Directed by: Jess Franco
Written by: Julian Esteban & Jess Franco
Starring: Ursula Buchfellner, Al Cliver, Burt Altman & Antonio Mayans
Reviewed by: Brett H.
“All those bombs, oh, oh, my poor head! I hate the jungle and this humidity and these shadows…”
“(Calm down), We’re not in Vietnam now.”
“(Calm down), We’re not in Vietnam now.”
When the amount of films you’ve made surpasses the population of some small countries, there’s bound to be a few bad apples. In Jess Franco’s case, some would argue they’re all bad apples. Not I, but I certainly see where they’re coming from. When Jess Franco was at the top of his game, he was making films only he would make and the quality of his work seemingly dwindles the more it succumbs to the commercial successes of the times. Devil Hunter is one of the films Franco made that was to be more commercially viable, combining aspects of the cannibal subgenre with the creature aspects of old monster films, but still making sure the ladies remained as naked as possible. Does Franco succeed, or will even seasoned Franco pros cringe at the thought of this alternately titled, Mandingo Manhunter?
Laura Crawford (Ursula Buchfellner) is a stunning blonde actress who is kidnapped by a group of boneheads and held on a cannibal infested island for ransom. The honcho at the studio ponies up the cash to our hero Peter Weston (Al Cliver) to appease the crooks so they can get back their “investment”. Weston is also offered a hefty raise if he can bring the girl back along with the full six million the big shot had to fork over as the pay off. With dollar signs banging around in his mind, Weston pulls the old blank paper under $100 notes trick, but everything goes haywire and shots are fired. Laura gets away, but she doesn’t get too far before the bloody, buggy-eyed cannibal God of the island starts to move in for the kill. His goal is to rape her before eating her heart, because that’s what naked, nutty cannibal Gods do. Can Peter get the lovely Laura out alive, or will she become his flesh d’jour?
Devil Hunter is by far the worst Jess Franco film I’ve ever seen and teeters right down there alongside Zombie Lake and Zombie 5: Killing Birds as one of the least enjoyable slices of Eurosleaze you can get your hands on. It’s quite sad because the premise (not to mention a character’s funny ‘Nam flashback!) seems to have all the makings of a trashy treasure, but Jess Franco accomplishes absolutely nothing with his potentially sickening and good-for-all-the-wrong-reasons subject matter. After watching films containing the surreal poeticism of A Virgin Among the Living Dead and the enjoyable Blind Dead sexcapade, Mansion of the Living Dead, it’s hard to believe Devil Hunter was lensed by the same man. I can’t say that the film is absolutely devoid of entertainment, but it’s teeters along the fine line of keeping the viewer barely alert and drifting him straight off to dreamland.
The three main reasons the film fails is firstly because of Jess Franco’s blurry and hazy direction, which also could be reflective of an especially low budget. The jungles are vast and gratifying, but it’s as though there’s a thin layer of dust on the camera taking all the lovely chlorophyll out of the scenery. Tied into this is the fact that when the monster is on the screen, his POV shots (I’m assuming because he has really bad eyesight) are blurred and dreary. Secondly, the film is just plain tedious, the first 45 minutes are excruciating to get through. Lastly, the villain of the film really has nothing better to do than stalk an uninhabited island butt naked for potential victims. As entertainingly average as the premise is, the drive is taken out of the film by having such an uninspired monster. A good portion of the running time is spent on the crime aspect of the plot, but it’s so basic it certainly doesn’t need much attention.
A Negative Nancy I am not, and the main attraction to Devil Hunter is the flurry of nudity that eventually hits when the film gains just a tad of steam. When you’re treated to a lovely blonde bombshell fully nude while exposed ebony beauties dance around her, you tend to forget just how boring prior proceedings were. There’s an especially nice shot of the angelic blonde strapped to a post while a tribe member stands before her with his legs apart that is reminiscent of old Western gunfights. It's is very appealing, at least if your eyes don’t drift. If you look up, you’ll notice this tribesman wears his loincloth in true fashion, nothing underneath, as his berries dangle in the breeze. I am reminded of Ashton Kutcher’s quip on male nudity on an episode of Punk’d; men aren’t sexy when naked, just funny. There’s as much male nudity on display as female; the cannibal God walks around in the buff which has you in hysterics by the time his totally nude frame and a surely miserable Al Cliver wrestle around atop some rocks during the climax. This flick is actually a not so well known video nasty, and a bit of grue (including one actually really fun death) is on display to balance the sleazy close-ups of bush. And, I’m not talking about the trees, ladies and gents.
Severin Films went to hell and back for the infinitely more interesting Bloody Moon and Devil Hunter to finally hit DVD. Lost footage and missing audio are just a couple of hassles the grand company of smut battled to get these films to the masses. Nonetheless, the film is presented with an anamorphic widescreen transfer that is hard to grade for quality due to the hazy look of the film in the first place. There are few blemishes and little grain, so I’m convinced this must be the best the film could possibly look on DVD. You can listen to the film in either French with English subtitles or on a poorly and hilariously dubbed English audio track. I suppose the considerable difference in the tone of the tracks add some replay value for those who can withstand incredible punishment (such as myself). The lone extra is dandy, a 17-minute interview with Jess Franco. Like all of Severin’s other Franco interviews, it’s informative and entertaining. Franco (surprise, surprise) has a disdain towards cannibal films and doesn’t pussyfoot around the fact this premise wasn’t his idea, but he poses a great question. In this film, the cannibal monster eats normal parts of the body; why must cannibals always eat the nasty guts instead of the more delectable rations (such as the tit, Franco adds succinctly)? The Franco supplement is much more engaging than the film itself and it astonishes me that Jess can recall so much about each of the 200 plus films in his repertoire. Devil Hunter is pretty damn bad, barely containing enough merit to make it through. Thank the cannibal God for smokin’ au natural Eurobabes and Al Cliver’s moustache or I’d be sleeping right now. Trash it!
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