Cannibals (1980)
By: Craig Villinger on September 24, 2008  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Blue Underground (USA). All Regions, NTSC. 1.66:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 2.0 Mono. 90 minutes
The Movie
Director: Jess Franco
Starring: Al Cliver, Sabrina Siani, Candy Coster, Robert Foster, Olivier Mathot
Screenplay: Jess Franco
Country: Spain/France
AKA: White Cannibal Queen; Mondo Cannibale
External Links
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When it's good the cannibal sub-genre can deliver exciting and stomach churning entertainment that stays with you long after the credits have rolled. When it's bad the cannibal sub-genre can make you envious of those being devoured on screen! Which category will Jess Franco's Cannibals fall into? Well, with Franco's name in the credits the latter does seem far more likely…

For Professor Taylor (Al Cliver) an Amazon River expedition goes pear shaped when the family boat is attacked by a pack of hungry cannibals who murder his wife and do a runner with his young daughter, but only after hacking off his arm and scarfing down on the appendage right before his very eyes!

Back in the US a good decade or so later we find the professor suffering from a case of amnesia that has blurred the memories of what happened on that particular evening. Still, things are looking up for him. Sure, he only has one arm and nightmares about cannibals cause a few sleepless nights, but he has managed to shack up with his hot nurse (Lina Romay). However, during a shopping trip he has a moment of total recall and, suddenly convinced that his daughter might still be alive, promptly arranges a return trip to the Amazon to retrieve her.

In the jungle, with the nurse, a tracker, and a few of his financial backers (a bunch of silly rich twats who've dismissed his tales of cannibals as insane gibberish and believe an expedition to the wild jungle will be a jolly old jaunt) tagging along, Taylor eventually locates the tribe that deprived him of his family and his arm, and discovers his daughter very much alive and all grown up - and being worshipped as the tribe's White Cannibal Queen! Problem is though she's gone a bit feral, and as an integral part of the tribe daddy's little girl may not want a family reunion. And even if she did, the cannibal tribesmen certainly won't be giving up their Queen without a lot of killing and flesh munching …

Let's skip the foreplay and get straight to it folks – Cannibals is one of the worst cannibal movies you're ever likely to see. A big call, I know, given the depths the genre has sunken to, but I defy anyone to sit through this crap and prove me wrong. The film is a tedious ninety-minute display of incompetence and el cheapo production values, with universally wooden performances from all involved, hopelessly inept dubbing, casually inserted stock footage, an inappropriately funky jazz score, jungle settings that look more like a local park at times, and some of the most unconvincing cannibals you're ever likely to see! Seriously, the tribesmen speak English as well as ooga booga, are mostly white (this makes their fighting words like "Death to the white invaders!" seem quite comical) and sport distinctly European hairstyles and beer bellies, and their garish face paint actually makes them look more like rabid football fans dressed up for the grand final than a bunch of primitive savages.

There's no point blaming Franco for all this ineptitude though, as the guy probably wouldn't give a rats arse. Cannibals is obviously nothing more than a blatant attempt to cash-in on the success of Cannibal Holocaust and its ilk, and Franco seemed to have no genuine passion for the material. Think about it - even when the guy puts in a hundred and ten percent he can make a frightfully appalling piece of crap, so just how bad could a movie be when his heart's not in it? That's how bad Cannibals is. Usually, at the very least his movies look good, but even his eye for stylish visuals and love of exposed female flesh is missing here. In fact, apart from occasional moments of out-of-focus photography and the presence of Lina Romay it really doesn't feel much like a Jess Franco movie at all (which could be a good or bad thing depending on your perspective, but here it's bad).

Not even the gut munching can redeem Cannibals. After the opening boat attack we are forced to endure an awfully long wait for the next bit of cannibal carnage, and when the natives finally do begin chewing on the wandering yuppie twats the gore set pieces are, like the rest of the film, woefully inept. There are no noticeable special effects as such - Franco's camera simply lingers on the extras' mouths in extreme close-up as they chew on cheap butcher's steaks (often in slow motion) for extended periods to the point where it all became quite tedious. Honestly, I never knew scenes of cannibal gut munching could actually bore me, but there you go. Kudos to you, Jess.

The only real positive that stood out for me was the fact that Franco thankfully managed to avoid any of the real animal butchery that is inherent in the cannibal sub-genre. The only living beings that are subjected to any sort of cruelty throughout this movie are the viewers.
Cannibals is presented in a 1.66:1 aspect ratio with 16:9 enhancement, and as you would expect from Blue Underground, the transfer is excellent. The image quality does vary though, which is no doubt due to the film being shot on an mixture of cheap film stock, however most scenes are colourful and clear with only the odd gut munching insert or piece of stock footage looking soft and grainy.
The audio is hard to critique. It's presented in mono, and sounds good enough without any annoying hissing or level fluctuations, however the English dubbing is execrable. Clearly, lip-syncing was not an issue when the track was recorded, and some of the accents are laughable. Still, it remains to be seen whether the film would have been more enjoyable with a professional dub.
Extra Features
A twenty-minute interview featurette entitled Franco Holocaust is the main extra, and it's far more entertaining that the feature presentation as Franco speaks quite candidly about the production and his cast, and also shares his thoughts on the cannibal sub-genre in general. Sabrina Siani (who played the White Cannibal Queen) receives quite the roasting as Franco refers to her as "Stupid" among other things!

A French trailer for Cannibals is also provided.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
If you are one of those people who clings to the misguided belief that Uwe Boll or Paul W.S. Anderson are the worst directors in history you need to watch more Franco. Seriously. Cannibals is a piece of shit, and is really for cannibal completists only. Not even rabid Francophiles will find much value from this bland atrocity.

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