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"I'll go. You guys just watch the fire...and nobody eat anybody."
DVD ReviewIf you thought that this movie was some sick joke from the title, well, you guessed right. From the sophomoric minds behind South Park, we get the equally sick and twisted true-life story of convicted cannibal Alferd Packer, done up as a musical homage to Oklahoma!. With half a dozen riotous songs and plenty of gross-out humor, this film lives up well to its more famous successors.
This is really a student film, done while Trey Parker was an undergraduate at the University of Colorado. Filmed in 16mm on weekends and during spring break, Cannibal gives us the woeful tale of Alferd Packer, who is unwillingly recruited to lead a small group of miners from Utah to Breckinridge Colorado. Packer has no idea where he is going and is only obsessed with getting back his horse, Liane, who is stolen by a scruffy band of trackers. Winter in the Rocky Mountains can be cruel, however, and there are only so many ways to survive...one of them being cannibalism. Packer tells his tale to news reporter Polly Prye as he awaits his execution.
Those who enjoyed the songs in South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut will find the ongs in this musical equally memorable and lively. The humor is rude, offensive and hilarious. Not nearly as drenched in gore as most Troma offerings, Cannibal does have a couple nasty scenes (such as the opening sequence), but by and large it is content to be a Rodgers & Hammerstein operetta set in the wilderness of the Rockies. The film even goes so far as to have a riotous satire of the Oklahoma! ballet sequence. The main theme, "Shpedoikle,"will be recognized by fans of South Park as the music played under the annoying Braniff logo at the end of the program. Other songs, such as Let's Build a Snowman, sung by one of the party members as he slowly goes mad, will stick in your head for days.
The amateur cast of friends of Parker is surprisingly good; as the commentary notes, they often outshine the one professional actor in the cast. Dian Bacher in particular is likeable and captures well the role of the sex-crazed youngster who joins the party to get away from home and actually see some women.
The special effects, as can be expected, are cheap and cheesy, but that's also a lot of the fun in this picture. Especially amusing is the cyclops whose eye squirts pus (really creme soda, as the commentary reveals).
The film, while slow at times and a little disjointed, works pretty well for what it is. Fans of the Farrelly Brothers or the Zuckers will probably be highly entertained. Those with good taste will be warned away. For myself, I laughed more than I have since, well, South Park BLU.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B
Image Transfer Review: Considering the source material is amateur-shot 16mm film, this movie looks absolutely terrific. Colors are well-saturated, shadows are deep and the picture is clear throughout. At times the blue of the sky seems almost a little over-saturated. Blood is a nice clear red, without smearing or chroma noise. There's really nothing to complain about in this image.
Image Transfer Grade: B+
Audio Transfer Review: Again, this picture sounds like a feature that cost ten or twenty times what this one took too make. There is a full orchestral backing to the songs, which come through very nicely. There were some unfortunate decisions to record sound to the film live, which (particularly in the courtroom scenes) results in "boomy" and echoing sound. This is clearly a fault of the master, however, and not of the transfer. While the commentary makes mention of how the cast thought that good acting involved talking quietly and mumbling, I had no difficulty making out dialogue at any time. The Dolby Surround 2.0 sound does not seem directional, and may even be 2-channel mono.
The sound quality in the extras is pretty uneven; in the interviews the mike is handled pretty clumsily so the sound can be a little annoying. In the stage performance version of the songs, there is quite a bit of distortion and clipping.
Audio Transfer Grade: C+
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu
We get a good deal of behind-the-scenes film, shot in connection with four particular sequences, that makes it clear how much this film depended on the improvisational talents of its stars. There is probably close to half an hour of this footage. There is also a lengthy interview with Parker, Stone and McHugh giving substantial background on the making of the film and getting funding for this bizarre concept. These interviews probably would have benefited from tighter editing; possibly making them into a featurette would have been the best idea. However, in their fairly raw form we do get a glimpse at how these guys work.
Parker and Stone's PSA for a hermaphrodite support society is quite hilarious as well, presented in a stone-faced manner by Lemmy from the band Motorhead.
And if you thought that Cannibal!: the Musical could only be presented on film, you were wrong. We are treated to live, onstage renditions of all of the songs. They are given a lively reading by the cast (not the same as the film cast), although the sound suffers slightly.
Lloyd Kaufman's introduction (and even this is given in an alternate version) has a number of annoying film-school effects like excessive split-screens and color reversal, all of which are avoided in the main feature. Unfortunately, you can't skip the introduction unless you go into the chapter menu. I could have done without this, and it doesn't add anything to the presentation that isn't already here.
Extras Grade: A-
Final CommentsFans of Parker and Stone's antics on South Park, or of rude and sophomoric humor generally, will find a lot to like here, especially if they have a weakness for old-style movie musicals. Highly recommended for those tastes; everyone else will probably want to stay far, far away. The disc is jam-packed with extras; this one really takes the "special edition" label seriously.
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