With the cycle of Italian cannibal films in the late 70's/early 80's in full swing, Jess Franco contributed his own unique take on this sub-genre in the form of 1981's Cannibals (aka Sexo Canibal/Barbarian Goddess/Mondo Cannibale/White Cannibal Queen). Despite the presence of Italian genre favourite, Al Cliver, Franco's film never quite matches the ferocity or exploitative heights as the Italian cannibal flicks. Nevertheless, it's an interesting film, and not entirely without merit. Surprisingly, for Franco, he dispenses with many of his trademark directorial touches, such as erratic zooms and surreal set pieces, and favours instead a straightforward narrative and conventional camerawork - and the film benefits from this approach.

The plot is a simple affair, telling of how explorer Jeremy Taylor (Al Cliver), whilst travelling on a boat through the jungle, is beset by cannibals who kill his wife and abduct his daughter. He doesn't get away unscathed either, losing an arm to the cannibals, who subsequently feast upon it. Having survived this ordeal, and made a full recovery back in civilisation, Taylor is desperate to get back to the jungle to locate his missing daughter, who has, during this time, apparently grown up and is living with the tribe who abducted her, who venerate her as a 'white goddess'. Having made a plea to the benefactors who funded his previous expedition to fund his return trip, and who subsequently turn him down, Taylor makes his own way back to the jungles where he lost his daughter in an attempt to locate her himself. Once there, however, his benefactors mysteriously turn up with a crew and explain that they have had a change of mind and wish to assist him in his venture - all the while scoffing at his stories of vicious cannibals. This intrepid group then head off into the wilds to look for Taylor's daughter - and get more than they bargained forů

Franco's film is no masterpiece by any means, but it certainly deserves its place in the pantheon of cannibal films that appeared in this period of exploitation film history. Omitting the animal cruelty, that seemed to be part and parcel of so many of the Italian entries, Franco actually brings in a reasonably competently made slice of cannibal mayhem without resorting to such shock tactics. The cannibal attacks are also quite nightmarish and unpleasant and very effective, as they play out in close-up slow motion. Of course, there are also plenty of plot-holes and glaring inconsistencies - such as the leader of the cannibal tribe, as well as the 'white goddess', who, whilst spouting their babbling incoherencies, suddenly switch to English now and again! The tribesmen themselves are bereft of the wigs so common in the Italian cannibal films, and sport colourful face paint, looking as if they're refugees from the local summer fete. And Al Cliver, racing around the jungle minus one arm, is certainly a sight to behold, as well.

When all is said and done, I actually thoroughly enjoyed this slice of cannibal madness, despite its shortcomings. But even the film's failings offer entertainment value in their own way, and raised an unintentional chuckle at various points throughout the film. For those expecting something in the vein of Cannibal Ferox, I should warn you that it's far from being a gore-fest, as Franco chooses to go the route of a more conventional jungle adventure, but I think it's hugely enjoyable nonetheless.

The DVD from Hardgore is top-notch, with the feature presentation framed in anamorphic 1.85:1. The transfer looks fantastic, with hardly a blemish in sight. The image is sharp, clean and free from any noticeable compression artefacts. The film looks tremendous and Hardgore are to be commended for the spectacular remastering job done with this obscurity (it's nice to think of these low-budget items being preserved digitally for generations to come). The sound provided is an adequate English DD 2.0 audio track, and the only problem I could identify was a spate of crackling during the first cannibal attack, but this was so brief as to not cause any real concern. Aside from that minor quibble, the audio was clear and audible and sounded perfectly acceptable.

The disc is devoid of any extras, unfortunately - aside from scene selection and a handful of trailers for other Hardgore titles. However, considering the superb quality of the feature presentation, then there's little to grumble about, really.

Review by C J Otter

Released by Hardgore
Region All PAL
Rated 18
Extras : see main review