Over the last few years we’ve hosted our regular Zombie Club evenings, we’ve never been afraid to delve into the darkest depths of bargain basement b-movie abominations, so when Jim stumbled upon two Italian Cannibal films in his local Poundland (yes, these films only cost £1 each!), we knew that we just had to have them.
First up tonight is Cannibals (aka White Cannibal Queen), a dead-cert for Zombie Club viewing seeing as it was directed by the infamous Jess Franco and starred one of our favourite ‘actors’, a certain Al Cliver (see our Top Ten Zombie Club Actors for his entry at Number 2). Joining this film in tonight’s jungle is Cannibal Terror, known as one of the worst cannibal movies ever made, which again, is more than justification for ZC inclusion.
So, without further ado, welcome to Pound of Flesh Night with two bargain Hard Gore DVDs that didn’t cost Jim an arm and a leg (unlike some of the cast featured in tonight’s presentation).
Tonight’s Zombie Club was brought to you by Rawshark in association with Jess Franco’s Master Class of camera focusing.
Cannibals (aka White Cannibal Queen) (1980)
Plot Stumpy Al Cliver vs the Cannibals.
Rawshark Whilst on a boat in the jungle, Dr Taylor (a facial-hair free Al Cliver), his wife and two daughters are set upon by a tribe of face-painted cannibals, looking more like a Kiss covers band than a group of third-world savages, who proceed to spear the boat’s captain and munch on Cliver’s wife - in slow-motion no less. Struggling to shore, one of the daughters (Lana) hides whilst Al Cliver is caught and has his arm chopped off (in slow-motion again). Taken back to the village, one-armed Cliver manages to escape again as the chief interrupts the sacrificial ceremony (”We’re gong to have fun spotting how they conceal his arm for the rest of the movie” - Jim) and is soon picked up by two random men in a jeep.
Some time later, and back in the USA, Dr Taylor, now with the Al Cliver trademark beard, finally remembers what happened to him in the jungle and proceeds to set up an expedition to return and find his lost daughter. Meanwhile, Lena has now grown up into a gorgeous-looking, but bad acting, young blonde woman (Sabrina Siani) who likes to wander around topless with her flowing long hair covering her nipples (”Don’t you love the hair covering boobie thing” - Jim). Dr Taylor then returns to the jungle with a brunette (Doctor Ana – played by Lina Romay – actually Mrs Jess Franco) and the two of them team up with a tour guide (a Jess Franco cameo) and the annoying members of the expedition foundation and the hunt for Lena commences.
Ok, so it’s not the greatest plot in the world, but there is a fair amount of enjoyment to be had from Cannibals, with some more than acceptable gore (”I’ve never seen the interior of a ribcage before”” – Zomblee), a fair amount of nudity and a liberal sprinkling of funky music. Best of all though was the constant look out for ”the worst stump shot in the movie” (Jim), which kept us on the edge of our seat throughout most of the film because bizarrely Cliver’s arm was well-hidden for pretty much the whole duration (”I’m giving this film an extra star for it’s stump work” - Zomblee). Fortunately, we finally got our moment in the last few minutes as Dr Taylor faces up to a cannibal in the water (”we’re about to watch Al Cliver fight a cannibal... armed only with a stump” - Zomblee), giving us all the opportunity to cheer simultaneously as his wet T-shirt clearly revealed his hand tucked under his armpit. Yayy!
”Leave the palms of my hands out of it”.
Zomblee Reading that makes me want to see it again, Rawshark! What he says is true - Cannibals is almost essential viewing for those with more than a passing interest in the subgenre for the comedy value alone. Al Cliver has his arm hacked off early on, then spends the rest of the movie trying to convince the audience that he really has only a stump left, and you know what? He does a pretty darn good job, that is, until that final scrap in the water where we get that shot we've been impatiently awaiting for the preceeding 70 minutes ("Look! Look! There's his arm! I can see it folded up now that it's wet!" - Jim). Much rejoicing was done. Al Cliver. Always good value. I only wish he knew how many hours of pleasure he has given us here at Zombie Club.
Cliver's stump is probably one of the most convincing things about the entire movie. As Rawshark has already explained, the cannibals are a very sorry bunch indeed ("I see some of them are wearing shoes..." - Jim), and Jess Franco's penchant for needlessly employing that zoom lens is dizzying at times. He also seems to have trouble with basic camera focus, which doesn't help. Also, watch out for plenty of bad continuity throughout the jungle scenes, where we realised the tree Cliver and his unlikely cohorts were standing in front of somehow changed from shot to shot ("Bad continuitree." - thanks Rawshark).
Franco seems very keen to give us our one pound's worth in the gore department, utilising the slow motion button wherever possible, and in all honesty, all that bizarrely sustained munching on fatty human tendrils is a little disturbing at times. But it goes on... and on... and on... crunch... munch... drooling... screaming... stumping... until you wonder if we'll ever get to the next scene, then you start thinking about how short the film would be without the slow motion stuff. A good 20 minutes shorter, I'd say.
