Friday, January 5, 2018

CANNIBAL APOCALYPSE (1980) (Umbrella Entertainment DVD Review)


Label: Umbrella Entertainment
Region Code: Region-Free (NTSC)
Rating: R
Duration: 96 Minutes 
Audio: English Dolby Digital Mono 1.0
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.66:1) 
Director: Antonio Margheriti
Cast: Elizabeth Turner, Giovanni Lombardo Radice, John Saxon

This action-packed Italian cannibal/war film was directed by the somewhat undervalued Antonio Margheriti (Castle of Blood), opening with a flashback to 'Nam where Captain Norman Hopper (John Saxon, A Nightmare of Elm Street) leads a rescue mission to extract two American soldiers from a POW camp, those being Charlie (Giovanni Radice, Cannibal Ferox) and Tommy (Tony King, Hell Up in Harlem). There's a decent amount of action here, there's lots of gunfire with Saxon looking sturdy as ever wearing a green beret and picking off the enemy, a flamethrower makes toast of the locals, sending one crispy critter down into the pit with the POWs - who tear her apart and eat her flesh! It seems the captive soldiers have somehow developed a taste for human flesh while in captivity. With the enemy vanquished Hooper tries to help them out of the pit with a helping hand only to have Tommy takes a nice chunk out of his arm, and then Hooper wakes from his flashback nightmare in bed next to his comforting wife Jane (Elizabeth Turner, Beyond the Door).

Turns out that Charlie and Tommy have been incarcerated at the local loony bin post-war, but Charlie has just been released, he immediately calls Hooper and invites him out for drinks, but Hooper
is too busy semi-rebuffing his teenager neighbor Mary's (Cinzia De Carolis, Cat O' Nine Tails) sexual advances and turns him down. This makes Charlie pretty sore, he heads to the local cinema, while there a young couple are getting very busy in the seats in front of him, he decides to join in on the fun and takes a chunk out of her neck, apparently still has the flesh-munchies, which leads to a group of weekend bikers chasing him into a flea market where he takes another life. Eventually the cops and Hooper show up and as his former commanding officer he is able to talk him down, with Bukowski surrendering to the cops and heading back to the loony bin. 

Eventually the coroner and the psychiatric doctors begin to piece together that some virus is infecting people through the bites, making them rabid and violent, even Hooper is showing signs of aggression, at one point taking a nibble on that voluptuous neighbor girl. Hooper checks himself into the loony bin for testing and ends up freeing Charlie and Tommy, whom he escapes with, in addition to an infected nurse named Helen (May Heatherly, Pieces) who earlier bit the tongue out of a doctor at the facility. Out on the streets the cops, including a fun older detective with some serious prejudices, are hot on their trail, forcing them down into the sewer beneath the city. Armed with shotguns and flamethrowers the cops continue the chase on foot in the sewers, sort of mirroring the opening Vietnam sequence. The killing in the sewer include a shotgun blast to the abdomen, literally blowing a pie-tin sized hole in one of the escapees, it's a fantastic special effect, while another is fried with the flamethrower, but the most damning of deaths are the very obvious real-life rats that were set on fire, those Italians in the 70s seemingly loved killing rodents and small animals in any movie with "cannibal" in the title, what the fuck guys?  

The movie is directed by Antonio Margheriti who gets short shrift when we talk about Italian directors, but in the considerable wake of Dario Argento, Mario Bava, Lucio Fulci and Ruggero Deodato he does kind of sink beneath the waves, he just doesn't have the stylistic signature that those guys did, but he's a solid director, crafting a fun slice of exploitation that looks good on all fronts. Saxon is always a solid actor, turning in a sturdy performance despite not having been pleased with the material. Radice for his part plays a typically over-the-top villain, looking a bit too happy when using a power saw to slice of slabs of meat for a mid-rampage snack. The movie is fun, there's a lot of genre-pokers in the fire, we get horror, war and cannibals all mixed together for an action-packed, never-dull, mash-up of Italian exploitation, and the flesh-munching gore comes fast and furious, this is a just fun watch with some nice twists and turns along the way that will make you wonder WTF? 

Audio/Video: Cannibal Apocalypse (1980) arrives on DVD from Umbrella Entertainment in anamorphic 1.66:1 widescreen, despite being advertised as 1.77:1. The image is solid, the daylight scenes are a  soft at times, but they do some good lighting for the darker scenes, boasting impressive color saturation and good detail and clarity for a dated SD Master. I do wish Umbrella had gone the extra mile and sourced a new HD Master for this Blu-ray, not sure if there are suitable elements for that to happen, but this could have been a world exclusive in HD,, I think it's a missed opportunity, but the DVD looks great for a DVD, no doubt. 

The English Dolby Digital Mono 1.0 does the job, dialogue and effects are well-managed, the score from composer Alexander Blonksteiner is almost too good for the movie, this one has a seriously enjoyable soundtrack. There are no subtitle options on the disc.  

Onto the extras, Umbrella Entertainment carry-over a selection of extras that were previously available on Image Entertainment's 2002 EuroShock Collection DVD, those being the video tour of the filming locations, alternate US opening sequence, a few trailers and a text essay about the censoring of the film in various territories. Sadly the one extra they do not port over is the nearly hour-long documentary featuring director Antonio Margheriti and actors John Saxon and Giovanno Lombardo, which if your a fan of the movie is a must watch. 

The single-disc release comes in a standard DVD keepcase with a one-sides sleeve of artwork using the familiar key artwork, but they up the 2002 DVD release by removing the photo shopped head of John Saxon that Image used on their release which was butt ugly, the disc itself features an excerpt from the same key art. 

Special Features:
- Apocalypse in the Streets (7 min)
- European Theatrical Trailer (2 min)
- Japanese Trailer (1 min)
- Alternate US Opening Sequence (8 min)
- Poster and Still Gallery (22 images)
- The Butchering of Cannibal Apocalypse

Cannibal Apocalypse (1980) is a fun cannibal movie, spiced up with some 'Nam elements and an urban-infection storyline. Truth be told I'll watch just about anything from this vintage era starring John Saxon and Giovanno Radice, both turn in solid performances, even if Saxon was disappointed with the material and arc of the story, he still turns in a sturdy performance and the movie is gut-munching fun, even if there's no real apocalypse happening here, but plenty of cannibals.

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