Image Entertainment presents
Cannibal Apocalypse (1980)
"You think I'm crazy like Bukowski?"- Hopper (John Saxon)
Stars: John Saxon, Giovanni Lombardo Radice
Other Stars: Tony King, Elizabeth Turner, Cinzia De Carolis
Director: Antonio Margheriti
Manufacturer: Studio Canal
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence and language)
Run Time: 01h:36m:20s
Release Date: 2002-03-19
DVD ReviewIn the annals of Italian gore films, Antonio Margheriti's 1980 Cannibal Apocalypse (Apocalisse Domani) still stands as one of the more infamous. Known by a wealth of luridly similar alternate titles (Cannibal Massacre, The Cannibals Are in the Streets, Hunter of the Apocalypse, Invasion of the Fleshhunters, to name but a few), Margheriti's low-budget shocker is best remembered for substituting the immensely popular, de rigueur zombie plot with that of cannibalism and, more importantly, that it was set and shot in an urban locale, specifically the United States.
Margheriti (here billed as the generic Anthony M. Dawson) daringly meshed genres by mixing elements of the Vietnam war film with more traditional horror, and the by-product was a unique cross that became a twisted blend of The Deerhunter and Dawn of the Dead. Budget constraints and an achingly painful wah-wah guitar score badly date Margheriti's film, but otherwise Cannibal Apocalypse still remains one of the finer, if not smarter, written Italian horror films of that era. With a knockout image transfer on this disc, Image has done an excellent restoration job; this release (part of their Euroshock Collection) has this film looking better than it ever has.
The plot shakes up the tired flesh-eating zombie mythos by introducing cannibalistic characters who are still very human, as opposed to being the standard, shuffling "undead," and by doing so, Margheriti has given his film a relatively new avenue to explore. Setting the action in a U.S. city—rather than the common jungle setting so often used by the genre—was a bold move by the director, though he pays homage by opening Cannibal Apocalypse deep inside the jungles of Viet Nam. Tough guy Hopper (John Saxon) leads a deadly rescue mission to retrieve a pair of POWs, only to find the prisoners happily dining on a fresh human corpse. Hopper is bitten on the hand by one of the men, in an event that will ultimately prove pivotal.
The script then jumps forward a few years to present-day Atlanta (1980, that is), and Hopper is plagued by weird rescue mission nightmares that jar him awake on an almost nightly basis. When Bukowski (Italian gore legend Giovanni Lombardo Radice aka John Morghen), one of the flesh-eating former POWs, is released from a local mental hospital, he makes an effort to contact his old army buddy Hopper. The hook here is that Bukowski and fellow POW Tom (Tony King) were somehow infected by a contagious virus in Viet Nam that transformed them into flesh-eaters, and that the virus can be spread from person-to-person via a bite. Didn't Hopper get bit? Could that be why he's been having the nightmares? What about Hopper's kinky encounter with the nympho next door? While Hopper ponders his fate, the flesh-hungry Bukowski and King (along with a conveniently infected nurse) wander across Atlanta as they are pursued by police.
Margheriti stages a handful of well-executed sequences during the course of the film, including one in a crowded movie theater that still works quite well today. It is one of the examples where the natural skill of Margheriti as a horror director comes shining through, and he draws out a great, off-center performance from Radice. Likewise, the sewer system sequence that occurs in the final act includes one of the truly great death scenes to be found in the genre. These scenes give Cannibal Apocalypse enough of a unique look and feel to make it immensely more entertaining than some works by Fulci, Argento or Lenzi.
With that said, Cannibal Apocalypse does have more than a few glaring imperfections, a trait that is practically universal in the world of low-budget horror. Watching a film like this, one has to look past the gaffes and goofs in order to appreciate some of the finer points, and while some of the gore effects work better than others, most can do little to hide their inherent cheapness. Saxon and Radice are good (at least within the limitations of the genre), but the bulk of the supporting players are comically inept and stiff. The grainy Viet Nam stock footage used in the opening sequence is jarring in its complete lack of similarity to the "jungle" that Saxon and his squad are supposedly battling in, and the Alexander Blonksteiner score is laughably bad, ripe with juicy porno-caliber riffs that never seem to match the on-screen action at all. I won't even mention the itchy looking leg-warmers worn by horny teen neighbor Mary (Cinzia De Carolis aka Cindy Hamilton).
This isn't a perfect film by any means, but it is one of the better entries in the scope of the generally imperfect genre; fans of B-grade horror are used to bad acting and weak effects. The upside is the presentation; this is a truly remarkable disc from Image, and it should allow the diehard followers of Italian horror to appreciate this classic in all of its full-color, flesh-eating splendor.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+
|Aspect Ratio||1.66:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: The DVD case lists this widescreen anamorphic transfer as a 1.66:1, but it looks closer to 1.85:1, if you ask me. Either way, it is a beauty. The source material here was either pristine, or Image went to great lengths to restore it. With the exception of the badly mismatched stock footage in the opening, the remainder of the film is blemish free and sports some wonderfully vibrant colors. Black levels and shadow delineation are solid. Just an all around great transfer.
Image Transfer Grade: A
Audio Transfer Review: The film's original mono track is provided, and it sounds very clean; there is no hiss or distortion that is so often present on older mono mixes. Dialogue is discernible at all times.
For a mono track, this is good.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
2 Original Trailer(s)
- Poster and Still GalleryText Essay: The Butchering Of Cannibal ApocalypseAlternate U.S. Opening Sequence
- Text Essay: The Butchering Of Cannibal Apocalypse
- Alternate U.S. Opening Sequence
Of lesser value is the short Apocalypse In The Street (6m:40s), which purports to visit some of the locations used in the film. Considering none of the location shots were particularly fascinating in the first place, the point of this is lost on me. Host Vic Marlin looks embarrassed. He should be.
A pair of horribly grainy theatrical trailers (European and Japanese) are interesting from a historical angle only, as the quality of these trailers is weak. A poster and stills gallery (1m:49s) rotates through a blend of international poster art, as well a few production stills.
The alternate US opening footage (8m:10s) appears to be virtually identical to the existing opening, with the exception of the Invasion of the Fleshhunters title card.
A text essay on the film's history and a fascinating four-page insert written by Travis Crawford provide a healthy dose of production info and background. These two articles and the Cannibal Apocalypse Redux extra are worth the price of admission.
Extras Grade: B+
Final CommentsThough horribly dated in many ways, Cannibal Apocalypse still stands as one of the better Italian gore films. This is a beautifully restored disc from Image, and the plentiful extras should make this a mandatory purchase for genre fans.
Rich Rosell 2002-03-20