Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Video Nasty #10 - Cannibal Apocalypse

Cannibals in the streets as one alternative title for this much loved Italian film warned. Antonio Margheriti's 1980 film fixed upon the simple but great idea of taking the cannibal out of the wilds of New Guinea and letting him run loose in the urban jungle of big city America.

In the film some Vietnam vets go on the rampage in Atlanta carrying an infectious strain of rabies which causes it's host to engage in acts of murder and cannibalism. Led by former US captain Norman Hopper (John Saxon), the cadre of crazed vets pursued by the police must fight for their lives, once again behind enemy lines... Written by Dardano Sacchetti and Antonio Margheriti (here under his familiar pseudonym Anthony M. Dawson), Cannibal Apocalypse is a veritable Hydra head of different genre elements - it's part horror film, part actioner, with traces of the war film and zombie film thrown in for good measure.

Antonio Margheriti, one of Italy's busiest and best jobbing directors displays his usual flair for kinetic, action-driven Cinema and the film moves at a terrific lick with little time to scrutinize the admittedly absurd idea of cannibalism spreading like a disease. Of all the Italian films that soaked up the influence (and splatter) of Dawn of the Dead, Cannibal Apocalypse remains the best. The debt to Romero's film is considerable - there's some meaty gore and there's even has a sequence where a motorcycle crashes into a department store, but the film as a whole shares the same bluesy sensibility of Romero's great 70's movies. The film's Atlanta locations are well chosen and watch how the terrain the vets make their way through becomes increasingly difficult, eventually winding up in the city's sewer system, a neat metaphor for the tunnel network used by the Viet Cong.

John Saxon heads up a very fine cast. Saxon himself turns in another great piece of work, his performance tinged with a palpable sense of melancholy, probably informed by the actor's own misgivings about the more exploitable elements of the screenplay. John Morghen plays another one of his doomed losers, and suffers yet another gruesome fate. Blaxploitation actor Tony King playing the third vet, brings real menace to the film, his character the most violent and unhinged of the group. Good stuff too from the minor players - there's some laughs from Wallace Wilkinson's cantankerous police captain, and Cinzia De Carolis, who appeared as Karl Malden's young niece in Cat O' Nine Tails some nine years previously, provides plenty of sizzle as a teenage tramp.

John Morghen pauses for a drink, appropriate enough considering his character's name is Charlie Bukowski (?)
Image's US DVD of Cannibal Apocalypse is superb. The 1.66 transfer is crisp and colorful, once it gets past the slightly rough looking credits. Audio is very good for the most part, some of the dialogue loses a bit of detail when pitted against the score but it's generally fine. Extras include an excellent 50-min interview with Margheriti, John Saxon and John Morghen; a tour of the film's locations as they stand today, plus some trailers and an alternative credit sequence under the Invasion of the Flesh Hunters title. One of the few really essential Video Nasties, Cannibal Apocalypse is highly recommended.


  1. Wes, Isn't the UK dvd supposed to be significantly better looking than the US release? I know it has a slight cut for animal cruelty but this doesn't bother me, do you know if the more recent Optimum UK release has the extras? I'm lining up a purchase as I haven't seen this since the late 80's, just want to know which dvd to get. Great review and as you say one of the better nasties.

  2. Thanks Mart. As far as I know, the Optimum is devoid of extras, but still retains from the previous release the 1 second cut to the shot of the burning rats. In terms of picture quality, I think the previous UK release matched the US disc, so really it's down to the extras. I'm usualy not fantatical about extras, but I think the extras on the Image disc are genuinely worthwhile...

  3. I have both US and UK releases, and the UK DVD (Cinema Club, Studio Canal) has BETTER picture quality (and the same extras I believe. I always thought the US print was great until I got the UK release ;-):

  4. I had a chance to rent this on VHS but it didn't happen. I think it was a different store than I usually went to and my teen self didn't have the necessary credentials to open an account in those early video store days. Consequently I've still not seen it - but man I want to!

  5. Yeah, I think you would really like this one Craig, it's a very good rollicking urban action horror film. John Saxon is of course wonderful and raises the film to a new level. I love the alternative title, Invasion of the Flesh Hunters.