• Anthropophagous (Severin Films) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: September 25th, 2018.
    Director: Joe D'Amato
    Cast: George Eastman, Tisa Farrow, Saverio Vallone, Serena Grandi, Zora Kerova
    Year: 1980
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    Anthropophagous – Movie Review:

    Severin Films brings Joe D’Amato’s notorious Anthropophagous (a.k.a. Savage Island – which is the title card that appears in the English language credits on this release - or, if you prefer, Grim Reaper, or The Beast or Man-Eater) to Blu-ray for the first time in North America.

    Alongside Emmanuelle And The Last Cannibals and Beyond The Darkness, 1980’s Anthropophagous is probably D'Amato's best known horror movie. The movie begins when two vacation bound couples, Arnold (Bob Larson) and the very pregnant Maggie (Serena Grandi) along with Daniel (Mark Bodin) and Carol (Zora Kerova), meet up with Andie (Saverio Vallone) a pretty tourist named Julie (Tisa Farrow of Zombie) on a cable car in Greece. She needs to hitch a ride to an island just off the shore where she hopes to meet up with some friends, and seeing as the four of them have already chartered a boat for their tip to the same destination, they figure, hey, why not let the girl come along and help her out.

    When the group gets to the island they discover it to be completely vacant save for one lone woman (Rubina Rey) who appears and then disappears in various windows at strange times. This woman seems to be watching them. There's no power, no phone service, and no one to help them when a crazed man (George Eastman of Porno Holocaust) shows up and starts killing them off. At one point a blind woman (Margaret Mazzantini) pops out of a wine barrel with a knife, oh and Maggie mysteriously disappears. As the story progresses, we learn that when he was stranded at sea, he had to eat his own wife and child to survive and since then, he’s become an insane cannibal. That's more or less it. They show up on the island, it's creepy and weird, and then George Eastman eats people.

    Anthropophagous succeeds more on atmosphere than anything else. To be blunt, not a whole lot happens for the first two thirds of the movie, although there is a great opening murder set piece set on a remote beach to kick things off. There are some soap opera style interchanges between some of the couples. Julie throws a monkey wrench or two into the works just by being there and looking good, for example. But a lot of the film’s running time is spent with the characters just wandering around the creepy island village. Thankfully, for the most part, it's enough. The setting is the perfect venue for a horror movie and it somehow manages to build suspense in spite of itself. The empty island, with its old architecture, seemingly cut off from the modern world is the perfect spot to stage a film like this and D’Amato and company take full advantage of all that the setting provides them. The violent opening scene in which an unseen force slaughters a couple on the beach alludes to the fact that bad things are to come for our gang of vacationers, but we don't really know why or what until it comes at you out of left field.

    Of course, this wouldn't be much of a D'Amato horror movie if it didn't have a couple of nasty gore set pieces. Anthropophagous delivers a couple of really good ones that are truly repulsive in nature and in execution. Eastman handles bad guy duties with ease here, and while his makeup appliances might look a little phony in some spots, when he's shadowed (which is most of the time) and in dark corners he does look positively eerie and quite threatening. He's a big guy and he's able to use his size to his advantage in the film, coming across as a hulking and intimidating cannibalistic monster.

    The rest of the cast are fairly disposable but they serve their purpose as fodder for Eastman's madman. Farrow, probably best known for appearing in Lucio Fulci’s Zombie, is fine as Julie, the cute tag along who finds herself causing problems that she never meant to get involved with. Cannibal Ferox’s Zora Kerova is interesting as the slightly snooty wife Carol and it’s never a bad thing to see the lovely Serena Grandi, of Delirium fame, show up in a movie even if she doesn’t get as much screen time as the rest of the performers. The real reason to watch the film, however, is for the excellent cinematography, atmospheric sets, and nasty gore set pieces that are ultimately thrown in the viewers face. It's a slow-moving film but one that manages to remain an interesting and unusual horror movie that makes use of some excellent locations and a great lead performance from Eastman.

