much as some. You could do much worse then to watch this film IMO.
01-25-2009, 11:47 AM
Just in case anyone who wants to see this film, and is put off by the talkback - Anthropophagus is a pretty good film.
I found it the acting pretty decent, the story well paced with a good pay-off.
01-29-2009, 03:29 AM
I really like this one. It's slow paced, dirty, gritty and pretty sickening...
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