(I couldn’t find a trailer, but the following clip (contains a spoiler) is the best I could get)
The Devil Hunter (AKA El Canibal) (1980)
First Released: 1981
Director: Jess Franco
Current UK Status: Passed 18 uncut
The Devil Hunter was first released in November 1981 as a pre-cut short version by Cinehollywood. The film was added to the Video Nasties list in August 1984 and remained off shelves throughout the scare. This meant that Devil Hunter became one of the collectable titles from the banned list, and proved a hard one to get hold of. In 2008 the BBFC passed the film uncut to be released as El Canibal on the Severin label. The film had its release, although kept the original title of The Devil Hunter.
Jess Franco, the Spanish Takashi Miike in that he has made over 180 films, sometimes releasing several films at the same time. You cannot mistake a Jess Franco film too, for those I have seen are littered with sordid sex scenes, often involving lesbians and dreadful European porn music. Franco’s films would often spend ten minutes filming a girl in the bath, or brushing her hair and getting undressed, lesbian scenes or even sex scenes would just go on and on and on. A Franco film with a running time of 70 minutes would be almost one fifth sex! He very quickly became a cult director, but also a very popular one for his time. He was also able to carve out his own niche and managed to become his own person and was pretty much able to direct what the Hell he wanted. Believe it or not, his journey into the world of film began at the age of six when he would compose music with his brother Enrique. After the Spanish Civil War Franco went on to study piano, became a writer and a bachelor of law until moving into arts and theatre, a workaholic so to speak! Born in 1930 he made his first feature film in 1959 called ‘We Are 18 Years Old’ and from there went from strength to strength making all sorts of movies from horror to porn. Franco would often star in his own movies as someone of importance, or a seedy character, and would add his name to the credits but would also use different names to the point of confusion. He would also have a number of movies on the go at once and actors thinking they were playing the part for one movie would see themselves in an entirely different one! Back in those days things were a lot simpler and no one complained. Franco was an influence to filmmakers all over Europe and even some American directors, and Franco did not stop at just directing, he would also write, compose and edit his own films, as well as be the cinematographer. Franco continues to lead a busy schedule, even today with his last film being released in 2008 called A Bad Day at the Cemetary. Many of his films never see the light of day in the UK, however you may know some of his most famous works, 99 Women, Vampiros Lesbos, The Erotic Rites of Frankenstein and Bloody Moon (also added to the Video Nasties list)
The Devil Hunter is vintage Franco, even if you didn’t know he directed this, if you know of Franco then you would instantly recognise this as his film. Like pretty much all of his films, The Devil Hunter is littered with plenty of nudity, awful music, terrible editing and long, drawn out scenes that have no need to be so freaking long. This is Franco’s twist of the Cannibal genre, and while the Italian’s made their cannibal films with class and clarity, Franco turns his into an excuse to film naked ladies, and have a Cannibal ‘Devil’ God waltz around the set with all his bits hanging out. There is very little violence here, and when it does happen, it is tame and the effects are so crap that the bloodshed is laughable rather than upsetting. Blood looks painfully like primary school red paint, while other moments of violence usually take place off screen. I would imagine it wasn’t the violence that got this film banned, so it must have either been the nudity, or the simple fact that this is supposed to be a cannibal film.
