If you can appreciate prolific Spanish exploitation director Jesús Franco’s unique cinematic vision, Cannibals is a really fun and satisfying watch
The population of Jess Franco titles in my collection has grown into a healthy (though by no means definitive) 31 movies — including three films I still have not been able get through. But, unlike a lot of critics and horror enthusiasts, I am not going to let those less appealing movies take anything away from the GREAT movies I have of his.
Tops is still Virgin Among the Living Dead. Female Vampire is sexier, but Virgin Among the Living Dead is more hallucinatory than sexy, and has more artistic depth. Anyway, I’ll save those two for another day.
Cannibals (also known as Mondo Cannibale / Cannibal World, Die Blonde Gottin (The Blonde Goddess), White Cannibal Queen, A Woman for the Cannibals and Barbarian Goddess) is a 1980 cannibal film by Franco which starred a 17-year-old Sabrina Siani. It is one of two cannibal films directed by Franco starring Al Cliver, the other being Devil Hunter (aka Man Hunter, aka Sexo Canibal).
I fucking HATED Cannibals the first time I saw it. But that was before I really began to develop an appreciation for Franco’s cinematic dream-world.
His dreams are in a different cinematic language. It’s a language that he created himself, and only he speaks it. Good or bad, Franco movies are pure magic. Weak, embarrassingly clueless, and horribly (but hilariously) dubbed, CANNIBALS takes us into the jungle of his dream-world. Visually, it’s a gorgeous place, and like the other films of his that I’ve seen, there is a psychedelic, antiquated, yet still undefinable haze.
There is a stick-figure of a story: a guy and his family are attacked by cannibals on their vacation boat. These cannibals are amazing. Not only can you see the white briefs under their “primitive” loincloths, but they all have great haircuts, and sport face paint from all the colors of a rainbow. I love Jess Franco. Nobody can make “I don’t give a fuck about reason or reality” like he does.
So, the cannibals attack mommy and eat her alive. There’s some decent gore, and as they attack her they smear their makeup all over her face, streaking her cheeks and nose blue and red. Daddy tries to be the hero, but ends up losing an arm, and the cannibals find their little daughter in a river, nowhere near the boat that we never saw her leave or get taken from. I love Jess Franco.
Daddy, played by Al Cliver (Euro-horror fans have seen him numerous times), makes it out of the green campfire (get it?) alive but with amnesia. Ok, now we have blank-faced Al in the hospital trying to hide his left arm (because it was eaten off, remember), with concerned nurse Lina Romay by his side. I. Love. Jess. Franco. He puts Lina in everything, and with good reason. She’s one of the most beautiful actresses who ever lived.
After some drama and a cameo by Jess, whose dub voice must be heard to be believed, Al remembers everything. He assembles a crack team of explorers who know nothing about gardens behind vacation resorts . . . err . . . the jungle, and the intricately-painted cannibals hunt them down and kill them one by one. I got seriously pissed when they killed Lina.
Of course they take Al as a prisoner. And of course, all these years later, his blonde, nude, grown-up daughter has become the White Cannibal Queen of their tribe, even though they declare “death to the white invaders” several times during the movie.
Al tries to get her to remember him. She does. Yet she doesn’t. She understands the English language perfectly, though she hasn’t heard it since she was a little girl. She frees him, and he tries to take her with him as he escapes. She doesn’t want to go, so he leaves her no choice and takes her by force. Prick. There is an epic battle with the tribe master warrior, then she decides she wants to go with Al after all.
This is so much fun. How can a movie be so dull yet be so much fun?
I guess you need to understand the Franco visual dream-world. And be very forgiving. And love groovy jungle music. People who dump on Jess Franco take their cinema way too seriously, and the power of escapism not seriously enough.