Friday, October 31, 2008

Apocalypse domani (1980)

... aka: Apocalipse Cannibal
... aka: Cannibal Apocalypse
... aka: Cannibal Massacre
... aka: Cannibals in the City
... aka: Cannibals in the Streets
... aka: Invasion of the Flesh Hunters
... aka: Savage Apocalypse
... aka: Savage Slaughterers
... aka: Slaughterers, The
... aka: Virus

Directed by:
"Anthony M. Dawson" (Antonio Margheriti)

Originally released theatrically with an X-rating as Cannibals in the Streets and then to video in the U.S. in a severely cut R-rated version called Invasion of the Flesh Hunters that eliminated nearly every drop of blood from the film and made many scenes incomprehensible, this is now finally available uncut, re-mastered and restored under its original title on DVD from Image Entertainment. The film now looks pretty good (earlier versions were very murky looking), there's some strong and effective anti-war content and the story has held together pretty well over the years, but viewers should be forewarned that it's a lot tamer than most other Italian cannibal shock-horror titles. Also here, pretty surprisingly, is one of star John Saxon's strongest lead performances as army sergeant Norman Hopper. While serving a tour of duty in the Vietnam war, Norman stumbled across a POW camp where two of his friends; Charlie Bukowski (John Morghen / Giovanni Lombardo Radice, who earned his title "Italy's pin cushion" for roles like this) and Tom (blaxploitation star Tony King), are being held captive in an underground pit. During a gun fight, a woman is caught on fire and falls down into the hole, where Morghen and King feast on her corpse. Larry is understandably horrified, but figures the two are just raving mad with starvation and rescues them.

Years later in Atlanta, Georgia (where this was filmed), Norman is happily married to Jane (Elizabeth Turner) and living peacefully in suburbia. A very manic Charlie escapes from an asylum, starts sinking his teeth into various victims and ends up trapped in a department store battling it out with both a biker gang and the fuzz. Norman is called in to talk some sense into his friend, and does... temporarily. Charlie is hauled off, but not before informing our hero that they, along with Tony (who's in the same mental institution as Charlie) and others have picked up a slowly-progressing cannibal virus somewhere while in Vietnam. And aanyone who has been bitten in the meantime is also infected. Before long, Norman is chomping a seductive teen neighbor (Cinzia de Carolis as "Cindy Hamilton") in a naughty spot and finds himself eventually on the run from the police with his two former military pals, plus a nurse (May Heatherly), in the sewers underneath the city.

I hated the music and there's more ho-hum action than horror, but Radice is great as the sweaty, frantic Charlie, Saxon does his best in a rare lead role with some actual substance, there's a very downbeat ending and several standout gore scenes, the most memorable being a stomach blown away by shotgun blasts. That footage, plus the good picture quality and all the extra contained on the DVD, earn this a few extra points (the Flesh Hunters VHS I'd rate at least a half-star lower). Also in the cast are Ramiro Oliveros (Swamp of the Ravens) and an uncredited Venantino Venantini. The ever-busy Dardano Sacchetti wrote the original story and co-scripted with the director.

The Image release also includes good, in-depth interviews with Margheriti, Saxon and Radice that not only cover this film, but also their careers and their feelings about their careers. Saxon's recollections are pretty amusing and he claims he'd never watched this entire film, but was afraid during production he was taking part in a Cannibal Holocaust-style gore fest, which this is most certainly not. Others extras include trailers, the alternate opening sequence and a tour of the shooting locations.


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