But of course, I wouldn’t want to change any of it. We’ve got English-speaking cannibals with Kiss make-up and trainers, the little “chipmunk” lady with the nice boobs, funky cannibal music, Al Cliver’s magnificent stump work, and ridiculously inept cannibal hunters who are all going to die the deaths they deserve. This is worth more than £1.
"We found a scientific expedition that had been attacked and eaten by cannibals."
Jim Oh my goodness! A cannibal movie! By Jess Franco! Starring Al Cliver! With a stump! For the whole movie! Christ, could any movie possibly be closer to the Ultimate Golden Zombie Club Cashback award? Is there such an award? If not, why not? And how am I supposed to type when I'm so busy chuckling to myself with all my stump induced memories of this hallowed evening?
Okay let's just get on with it. Rawshark's plot pretty much nails it, although he failed to mention two things about Al Cliver.
1. Al's got a different voice over actor to what we're used to, as Zomblee spotted straight away. "Al hasn't got his usual voice - most unsettling..."
2. Al falls over right at the beginning of the movie, just like he did in The Devil Hunter ("Al Cliver fell over! It's a Jess Franco film too!" - Zomblee). That is officially brilliant.
I also had the lack of beard noted down, but Rawshark's already mentioned that.
Anyway, Al gets the chop, goes back to the US, spends a few years gathering support for an expedition to find his daughter which conveniently gives time for her to grow up in to a sexy topless chick whose hair covers her nipples. He then leads said expedition back to the unconvincing jungle that could easily have been someone's garden in Milton Keynes ("Milton Kenya?" - Rawshark). We play "Al Cliver in the 'how good is your stump?' game for the rest of the movie." (Zomblee) while Al and the expedition wander around hoping to bump in to cannibals. We speculate as to their eventual fate, with "I think a lot of them are going to get eaten in slow mo" being Zomblee's guess, referring to the pointless toffs that make up the party, and it’s quite a good guess considering this is a cannibal movie.
The cannibals then turn up and capture them, tying them to poles and carrying them back to the village. ("Oh, it's just like in Return of the Jedi!" – Rawshark) That’s where the movie similarities end though, because instead of joining forces to defeat the Empire, the cannibals then go on to strip and eat the pretty but big-cheeked one we collectively nicknamed Chipmunk Girl, in a flurry of good, old fashioned exploitation. ("I quite wanted to see her breasts although not in that context." - Rawshark) And the munch scene takes forever. ("Switch to slow mo saving time and film stock." - Zomblee)
So if cannibal movies, or Al Cliver movies, or crappy late 70s Italian movies are your thing, you will love Cannibals to bits. I did for sure, and spent forever trying to work out how that stump was concealed for so long. We had several theories but we couldn’t agree conclusively until that final, fantastic, water-drenched scene where the stump mystery is finally cracked. Thank God for wet T-shirts, eh? I can’t believe this only cost a quid - that’s also officially brilliant.
"Now do be careful Barbara, this swamp is full of unexpectedly deep holes."
Director Jesus Franco
Cast Al Cliver
Runtime 90 mins
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Cannibal Terror (1981)
Plot A trio of kidnappers decide to hide out in a jungle filled with cannibals.
Zomblee Sometimes we hit new lows at Zombie Club. But that's ok. In fact, it's to be embraced. It was the same with Franco's incredibly duff The Devil Hunter, which I would say is actually better than Cannibal Terror, but that could always be my Al Cliver bias at play. The plot, to its credit, is really bizarre, featuring a trio of kidnappers who, while hiding in a house near the jungle, piss off the owner no end by raping his missus, so he in turn leads them to his nearby cannibal mates.
This movie has a lot of similarities to Jess Franco's Cannibals. A lot. I wasn't the only person to notice ("That's the same bit of gore from the last movie!" - Jim, "That's the same skull stick from the last movie!” - Rawshark), and it almost turned into some kind of bizarre drinking game where we would have a large gulp of wine every time you notice unnaturally similar 'coincidences' ("Look, it's the same parrot as the first film!")
You know what? These movies both cost the mere sum of £1 each. That's right. So why shouldn't they suck? When a cannibal movie costs £1, I demand to see the crappest cannibals ever committed to film, the kind of cannibals that are obviously not taking any of it seriously (even having a giggle in the background), and who look like they applied their own make up while listening to Kiss and getting ripped to the tits on mind-bending drugs (which would explain the giggling).
In summary then - nothing to worry Ruggero Deodato's legacy. Just loads of crap actors you've never heard of, podgy females who wish they were attractive, and a lot of dancing. A little too much dancing actually. Again, that could be down to the drugs.
"What a cunt."