Anyway, the film begins with gorgeous actress Laura Crawford (Ursula Buchfellner) parading herself as she arrives in South America. Clearly a mega star since there are all of six people lining the streets to see her, she arrives at her hotel with the press quickly asking her questions. “What are your thoughts on men?” says one reporter, “I have no opinion of men, I just love them!” comes the reply. If you needed any proof that this was a Franco film, then there it is. While she prances around, the scene is intercut with another scene showing tribal men chasing a naked women through the jungle, and it would seem the tribesmen are wanting to offer this woman as a sacrifice to some ‘Devil’ God who lurks in the jungle. We will now spend a good fifteen minutes building up to the Devil God’s arrival, and it is painful. He makes weird noises (these were recorded in an echo chamber) and makes it sound like he is in a cave when in fact he is not. We cut to shots of the naked woman, then of a totem pole with big bug eyes, then to Laura in the bath, then some bizarre POV shots from the Devil thingy, then it loops all over again, for fifteen fucking minutes! The Devil is played by a hulking, eight foot tall back man, complete with bug eye makeup and false, silly teeth. In all fairness, the sheer insanity of his appearance is quite unsettling. Anyway, as he begins eating the woman sacrifice (hard to make out exactly what he is eating due to really bad lighting), Laura is kidnapped and held for ransom by a gang of criminals. Peter Weston and his ex-Vietnam soldier pal are hired to get the girl back.
That’s the set up, and the film now drags on and on and on as Peter’s attempt to get the girl go wrong, and they end up trekking through the jungle to find her. Laura has run off, and the criminals are also trying to get her back, but sadly the local tribe has found her and want to offer he as a sacrifice to the bug eyed Devil man. In all fairness, this film could have been over in an hour, but Franco painfully drags out every scene for as long as possible, and spends a good majority of the film shooting naked tribe women, or showing Laura being fondled, covered in flowers or bathed by the women of the tribe as they prepare her for Devil man. Franco, for some reason, favours close ups of women’s private parts too, a clear indication of the guys sleaziness and at times it actually becomes a little uncomfortable as there is no need for it. It doesn’t add to the story, but hey, this is Jess Franco and he loves shooting naked women. To be fair, Buchfellner is very pleasing on the eye!
The acting here is dreadful (why expect anything else) and the dubbing is awful, but the script does not help this at all: “Damn it, damn it, damn it!!” bellows one of the criminals as he begins to suffer some sort of trauma from being in the jungle. “What’s wrong Chris?” asks the female kidnapper, “that’s my business, you bitch!!” is his reply. Or later on: “what strange footprints, who could they be? They hardly look human”, and the guy looks genuinely confused, but hey, you are in a jungle mate, it’s probably one of the local wildlife’s footprints! Franco also bizarrely has a dig at Vietnam as one of the rescuers is an ex-soldier. He panics once in the jungle and freaks out: “I’m sorry Peter, I just can’t get it out of my mind! I was the only one who survived. I will take a pill, calm myself down” Utterly, utterly bonkers scripting, and if you don’t laugh at it then, my friend, you will struggle with the rest of the badness on offer. See, to enjoy a Franco film you must leave any expectations of a quality film elsewhere. You have to expect the worst film possible, and that way you might find something to enjoy about it. If you can find your sense of humour and treat this as bordering on a comedy, then Devil Hunter will provide tons of laughs. Apart from the usual Franco nudity, there is very little here to really disgust, and the film being added to the Video Nasties list is as bonkers as the film itself.
If you don’t find things like a grown man screaming like a girl because some of that red paint supposed to be blood stuff has fallen on his face funny, or even giggle when a decapitated head proceeds to fall from a tree and hit him in the head while he is screaming, then you will not enjoy this at all. If you are not interested in seeing women with no clothes on, then you will not enjoy this. If you are not interested in seeing quite possibly one of the worst climax punch ups ever put to film, then dear reader, best you steer clear of this one! The Devil Hunter is absolute crap, from beginning to end, and that is just how Jess Franco likes it. The film is terribly paced, the action scenes horrendously shot, and the acting and script absolute rubbish. Franco spends more time filming women’s private parts than he does actually concentrating on what he is supposed to be doing, which makes Devil Hunter one of the worst, but strangely enjoyable films so far on the Video Nasties list. This really is utter shite, but for fans of Franco’s work, this is a must.
Should The Devil Hunter have been added to the Video Nasties list? For violence, no not at all. However, this film would be better suited to one of those adult video stores, and I suppose the amount of genitalia on show is enough to offend anyone not expecting it, so maybe the film should have just been certified as a tame porno instead?