March 25, 2006

BANNED ! ANTHROPOPHAGOUS – THE BEAST (1980) REVIEW 9


When I reviewed the Emanuelle/Emmanuelle craze that swept throughout ‘70’s Europe, I referred to Joe D’Amato (Aristide Massacchesi). D’Amato churned out some definitive examples of exploitation/genre cinema. I must mention one of my ‘ultimate’ favourites of his ‘Emanuelle in America’ (1977) that encompasses nearly everything of taboo it could possibly reflect! It was Massachessi that churned out the more ‘darker’ aspects of the character and spliced a healthy dose of hardcore action amongst the adventures in one of the journalist’s most extreme escapades.

We will pay further visits to Massacchesis’ work throughout the Teapot so to reveal an ‘all you need to know’ would be inappropriate at this stage.

One of Massacchesis’ notorieties was ‘Anthropophagous –The Beast, it caused an outcry when available pre-VRA (Video Recordings Act) and ultimately ended up prosecuted, being banned outright and still accomplishing unavailability in a fully uncut status today in England, 2006.

This was also Massacchesis first ‘straight’ as he had been churning out pornography by the vat load previous. Where’s there’s muck there’s brass I suppose as we can assume some of these were the backers of the exploitation flicks. We kick off with the plot and review but with additional comment referring to the video nasties witch hunts that happened in this country not that long ago.

THE PLOT

Julie (Tisa Farrow – Mias’ sister!) needs to meet her friends on a remote Greek island. To save on costs she hitch-hikes with a separate group of holiday makers on a boat trip to her destination. As the others’ have very little else option wise, they decide to go along for the taste of exploration.

En-route Carol (played by Zora Kerova – ‘The New York Ripper’ (1982) and ‘Cannibal Ferox’ (1981)) plays with her sixth sense and her Tarot cards. She reads them for pregnant Maggie (Serena Grandi) and foresees doom. In fact she sees the whole trip as ill fated but her travelling companions think she’s loony and put it down to tantrums of the highly strung.

In the prelude we witness a centre parting via cleaver and an underwater disembowelment of boyfriend and girlfriend so we know that the psychic lady is telling the truth.

This is further re-enforced when they arrive at the Greek Island and it is completely uninhabited. Mary decides to stay on board with the captain as she busts her ankle. The others take the dumb initiative and go exploring. They do this unaware that there every move is being witnessed by something unseen and foreboding.

They stumble across a badly decomposed corpse and come across one sight after another indicating something terrible has been happening there.

They take the sensible option of fleeing but just as they start out a savage storm flares up, the group seek refuge in Julies’ friends’ house which turns out to be empty also.

Julie and admirer Andy decide to do the time honoured traditional gothic thing of exploring with only candlelight for illumination. In the cellar a hysterical French girl brandishing a knife and very bushy armpits, leaps from a casket of wine. She gashes Andy’s arm. Pretty good going as she’s completely blind; she is identified as Henriette, one of Julies’ friend’s daughters.


Julie calms her down and she explains the current fate of the island; alarmingly the culprit is still roaming the place feasting on the inhabitants. It is soon apparent that the anthropophagous mutation has found its’ next source of food and breaks into the house to satisfy it’s appetite, Julie and co’s holiday soon turns into a living nightmare where they are battling the darkest force of the Grim Reaper head on - to survive…….

CRITIC

Despite being utterly spoiled by the pristine print and super audio quality of Media Blasters release I found this a bit of a plodding affair.

There are two gory set-pieces on offer , one offal special and the other a remarkably vicious little sequence of events showing how extreme a film can go in the gross stakes.


Some of Massacchesis direction namely the wood chase sequence involving Tisa Farrow and the ‘dreamlike’ delirium of the genocide/cannibalism flashback are glimpses of what fine cinematography can be achieved by a talented director which on the whole Massachessi was(he sadly died of a heart attack on 23 January 1999).


It is unfortunate that these scenes are few and far between and act as partial nod off preventatives some of the time.

Setting these gripes aside what can be championed is the claustrophobic decay emphasised on the island whether interior or exterior. D’Amato produces his nightmare world in dank, muted colours, it bathes in murk, this maximises a seemingly ever prevalent presence of death embodied in representation of the beast itself.

The crusty creature for all it’s bloodthirsty actions is a touch sympathetic too, stemming from the fact that he had to eat his son and inadvertently murdered his wife he carries an element of patheticness.


Not only is the beast embodiment of decay , it symbolises the anguish of death and tragedy. It this embittered suffering that acts as enough fuel to drive the beast (played by Luigi Montefiori (George Eastman)). There are many layers to this character and to a lesser extent, some of the other players, that just about sets this movie above your average gruel.

When this film was released in the U.K it became one of the most nefariously depraved nasties you could get. Along with it’s other ‘kindred’ they became as notorious as they could have been thanks to the stupidity of ridiculous Thatcherite policy that bordered on the facististic and the ignorance of the thought police that prosecuted them.


THE STORY BEHIND THE U.K NASTIES

From videos’ infancy in approximately 1978 to 1984 a loophole was exploited. Before video one could only view a film on the cinema screen passed by the strict censors. Video boomed rapidly and as no law of censorship had been passed for it and only applied to the cinematograph this resulted in a whole plethora of uncut and uncensored sleaze surfacing for the viewing publics delight.

In 1984 as part of the Tories ‘clean up & Victorian value’ ludicrousness certain films were prosecuted under the OPA (Obscene Publications Act) of 1959 by the DPP (Department of Public Prosecution) and the VRA (Video Recordings Act) was brought in so video could now finally be covered and butchered mercilessly in what was probably one of the grimmest periods in England’s censorship legacy.


