RATMAN wears its heart on its sleeve from the opening pre-credits sequence, in which a doctor and his assistant check in on their laboratory rats before turning in for the night.

The laboratory looks more like an unfurnished living room, and the script is just as cheesy, with the doctor letting his assistant know (although I'm sure it's for our benefit only) that he's preparing his mutated rats for exhibition at a genetic engineering convention the following day. He lifts a blanket from a birdcage to inspect his prize specimen - a half-man/half-rat hybrid that we will come to know as Ratman (Nelson De La Rosa, THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU) - and asks his assistant to feed him/it before he retires for bed.

After the jazzy opening credits score has further set the scene, we're off to a tropical beach to meet photographer Mark (Werner Pocath, BLOOD LUST; THE CAT O'NINE TAILS) who's shooting pretty young models Marlis (Eva Grimaldi, CONVENT OF SINNERS; FELLINI'S INTERVISTA) and Peggy (Luisa Menon). The girls cavort to funky 80s-style music in their skimpy swimwear (a bit of nipple being exposed here and there, naturally) until the fun is cut short when Marlis stumbles across a bloody corpse hidden in the rocks. Little do they know, but it seems the Ratman has escaped and is on the prowl

At the nearby beach bar the girls freak out and think about calling the police. Mark, however, insists there's no reason to panic and suggests that instead they retire back to their hotel.

That evening, Peggy sneaks out of the hotel to go on a date with one of the locals. However, when her taxi breaks down on the way, she decides to complete the journey to her beau's place on foot. Bad move - she interrupts a maniac busy disposing of his latest female victim's corpse.

Peggy, for some reason, races into darkened alleys and then into a disused warehouse as the killer gives chase. The quick-thinking model finds an empty wardrobe and assumes it would be a great place to hide from the psycho. Unfortunately, there's something small, smelly and with very pointy teeth in the wardrobe with her

Enter Terry (Janet Agren, CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD; EATEN ALIVE BY THE CANNIBALS) who travels to the sunny climate to identify her sister's body, who she's been told has been found murdered.

Upon her arrival at the airport, Jerry meets charming writer Fred (David Warbeck, THE BEYOND; THE LAST HUNTER). After a brief tussle over a taxi, they decide to share the ride and become instant friends.

Fred offers to accompany Terry to the morgue for her sister's identification. However, it transpires that Terry is actually Marlis' sister - and the corpse in front of her (Peggy's) is unknown to her.

Learning that Mark and Marlis have left their hotel and decided to wander off into a local jungle to continue their fashion shoot, Terry becomes understandably concerned for her sister's welfare. Ever the gent, Fred offers to help Terry find her sister. After all, the local police seem astonishingly inept

RATMAN almost defies description. It is undoubtedly a sloppily made, cheaply produced and visually unappealing mess of a film. The acting is wooden and tired, the dialogue is risible, and the monster (played with hilarious gusto by the late De La Rosa, formerly the world's smallest actor) is utterly ludicrous.

Those happy to endure 80s gore films where realistically the FX are the only redeeming feature, may be sorely disappointed to learn that other than a fair bit of fake blood splashing around the place, there are precious little actual "special effects" on offer.

The story, which degenerates into episodic cuts between Fred and Terry's investigations and the fates of Mark and Marlis as they stumble upon a deserted town where the Ratman is waiting, is preposterous - further compounded by a serious lack of continuity or logic.

But, despite these numerous flaws, RATMAN is fun. Awful, but undeniably fun. It benefits from a highly atmospheric (if repetitive) score from Stefano Mainetti and gleefully ropey direction from Giuliano Carnimeo (THE CASE OF THE BLOODY IRIS).

The stellar cast is one of the best assembled for an Italian gore film, and the crew behind this absurd little gem (?!) is equally impressive: produced by Fabrio De Angelis (ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS), edited by Vincenzo Tomassi (CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST; THE BEYOND), co-written by Dardano Sacchetti and Elisa Briganti (THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY; THE BEYOND) it's difficult not to be impressed by the talent that's been pulled together for this frankly baffling yet enjoyable load of old nonsense.

And for that reason alone, this is a must-see. Other reasons include Grimaldi enjoying a slow lingering shower, and the laugh-out-loud murder scenes. Oh, and Warbeck's dreadful wardrobe

Shameless Entertainment must be applauded for coming up with RATMAN on DVD. It's a film I confess to never having heard of before. I can sort of see why - it's nowhere near being in the same league as any of the other films mentioned in brackets above. However, it's fantastic to see such an obscurity turn up on UK DVD, and it definitely does merit a watch as it is tremendously entertaining tosh.

The film is presented in it's "longest version ever". I'm not familiar with the film so I can't testify as to whether it's totally uncut, but nothing seems amiss. It's certainly quite a bloody affair, despite as I said earlier the low budget not allowing for much in the FX department.

The film is presented in an anamorphic 1.78:1 transfer and looks reasonably good. Images are a tad soft, and there is occasional grain. Given the fact that the film's not been released before and is seldom mentioned in genre circles, it's fair to say Shameless' restored print is probably the best we're ever likely to see. It's a decent enough job.

The English mono audio is a reasonably consistent, perfectly audible affair.

There is a disclaimer at the beginning of the film from Shameless, advising that they have used prints from various sources to ensure that all of Warbeck's dialogue was presented in his own voice. It's great to see Shameless make that extra effort and it's certainly appreciated. The differing qualities (in sound or video) are not that noticeable. And, being honest, RATMAN is not the type of film that would ever benefit from a Hi-Def THX transfer !

A static scene-selection menu allows access to the main feature via 12 chapters.

The only extras for this release are a trailer for RATMAN, plus trailers for MANHATTAN BABY, THE NEW YORK RIPPER, THE BLACK CAT, BABA YAGA, MY DEAR KILLER, and THE FRIGHTENED WOMAN.

RATMAN is dumb and badly made. It's also great fun and perfect brain-switched-off entertainment with a few cans on the side (just don't read the synopsis on the back cover, if you don't want to know which one of the main characters dies in the last 10 minutes!).

Shameless continue to be the UK's best hope these days for cult horror on DVD.

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by Shameless
Region 2 - PAL
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review