Directed by Jess Franco. Starring Ursula Buchfellner, Al Cliver, Antonio Mayans, Bertrand Altmann. Horror, Spain/France/Germany, 102 mins, cert 18.
Released in the UK on Blu-ray by 88 Films on 8th April 2019.
Right then, let's just do a quick check list for this Jess Franco outing - cannibals? Check. Naked women? Check. Crash zooms onto naked women's genitalia? Check. Unconvincing but strangely fun gore shots? Check. Euro-sleaze legend Al Cliver? Check.
Okay, that all seems to be in order so enjoy. Oh, you want to know more? Okay then. THE DEVIL HUNTER has all the right ingredients to be an unsavoury Jess Franco classic but, in true Franco style, it misses its mark by filling in the gaps between the bits you enjoy and watch Jess Franco movies for with elongated scenes of not very much happening, and at 102 minutes long it is a slog to sit through.
However, when those juicy bits do come along they provide some entertainment. The story is the same recycled script about people going to an island where they encounter hostile natives who are just desperate to eat their innards, which begs the question as to what they eat when there aren’t any hapless travellers stumbling across the beaches. Anyway, in this case a stunning up-and-coming actress is kidnapped by a gang of bounty hunters and taken to an island jungle where the mercenaries blackmail her boss for $6 million.
Clearly not happy about having to pay $6 million dollars the boss sends in his own mercenary, Peter Weston (Al Cliver - ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS), to retrieve the beautiful young starlet but, unbeknownst to all involved, the pesky cannibals that inhabit the jungle are up to their old tricks and summoning their cannibal god (credited as 'The Devil' and played by Bertrand Altmann with some uncomfortable looking prosthetics stuck to his eyes) to come and wreak havoc. If it's not one thing it's another...
THE DEVIL HUNTER is a frustrating watch because when it gets good, it gets very good - heads get split open, guts get munched, a lot of the cast are naked most of the time (including a spectacularly awful but, at the same time, amazing cliff-top fight between Al Cliver and a naked Bertrand Altmann that should be a short film all of its own), and the brutality is up there with the Italian entries in the cannibal genre - but for a movie so steeped in sleaze, bad taste and about as politically correct as Jim Davidson judging Miss World, it is one of the dullest cannibal movies from the late '70s/early '80s cycle.
Initially banned on its original release - as pretty much every film about cannibals was - THE DEVIL HUNTER doesn't seem so extreme these days, especially as the blood used in the film is clearly red emulsion paint, the Blu-ray picture quality doesn't do the latex plastered over Bertrand Altmann's face any favours and the rape scenes are particularly tame when put up against CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST and its much more graphic depictions, and apart from smearing grease over the camera lens to represent the Devil's POV (despite him actually being in one shot but whatever) there is very little top-drawer Franco flair here, the fuzzy and blurry camera work sapping a lot of the life out of some beautiful locations shots.
But in keeping with the consistency of their recent releases, 88 Films have included a fantastic documentary to back up a fairly lacklustre main feature. FRANCO-PHILES is a 47-minute documentary featuring contributions from author Rachael Nisbet, Fangoria editor Tony Timpone, scholar Julian Petley, writer John Martin and ILSA actress Dyanne Thorne who all share their knowledge and, in some cases, personal experiences of Jess Franco and his working practices. The overall picture they give is of an inventive and maverick filmmaker with a few unscrupulous methods he used to get the job done - like not informing Christopher Lee he was actually starring in softcore horror movies by shooting his scenes separately - and it genuinely gives you a fascinating insight into one of the most prolific B-movie filmmakers of his generation. However, once you hear all of the stories of inventive and dynamic film making and then you watch THE DEVIL HUNTER you have to wonder if they are talking about the same director.
So is THE DEVIL HUNTER worth adding to your collection? Well, if you simply must own every cannibal or Jess Franco movie on Blu-ray then this is as good as it is likely to get for this film and the FRANCO-PHILES documentary is a very welcome added bonus that almost makes the disc worth purchasing if you are already a Franco devotee. However, for casual viewers or newbies then THE DEVIL HUNTER just doesn't have enough in it to hold your interest over 102 minutes - and for a film where 90% of that running time features gratuitous nudity that really takes some doing - and although the final 20 minutes pushes things up to suitable levels of joyous insanity it all comes too late to make THE DEVIL HUNTER live up to its initial promise.
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