One of the more unusual entries in the still prolific Jess Franco's filmography, Cannibals (equally well known under the alternate titles of White Cannibal Queen and Mondo Cannibal) is a pretty stupid film. It's not good. That's not to say it isn't entertaining, because in many ways it is quite an enjoyable trash movie but it is poorly made, poorly acted, and the effects, costumes and make up border on the retarded.
Jeremy Taylor (played by Al Cliver and his magic beard) decides to take his wife (Pamela Stanford) and daughter, Lana (Anouchka), with him on an expedition into the heart of the deep, dark jungle. When they get there, some very European looking guys in loincloths sporting neon face paint attack. The wife is murdered, the daughter is kidnapped, and Jeremy's arm gets chopped off and eaten. Taylor barely escapes with his life and, after getting some rest and relaxation in New York, he just sort of hangs out with a foxy chick named Ana (Lina Romay) for a few years. Once he's done hanging out with the foxy chick, he remembers that his daughter might still be alive and as such, he's inspired to head back into the jungle to find her.
Taylor rallies up some help courtesy of a random rich couple and heads south, and before you know it, he's discovered that Lana (now played by Sabrina Siani) is not only alive and well, she's become a white cannibal queen. The natives worship her as a goddess and she's no fool - she realizes she's got a good thing going here! Will she head back to the Big Apple with daddy and the foxy chick or will she spend the rest of her days and a cannibal goddess living amongst the flora and fauna of the fierce Amazon jungle? Will Taylor and his pals make it out alive or will they wind up on the menu?
Where do you start with this one... the horrible acting? The micro-budget effects? The inane screenplay? The ridiculous looking cannibals? The way too inappropriate and out of place musical score? The choppy editing? The completely uninspired and goofy ending? Take your pick! Cannibals has all that and more. Franco's heart was obviously not in this one at all. None of his cinematic fetishes are really examined much (and this despite the presence of Lina Romay - the actress most associated with Franco in that regard) and one could probably assume he did this one for the paycheck, rather than for any legitimately artistic reason.
That said, there's so much wrong with this film in pretty much ever regard that it sort of turns itself around. As dumb as the movie is, it's also just as enjoyable. It's hard not to laugh at Al Cliver's non-acting and it's hard not to snicker under your breath at his unconvincing stump-arm. The dubbing, none of which really matches any of the performers, makes things almost alien at times and the cannibals, all decked out in their finest hot pink and bright orange make up, aren't so much threatening as they are unintentionally hilarious as they perform dopey tribal rituals in front of bargain basement Halloween props. Take a drink every time one of the gore effects hits you in completely unnecessary slow motion and try to stay standing by the time the film ends. Franco has made some seriously good films in his career - Cannibals is not one of them but fans of bad movies will eat this one up (pun intended).
Cannibals slithers its way onto NTSC DVD courtesy of Blue Underground in a nice 1.66.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that looks to present the film in its original aspect ratio. Though the film itself doesn't look fantastic - it's apparent that a couple of different kinds of film stock were used and the stock footage inserts stand out from the rest of the film quite a bit - the transfer is fine. Colors aren't bad, detail is fairly strong and flesh tones look pretty good. Whatever variations there are from scene to scene are definitely source related rather than problems with the disc's mastering. Don't expect the movie to look fantastic, as it simply never will. Blue Underground's DVD is a good presentation of a bad looking movie.
The English language dub, presented in Dolby Digital Mono, sounds fine but it's obvious when the actors on screen are speaking a different language. While it doesn't go out of synch at all, the dubbing does a pretty poor job of matching the performers' lips when they speak. That said, it sort of works well with the rest of the film's quirks. Levels are fine, the score and effects are well balanced and there are no problems with hiss or distortion.
The main supplement on this DVD from Blue Underground is Franco Holocaust, a twenty-minute on camera video interview with Jess Franco who speaks quite honestly about his thoughts on the Italian cannibal film sub-genre that inspired this picture and he shares a few fun stories about what a trooper Al Cliver was and the ways in which he used stock footage inserts for the NYC scenes. Not much of a fan of actress Sabrina Siani, he tells some amusing and rather unfriendly stories about her work on the film as well. Franco speaks in English but his accent is quite thick. For those who have trouble understanding him, optional English subtitles have been provided. This is an interesting talk with Jess, it proves to be both educational and entertaining and his fans will definitely enjoy his stories about this rather odd film in his catalogue.
Aside from that, Blue Underground has also supplied the film's French theatrical trailer (under the Mondo Cannibal alternate title), animated menus and chapter stops. Inside the keepcase is an insert booklet containing Blue Underground's updated DVD catalogue.
Those expecting one of Franco's jazzy-erotic-art films may be put off by the complete lack of class or style that Cannibals exhibits as it really is a poor knock off of better made Italian films of the same ilk. That said, there's a strange manic energy to the picture that makes it a lot of fun to watch. Is it a good movie? Not in the traditional sense, no - not at all - but it is fun and Blue Underground's DVD looks good, sounds alright, and contains an enjoyable interview with the director. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.