If you believe the story of star George Eastman (nee Luigi Montefiori), this was hardly an accident. Eastman says that director Joe D'Amato (nee Aristide Massaccesi) came to him with a piece of crap script that he wanted ol' Georgie to star in, George agreed only if he was able to do his own rewrite... which he did. Their collective screenplay became Antropophagus, a vile piece of cinema that was, if you believe Eastman, attended on opening day by one couple and himself. The couple left half way through the film. This is probably because Eastman also brags that he and D'Amato spent a lot of the film-making time brainstorming on the most disturbing, offensive and graphic scenes they could think of. Exploitation thrives on controversy and controversy sells tickets. Opening day aside, this film certainly had its international success (in that relative, B-Movie way) and spawned a semi-sequel (though Rosso Sangue might prefer to pretend to be a sequel to an unrelated franchise) and has been immortalized by its banning on the Video Nasty List. Ironic, isn't it, how a list of films intended to prevent said films from being viewed has become a checklist for Exploitation Film Buffs?
The story surrounds a group of vacationers heading out to a lovely Greek island for sex and relaxation. The American in the group is that perennial Italian B-Movie star from America Tisa Farrow (who plays the braless Julie). Unfortunately for her, she finds herself the object of the affections of this goofy guy named Daniel (Mark Bodin), which thrusts her (unwittingly) into a love triangle, the third angle of which is Zora Kerova's Carol. Hard to believe that Danny-Boy has his pick of Zora and Tisa. I would have thought for sure he'd be going home with a fat chick.
Interestingly, Zora Kerova (who is not shy) doesn't doff her clothing in this film, instead competing with, matching and exceeding Tisa in the "Blank Stare" that Tisa perfected so well in every movie (including this one). On occasion I had to wonder if they even knew the camera was on.
Soon, this is all irrelevant as they arrive at the lavish luxurious resort island town, only to find it completely unpopulated. Personally I would have turned on me heel right there. This gang, however, apparently has everything but the Great Dane to become the next Scooby Gang, so they start moving about to solve this Groovy Mystery. The plot is helped by the fact that Daniel soon gets hurt and another among them, Maggie, is pregnant (and played by Serena Grandi, a well known nude model who likewise doesn't model nude here).
It isn't long before their boat is set adrift, their hopes for rescue are dashed and they are stalked, relentlessly, by a hungry, inhuman monster in the form of Eastman's own Nikos Karamanlis. The last remaining non-monsters on the island are equally enigmatic. The blind and traumatized Rita (Margaret Mazzantini) is only exceeded in weirdness by the ghostly presence of an older woman who seems to walk the island with near immunity from the Man Eater's hunger.
This monster, though, (usually not referred to by name, but nicknamed Grim Reaper, Man-Eater and more) is one hideous-looking thing, exceeding both Jason and Freddy in his at-a-glance nausea induction. It helps to note that this isn't just Eastman looking like Eastman. In real life, Eastman was (and still is) considered by many to be a very good looking guy with a full head of hair and a suave demeanor (this is seen, just a bit, in a flashback sequence detailing (sort of) what turned Nikos into this Antropophagus). In makeup, however, the monster is really quite hideous. From a distance he sort of looks like the host of The Red Green Show, adding a flannel and grunge sensibility to the look. I half expected him to front a cover band specializing in Country Joe and the Fish songs.
A closer look gives a much sicker impression. Possibly from Sun Damage, coupled with years of caking blood, dirt and unimagineably worse things his skin condition is worse than that of a post-Lava Darth Vader! This guy lumbers around in a grotesque parody of humanity with a set of teeth that could make just about anybody walk the other direction. Clumps of hair are missing on the scalp and beard and he's got a set of wild, crazy eyes that you really wouldn't want looking at you. Eastman does manage to convey some interesting emotion through his fright mask and even manages to evoke some pathos at one or two points, breaking from the horror. But let's face it, really he's dressed in his best Halloween costume and he's hamming it up.
Much of this showing off helped to get this film added to the Video Nasty List. Many scenes are nauseating in and of themselves (such as one character pulling out their own intestines for a taste), but a flashback sequence featuring a bare-breasted woman being brutally stabbed more than qualifies for the BBFC's definition of "Obscene". Most notorious is the sequence surrounding the beast's tasting of a fetus (actually a skinned rabbit). This scene pushed the limits of bad taste to be sure, but also could have been the trump card that got this film banned as it not only featured a sexual violation coupled with violence and gore but indirectly also contained animal cruelty (usually an automatic ban).
For all its shock and horror (both of which this movie does have) and for all of Tisa Farrow's running around the woods braless, Antropophagus really doesn't go anywhere. The story is essentially one-act with a suggested depth that it never truly explores in any major detail. This, coupled with some very mediocre special effects (a certain fake human head springs to mind) and not enough real suspense or logic, truly overshadows any good parts of this film, letting it sink to a lower level. It is interesting how Eastman and D'Amato blended genres here creating a mysterious, seemingly unstoppable psycho killer. His lumbering gait, strange nature, wild staring eyes and the hint (though it is just a hint) of something supernatural at work helped make this movie billable as The Zombie's Rage in one of its United States re-releases.
Speaking of "Zombies", it's interesting to note that the sequel to this film, Rosso sangue, was also marketed as a Zombie flick in some releases (including the VHS release that I have). Although it was also released as Grim Reaper 2 and Antropophagus 2, this release attempted to cash in on a different series of flicks, most of which were cash-ins on unrelated series themselves. This release was called Zombie 6! Yes, that one too was banned in England as a Video Nasty!
Antropophagus has its creepy points and manages to be both scary and interesting quite a bit of the time. Still, it's a B Movie that was made for no other purpose than to make money for shock value. It most certainly made its money and most certainly shocked enough to spawn a 1981 sequel and a 1999 remake. But at WorldsGreatestCritic.com it gets Two Stars. Don't worry, the film's two stars (D'Amato and Eastman) did fine with bad reviews. Eastman and his Ego are still in full force to this day, as is Zora Kerova. Of course that just makes me all the sadder that this film didn't feature "The Mark of Zora". Now, if you'll excuse me, I think it's time for me to check out The New York Ripper again. Zora and I have some catching up to do.
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I'm not in the mood for Greek or Italian, though...