Jim Okay, so let’s expand a little more on Zomblee’s plot summary for Cannibal Terror. Although, as you’d expect from a Jess Franco movie, this isn’t going to take very long.
It’s about Mario and Roberto, a pair of kidnappers, and their co-kidnapper colleague Lena (that Rawshark described as the one ”…in blue”, while Zomblee referred to her as the one ”…with tits”). They kidnap this young girl at a hairdresser’s right from under the nose of her origami-loving father, and then regroup at the safe house. Well, it’s a flat actually, and while waiting on the balcony they notice a car crash happen outside, and then they click that it’s actually one of their gang member friends, and then the Police turn up and arrest him (it was hilarious actually – Rawshark and I were amazed and shouted for Zomblee to hurry but he missed it because he was finishing preparing our dinner). Spooked, the rest of the gang decide it would be safer to hide in ’Indian Territory’ until the heat dies down.
Things don’t go to plan though, oh no. They stay at this old bloke’s house, but things get a bit dicey when Mario rapes the guy’s wife. So this old guy teaches Mario a lesson by tying him up and whistling for the cannibals (”Okay, he’s whistled for his cannibal friends to come gore him up.” - Zomblee) And they do.
After that there’s a bit more cannibal antics, more characters turn up to pad the running time (”And these are the random hippies.” - Rawshark) before the origami-loving kidnappee’s father turns up with the army. And, um, to be truthful I can’t remember which characters get shot or eaten in the finale, probably because all I really remember from the end is spotting a jeep driving past in the background, which Rawshark made us wind back to see again.
After the dizzying heights of watching Al Cliver pretend to have one arm for nearly a whole movie, none of us were really sure of what to expect from Cannibal Terror. The gore was similar to the last film, sometimes exactly the same, and the cannibals were crap as Zomblee said, although they did have the edge over those in the last film as ”None of them are wearing trainers” (Rawshark). That’s the only better bit about Cannibal Terror though, as we all had to agree that we missed the stump action terribly. Man, I still miss that stump.
”Cut to monkeys smelling each other’s asses.”
Rawshark Largely ignored by even the most ravenous cannibal fan, the Spanish / French production Cannibal Terror is pretty bad from the off, and only gets worse the further it goes on. Mario and Roberto are two clueless goons who have teamed up with a female accomplice to kidnap a young girl, but a pedestrian / car incident (the funniest part of the film) leaves them short of gang members, so they instead decide to hide out in the jungle for no other reason than to provide a plot point to introduce the cannibals of the film’s title.
Whilst in the jungle they soon stumble upon a local bar (what? A bar right in the middle of Cannibal country?) which is run by an old man and his semi-attractive wife Manuela. However, Mario soon gets bored and decides to rape Manuela in a disturbing rape scene that is intercut with the female kidnapper ‘getting it on’ with the local guitar player. Meanwhile the little girl’s daddy receives a call that his girl has been found and enlists a small army (”er, Dad’s army?” - Jim) to go and rescue her.
Although not actually a Jess Franco movie, the existence of the same cast and scenes as Cannibal Terror certainly suggests he had a hand in it, but for some reason decided to entrust the directing gig to one Alain Deruelle who, believe it or not, is an even worse filmmaker that Franco himself. Indeed one need only take a look at his listing on IMDB to see what kinds of films Mr Deruelle was more comfortable with (Intimité porno, Rage porno, Festival érotique etc etc). The acting is awful, the cannibals all have sideburns and good haircuts, and even the gore, when not using the same footage from Cannibal Terror, disappoints (”Arm chop – ah, no, it’s shit!” - Jim).
So, what we have here is a cannibal movie that kind of cannibalises itself and the whole genre, but instead of taking all the leanest cuts, it merely serves up a cold dish of tripe. Not even worth spending a pound on.
”C’mon, let’s get off this balcony”.
Director Alain Deruelle
Cast Silvia Solar
Runtime 93 mins
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So there you have it, two films for two pounds. Admittedly at that price our expectations weren’t high, but it has to be said that Cannibals was actually a hoot, largely due to Al Cliver’s presence, and that was despite the fact that in this film he suffered somewhat from not having his usual deep dubbed voice and did in fact sound a little bit like a girl. Still, his one-armed stump technique was a joy to behold and gave Jim much fun in trying to work out exactly how he was achieving the effect – “Look, you’ve got to get your hand right up here” he said as he tried to push his hand deep inside his own armpit at one point in the film.
Cannibal Terror was truly abysmal though, with quite disturbing slow-motion shots of men ”eating sausages” (Jim), and an amoral stance on sexual activity and rape. All in all, Cannibals justified the £2 spend, but Cannibal Terror may well have to be returned to Poundland for a full refund. Hope you kept the receipt Jim.
Next Week: Tune in as Zomblee brings policewomen and a two-headed thing to the table for a double-dose of Lee Frost Night.