Release Date(s)1980 (September 25, 2018)
Studio(s)Filmirage/Produzioni Cinematografiche Massaccesi International/Film Ventures International (Severin Films)
- Film/Program Grade: C+
- Video Grade: B
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: B-
Anthropophagous (or if you prefer, one of its various alternate titles, The Grim Reaper, The Savage Island, Man Beast, The Beast, or The Zombie’s Rage) was released in Italy in 1980, and later on in the U.S. and the U.K. in 1981. It became one of the largest jewels in the Video Nasties crown, earning a long-standing place in the hearts of gore fans the world over. Directed by Joe D’Amato, who had previously helmed the (in what my opinion is) the darker and more affecting Beyond the Darkness (as well as various erotic films such as entries in the Emmanuelle series), it’s been unavailable in the U.S. for quite some time, but thanks to Severin Films, Anthropophagous can now be seen in all of its blood-soaked, high definition glory.
To my general surprise, this was actually my first time viewing this film. I had already seen its follow-up Absurd and had an idea of what George Eastman might’ve been up to in the previous entry (not that Absurd is a true sequel), but the film’s infamous gut-munching poster has been a memorable image in my mind for many years. While watching it, I wasn’t sure at first why it was as controversial as it was at the time of its initial release. It’s mostly non-abrasive for most of its running time, lacking nudity, sex, and graphic language; you could actually cut the film off at the hour mark an get a PG rating (aside from that pesky opening with a meat cleaver to the brain). Knowing nothing about it and finding myself witnessing a fairly typical and innocuous plot about a group of sightseers who go to an island and are consequently getting bumped off, it wasn’t grabbing me in the way that I thought it might... but then THAT happens, and then THAT happens. Needless to say, within the film’s final half hour, I quickly understood why it has the reputation it has.
Featuring Tisa Farrow, who was also in another Italian splatterfest, Zombi 2 (known as Zombie here in the U.S.), Anthropophagous is a fairly effective horror film, at least when it comes to the gore. We’ve seen films with similar plots over and over again, but what makes this one memorable are moments from the final thirty minutes. I tend to liken it to the ending of Sleepaway Camp. Neither movie is particularly good, but you walk away from them with very distinct images in your head, and you never forget them.
Severin Films’ Blu-ray debut of Anthropophagous comes armed with a fresh scan of the original 16mm camera negative (carrying the title The Savage Island). Minus restoration efforts, this is a highly organic presentation with lots of leftover flaws. Heavy grain and detail are both fairly consistent, but there’s an inherent softness that can’t be altered without heavy sharpening (and why would you want to do that anyway?). Color molding is present from time to time, mostly visible on solid surfaces such as the sky. The hues that are present look good with nice skin tones, yet the overall palette is mostly unremarkable. Black levels with inherent crush are present, but everything is appropriately bright without the need for boosted contrast. The images also have some stability issues, which again are more obvious in certain still shots, but the frame is also littered with scratches, speckling, and weak frames. Audio options include English and Italian 2.0 mono DTS-HD with optional subtitles in English SDH for the English track and English for the Italian track. The tracks sound pieced together a bit from different sources, but otherwise, dialogue is clear without any heavy distortion from the score. Both tracks are fairly narrow, as to be expected, but the English track sounds a little more natural, even with some minor hiss.
As for the extras, there’s a few to dig into, including Don’t Fear the Man-Eater, a 13-minute interview with writer and star Luigi Montefiori AKA George Eastman, who offers plenty of background on his career and his work in the film; The Man Who Killed the Anthropophagous, a 14-minute interview with actor Saverio Vallone, who mentions that he began his career behind the camera and reluctantly became an actor; Cannibal Frenzy, a 6-minute interview with make-up artist Pietro Tenoglio, who speaks about working with D’Amato; Brother and Sister in Editing, a 13-minute interview with editor Bruno Micheli who also goes over his career as an editor, describing it as a family tradition; Inside Zora’s Mouth, a 10-minute interview with actress Zora Kerova, who either looks amazing for her age or the interview has been sourced from an older source; a video trailer with the film’s original title; a low quality trailer with the title Anthropophagous: The Beast; and an HD trailer with the title The Grim Reaper.
After years of being out of circulation, Anthropophagous finally re-emerges, fully intact with a nice transfer and decent set of extras. For gorehounds, especially those who are fond of the Video Nasties era of horror movies, this is definitely a release you won’t want to miss.
- Tim Salmons