Wednesday, 9 June 2010



Hold the front page: Jess Franco In Hopelessly Incoherent Gibberish Shock. Yep, to everyone's amazement, it's yet another unbelievable stinker from the back catalogue of one of the world's most inept filmmakers, not only chock full of entirely gratuitous nudity but shoddily put together and riddled with the typically out-of-focus zoom shots that Jess Franco has made a speciality. While directors such as Dario Argento to Hitchcock and De Palma construct elaborate set-pieces with flamboyant camera moves and audacious technical artistry, Jess Franco crash-zooms into merciless close-ups and then fiddles with the focus knob.

The Devil Hunter is the title on the box but on-screen it's El Canibal, which is a more accurate representation of the film. A famous actress is kidnapped and kept prisoner on a jungle island which is home to an unknown tribe who sacrifice naked women to a naked cannibal demon with ping-pong balls for eyes; Eurojunk legend Al Cliver is hired to get her back before her captors kill her off, or before the cannibal demon will rip her heart out and eat it. What we ultimately end up with is a bunch of badly dubbed blokes wandering around a murkily photographed jungle while the badly dubbed women spend vast periods of time in the nude.

There is admittedly a slightly more tangible plot than with some of Franco's more idiotic ramblings (The Devil Came From Akasava springs to mind, along with his brace of incomprehensible Frankenstein pictures), but it's sunk by the poor dubbing, photography and dialogue as well as Franco's habit of stopping the movie entirely for the endless nude scenes; the gore effects are fairly perfunctory and the blood looks like crimson poster paint. And the ping-pong ball eyes effect actually contrives to look even more ridiculous than when I did it! This is nowhere near his most enjoyable (or even his more professional-looking) films such as She Killed In Ecstacy, still my favourite Franco film. It doesn't even have a groovy lounge/exotica score; Franco co-wrote the frankly uninteresting and forgettable soundtrack with his regular composer, the late Daniel White.

It's fully uncut in the UK now, but The Devil Hunter was banned in the early 1980s under the Obscene Publications Act and it earned a place on the Video Nasties list from the DPP. In truth it's only moderately nasty and certainly not worth banning; it's just not in the same category of repugnant offence as I Spit On Your Grave or the original Last House On The Left. The principal reaction is not one of disgust or horror, but boredom occasionally leavened with a laugh at the wanton stupidity, particularly at the climax where Cliver and the naked cannibal bloke fight it out on a clifftop. Also provoking laughs is a scene when Cliver's sidekick has a sudden 'Nam flashback that has no business in this film at all. But brief moments of so-bad-it's-good hilarity aren't enough to commend it.


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