    Anthropophagous – Blu-ray Review:

    Severin Films brings Anthropophagous to Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.66.1 widescreen taken from a new 2k scan of the original 16mm negative. This is a pretty serious improvement over the past Shriek Show DVD release, but the film is still a grainy and dark picture and there are spots where the encoding struggles a bit with that. Still, the good absolutely outweighs the bad here. Minor print damage is present throughout – you don’t have to strain too hard to see small scratches and white specks now and then – but there’s a pretty strong level of detail and texture to the image. There’s also quite a bit more depth to the image than we’ve seen in the past and the color timing looks considerably improved (particularly when it comes to the day for night footage). Skin tones also look more natural and black levels are quite strong. This can’t – and shouldn’t – look like the latest Hollywood blockbuster but if you’re at all familiar with how rough this picture has tended to look in the past, you should be quite pleased with the picture quality on this release.

    DTS-HD Mono tracks are provided in English and Italian with closed captions available for the English track and English subtitles (not dubtitles) available for the Italian track. Both tracks sound reasonably similar in terms of quality, but for this writer’s money, the film plays better in English so that’s how it was watched for review. Again, limitations of the source are noticeable but for the most part the audio is quite clean. The score in particular really benefits from the lossless audio - it sounds impressive at times – while dialogue remains easy to understand and to follow. Levels are fine and if any hiss or distortion creeped into the mix, it wasn’t noticed during playback.

    Note the dialogue in the opening scene between the young couple on the beach is in German. This is subtitled if you choose the Italian option but not subtitled if you choose the English option.

    Extras start off with a really fun thirteen-minute featurette entitled Don't Fear The Man-Eater which gets Luigi Montefiori (a.k.a. George Eastman) in front of the camera to talk about the film for a bit. He first notes how he met D’Amato, how they became friends and then decided to work together. After that he shares some stories about the shoot, notes how he enjoyed working with most of the cast members and discusses the finer points of having to eat entrails on camera. He’s not fond of the film or the part that he played in it and considers its fan base a bunch of weirdos, but you’ve got to love his honesty.

    The Man Who Killed the Anthropophagous is a fourteen-minute interview with actor Saverio Vallone who talks about the excitement that he had for the film which was really his first leading role. He also discusses some of his character’s traits and some of the makeup effects as well as how interesting it was for him to be able to travel around Greece for parts of the film. He looks back on the film with a fair bit more fondness than Mr. Eastman does!

    Up next is Cannibal Frenzy, an interview with FX artist Pietro Tenoglio clocks in at just under six-minutes. He speaks about how he got to know and befriend D’Amato as well as some of the special effects work that was done for the film, including Ms. Grandi’s notorious final scene. Brother And Sister In has editor Bruno Micheli speak for thirteen-minutes on his family’s roots in the Italian film industry before then talking up his friendship with D’Amato as well as their professional relationship. He talks about his thoughts on the feature and its notorious gore scenes as well as where his career went once the bottom fell out of the Italian film industry in the late eighties. Finally, Inside Zora's Mouth is an (oddly titled) interview with actress Zora Kerova that runs ten-minutes. She also looks back pretty fondly at her time spent making the film and how well she got along with not only D’Amato but Eastman and Farrow as well.

    Aside from that we get a few different trailers for the feature (under the Anthropophagous, Anthropophagous: The Beast and Grim Reaper), menus and chapter selection – and the disc comes packaged with some seriously cool reversible cover sleeve art. Note that the extras on the UK Blu-ray from 88 Films and the old DVD release from Shriek Show remain exclusive to those discs, so completists may want to hold onto them for that reason.

    Anthropophagous – The Final Word:

    Anthropophagous moves slowly but drips with atmosphere and should please Eurocult fans who appreciate slow, languid horror. Severin Films has done a fine job bringing this one to Blu-ray in a nice presentation with a strong selection of extra features as well. Recommended!

    Click on the images below for full sized Anthropophagous Blu-ray screen caps!