Antropophagus, released in Britain as Anthropophagous: The Beast and in the US as Anthropophagus: The Grim Reaper is a 1980 Italian horror film directed by Joe D’Amato and co-written by D’Amato and George Eastman (under his real name, Luigi Montefiori), who also starred in the film. It has also been released as The Zombie’s Rage, The Savage Island, Man Beast, Man Eater (in West Germany), Zombie 7.
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The film is set on a Greek island, which inevitably attracts a good many tourists. Opening with a beach scene of a German couple enjoying the actually rather breezy-looking conditions, there are nods to Jaws as the female half of the couple nips off for a presumably freezing dip.
Instead, an unseen presence looms out of the depths and heads towards the beach where the German chap is listening to some despicable electronic noodling on headphones large enough to cause severe spinal injuries, which probably account for him lying down.
The meat cleaver he receives to his head is no doubt a blessed relief. This is a mere aside as we then cut to a young group of holidaymakers; only three are worth name-checking – a doom-prophesying annoyance, Carol (Zora Kerova from The New York Ripper, Cannibal Ferox and Terror Express!), a pregnant Maggie (Serena Grandi from Delirium: Photos of Gioia) and Julie (Tisa Farrow from Zombie Flesh Eaters).
The group is helpfully supplemented by a blind girl called Rita who has an excellent sense of smell, acts confused a lot and, when told to run quickly because a big monster is coming, dithers like she’s going for the jackpot on a TV gameshow.
What happens next is difficult to put into words as it’s largely nothing at all. Akin to many ‘video nasties‘, although there were indeed reasons for raised eyebrows, it wasn’t because the film-making was of an astoundingly low quality. There some slightly creepy POV stalking and pleasingly grisly deaths but we are mostly made to endure some appalling dialogue which I doubt is improved by being in the original Italian but isn’t helped by atmosphere-draining dubbing.
Shortly before the hour mark, the titular Beast is revealed – it’s jolly giant, George Eastman everyone!
George plays Nikos Karamanlis, once a doting father and husband, now a hulking cannibal with hair problems and skin irregularities as a result of a boating accident which left he and his family adrift and with him having no option but to eat them through starvation. Unable to rest until he’s eaten everyone in sight, he saves the film, a truly memorable screen monster, both pathetic and terrifying without any need for dialogue.
The last half hour picks up the pace enormously, though this wouldn’t take much doing. Nikos tries his hand at midwifery, leading to the notorious scene of him eating Maggie’s ripped-out fetus; actually a fake bloodstained skinned rabbit (which somehow, history dictates, makes it ok for George to have bitten into?) The finale also upset the censors, ‘eating one’s own intestines’ clearly being rule 2b on page 47 of the no-no book. No animals were harmed during the making of this film. Except maybe the rabbit.
Anthropophagus is the second film on the BBFC’s banned list, alongside Island of Death, to be set in Greece and the setting adds an unusual atmosphere to the film and gives a certain credence to the characters feelings of alienation and also allows for some refreshing backdrops, particularly the catacombs which serve as the Beast’s lair.
Eastman, at least in acting-terms, saves the film from utter obscurity, his huge frame and arresting make-up being genuinely alarming and lending the film a surprising amount of dread, though sadly a whole hour later than would’ve been advisable.
The baby-eating scene and the film’s ending are nicely, if that’s the right phrase, executed though these are by far the highlights of D’Amato’s direction. His career, spanning many genres, rarely settled on horror without veering into sex but alongside Beyond the Darkness, shows the most restraint – which probably tells you all you need to know.
Eastman is happy to look back and denounce the film as nonsense (though fun to make) but this was just part of D’Amato’s brain shattering arsenal of frustrating films that should have been exploitation classics but ended up more as fast-forward curiosities.
A word of warning about the score by journeyman Italian composer Marcello Giombini (who sometimes hid his works behind the pleasing name of Pluto Kennedy). Despite his many credits, little of his work is of any great consequence, his scores to War of the Planets and D’Amato’s Erotic Nights of the Living Dead are quite good fun but he was resolutely lower division material versus his many homeland composers. Some of the pieces written for Anthropophagus are bafflingly awful, several of the cues towards the end of the film are more impressive; subtle and haunting but the best bits are still only as good as the kind of horror synth workouts Wendy Carlos might compose for a joke.
This peculiarly-titled splatterfest led to an indirect sort-of-sequel, Absurd, which is also a must-see for all the wrong reasons, and an even more abysmal unofficial revisit by German gore obsessive Andreas Schnaas, Anthropophagus 2000.
Daz Lawrence, HORRORPEDIA
Severin Films 2018 Blu-ray release: “it’s quite the upgrade in terms of detail. As in, a lot of detail. Textures like hair, rocks, cobwebs, and viscera are all much more vivid and tactile, and the film’s technical origins don’t seem even remotely as obvious now. The color timing is consistent but more subdued than some prior releases, with the reds now pulled back to a more natural level and looking quite satisfactory from start to finish.” Nathaniel Thompson, Mondo Digital
Cast and characters:
- Tisa Farrow … Julie
- Saverio Vallone … Andy
- Serena Grandi … Maggie
- Margaret Mazzantini … Henriette
- Mark Bodin … Daniel
- Bob Larson … Arnold
- Rubina Rey … Ruth Wortman
- Simone Baker … First Victim
- Mark Logan … Second Victim
- George Eastman … Klaus Wortmann
- Zora Kerova … Carol
On September 25, 2018, Severin Films released Anthropophagous on Blu-ray in the USA:
- Don’t Fear The Man-Eater: Interview with Writer/Star Luigi Montefiori a.k.a. George Eastman
- The Man Who Killed The Anthropophagus: Interview with Actor Saverio Vallone
- Cannibal Frenzy: Interview with FX Artist Pietro Tenoglio
- Brother And Sister In Editing: Interview With Editor Bruno Micheli
- Inside Zora’s Mouth: Interview with Actress Zora Kerova
- Reversible Wrap
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On 7 August 2017, 88 Films re-issued Anthropophagous on Blu-ray as a single disc Remastered Special Edition. Features include:
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of the film sourced from a 2K Scan of the Original 16mm Negative
- Uncompressed English Audio
- Uncompressed Italian Audio with newly translated English subtitles
- The Eastman Chronicles – 2017 Interview with actor Luigi Montefiori (better known as George Eastman)
- Deleted Scene
- Film Historian Alessio di Rocco Featurette
- Italian Opening and Closing Credits
- Theatrical Trailer
- Reversible Sleeve with Alternative “Italian Collection” cover.
On 8 May 1992, a story in British tabloid ‘newspaper’, The Star claimed that Anthropophagous was one of a number of ‘snuff’ videos seized by Trading Standards Officers in raids on the homes of horror film collectors. A still from the film was accompanied by a caption that read “Evil”.
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