What started to become quite ‘liberal’ and eventually resulted in complete deregulation was put back decades by hysteria and middle class moralist crusades. Hilariously the press got involved in what became more of a craze than an issue; Anthropophagous was cited as being a ‘snuff movie’ , the build up to the ‘foetus munching’ scene (in fact a skinned rabbit from the butchers) was even shown on News at Ten , as moral panic never seen the like of before, swept over the country.

James Ferman became the head of the censors and seemed at the time arrogantly content in empowering his staff to censor away based on the strictest of antiquated law with no flexibility what so ever.


Sex all but disappeared from the screen big and small, and was relegated back to being saucy postcard ‘safe’ naughtiness for the childish, oppressed society that could not be trusted to think for itself. Ridiculous decisioning reigned supreme ‘The Exorcist’ was banned as Ferman believed some of it could be taped and used in black mass. Such rationale beggars belief.

On whose say so these films are deemed bad for us we shall never know ,but at the time you honestly believed these had to be the most horrific things you could ever imagine. What a let down when you saw the much hyped movie, some were grim admittedly but the majority were not worth a raised eyebrow and could and have since been granted an 18 cert uncut, in some cases a 15 has been awarded to a few on the virtually obsolete ‘nasty list’.


The farce that become ‘video shop’ raids by the police were also shameful examples of denseness that resulted in Dolly Partons’ ‘The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas’, war film classic ‘The Big Red One’ and ‘Lassie Come Home’ being ‘withdrawn for obscenity’ in complete illogical error and moving image ignorance. ‘Emmanuelle 2’ a mainstream soft-core flick was confiscated for its’ hardcore sequence. Therefore it was replaced on the shelves in a version sans the ‘cartoon/strap-on’ sequence. Ferman said ‘hardcore is hardcore whether cartoon form or not’.


There is so much I could write about the differing tactics of those terrible times but that would be worthy of another blog I’m sure. Fortunately the censors have moved a little on since being so terribly merciless and have developed a much needed sense of humour.

Fortunately plastic sfx, animal offal stuffed t-shirts and rubber hand chopping does not constitute a prosecution or a banning. Their main ‘beef’ is violence against women but is also tending to predictably encompass religious ultra-sensitivity in current times as an excuse for alternative scissor snipping and intrusive changes.


Scientists from research institutes have proven that there is no correlation between sex and violence imagery and society’s ills. We must use common sense, history tells us Jack the Ripper didn’t own a VCR; neither did Hitler, Hitler was reputed to have said that his favourite film was ‘King Kong’ does that mean that we need to ban this for the potential catalyst of megalomania frenzy –I think not.

Come to think of it those purely twisted infamies Bradey and Hindley didn't own a copy of 'Last House on the Left' or 'Night of the Bloody Apes' but all three 'examples', in varying degrees, were capable of the ultimate atrocities, reminding us of what not too become and what a living thing is capable of doing to another human being.


As the pulp books of the 1930’s-1950’s and the more ‘liberated’ motion picture of the 1960’s-1970’s and finally the digital age and beyond these will always be humanities ‘scapegoats’ for immorality as well as yardsticks for technological development and sociological change.


These have all acted as shields for us to avoid understanding the real ugliness of human behaviour. Thes films and literature have been used as moral contraceptives that can be used as a ‘morning after pill’ . Used in effect to prevent a realisation or a seed germinating that conveniently tricks us into believing, that what is being blamed is caused by something that is easy to persecute. Whatever the form of entertainment it is held responsible for the darkest aspects of humanity, proving fundamentally that it is easy to 'blame' than to accept our own humanistic responsibility for such terrible actions towards each other.

In fact what the exact cause is is the human capacity to be inhuman, unfortunately their are some purely evil, immoral and throughly nasty people out there that displaying inhuman qualities caused more likely by the way they were brought up not what’s' in the corner of the living room .

These repellant individuals can get 'triggered' into such depraved behaviour by something just as simple as a leaf falling off a tree as well as they could be 'triggered' by the content of some poorly dubbed Italian exploitationer.

The censoring and I mean callous censoring of such artistic celluloid accomplishments (although not everyones cup of tea) ; really impaired the freedom of expression in the United Kingdom and it has taken over ten years to recover to where it’s at now.


Getting back to and to round things off nicely, foetus munching scene screensnapped below the only exception, I feel 'Anthropophagous' author George Eastman (Luigi Montefiori) deserves a special mention. I have been recently surprised at how much he had contributed to the exploitation genre. Luigi also played ‘The Beast’, twice in fact, as he also played the creature in the prequel (of sorts) ‘Absurd’ (1981).


All in all the film is an o.k. above average romp. Don’t expect too much from this as I guarantee you will find yourself nodding off in some bits but stick with it because there are plenty of worthwhile moments, atmospheric and well executed too it's just a bloody shame you have to wait so damned long for them.

For the true D’Amato experience I would advise Emanuelle in America.

MOST OUTSTANDING MOMENT

For me it had to be the well sequence. It was ‘unexpected’ and those horror claustrophobic scenarios still really gee me up even after all this time! Though nowhere near as good as Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue (1974) and House by the Cemetery (1981) respectively.


THE MOVIE; Anthropophagous – The Beast.

THE YEAR; 1980.

I AM ALSO KNOWN AS; Antropophagous, Anthropophagous: The Beast,

Anthropophagous: The Grim Reaper, Man Beast,

The Grim Reaper, The Savage Island.

THE COUNTRY; Italy

RECOMMENDED VERSION; Shriek Show Region 1 (2 Disc Edition)

MY TAG-LINE; ‘It’s not fear that tears you apart – it’s him!!!’


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