In the United Kingdom, Antropophagus was added to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) list of 72 video nasties. Antropophagus was one of 39 films successfully prosecuted.
Directed by Joe D’Amato.
AKA Anthropophagous: The Beast, The Savage Island, The Grim Reaper, The Zombie’s Rage
Written by George Eastman and Joe D’Amato.
Starring Tisa Farrow, Saverio Vallone and Serena Grandi.
Directed by Joe D’Amato, co-written by Joe D’Amato and George Eastman, and starring George Eastman, Antropophagus (1980) is an Italian horror film notorious in the United Kingdom for being described as a snuff film.
Antropophagus was retitled and released in the United Kingdom in 1980 as Anthropophagous: The Beast by distributor VFP. VFP opted to release an uncut print of the film on VHS which eventually caught the attention of the media, resulting in the title being added onto the Department of Public Prosecutions (DDP) list of “Video Nasties”. Falsely described as a snuff film due to a (now infamous) fetus-eating scene (a story which was featured in the tabloid press and on BBC News), Antropophagus was successfully prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act in 1984.
Antropophagus was also released theatrically in America as the English dubbed and heavily edited (R-rated) The Grim Reaper, from distribution company Film Ventures International in 1980. It was this pre-cut version that was eventually passed for distribution in the UK retaining The Grim Reaper title.
In it’s uncut format Antropophagus deserves it’s notoriety. When a group of six (mostly coupled) tourists (including Tisa Farrow) find themselves stranded on a seemingly uninhabited Greek island they have no choice but to take refuge at the nearest village. It is here that they come across a young, terrified blind girl (Margaret Mazzantini, credited as Margaret Donnelly) who can provide no clear answers; just that a man stalks the island, and the only reason she has survived thus far is because she can sense his approach…due to the distinct smell of blood and rot.
When certain members of the group begin to disappear the remaining few become convinced that they are being stalked by someone. In order to find a means to leave the island, and discover the truth behind the disappearances, the group begin to search the village and instead discover a diary…
The diary reveals the story of Nikos Karamanlis (George Eastman), a man who was shipwrecked with his wife and child in the Mediterranean sea. In order to survive Nikos was forced to kill and eat his now dead family. This cannibalistic act drove Nikos insane and once his life raft finally reached shore the taste for human flesh had consumed him, leading him to devour almost every inhabitant on the island he stumbled upon. The disfigured cannibalistic killer was no longer Nikos Karamanlis… He was now the ‘Anthropophagus Beast’ and this is his island! With no means of escape the survivors have no choice but to evade, or ultimately confront this once-normal but now hideous terror!
Antropophagus is exploitative cinema at it’s most disgusting and at it’s most depraved, containing two of the most notorious scenes in the annuals of Italian cinema. Unfortunately Antropophagus can also be difficult to sit through. This is a very slow-moving affair, with much of the action not happening until the final third of the film. Joe D’Amato (born Aristede Massaccesi) attempts to build tension to create a slow-burning horror, much like those produced in the 1950’s by Hammer Film Productions. Unfortunately Antropophagus can become tedious, and dare I say boring at times. There is also very little gore in Antropophagus, although when it does arrive it is very extreme.
D’Amato’s strength clearly lies with the atmosphere that extrudes from the screen. It is visually striking work that separates Antropophagus from other horror films produced within the same time period. George Eastman is also a force to be reckoned with as the ‘Anthropophagus Beast’. Eastman portrays the ‘Man-Eater’ with a silent intensity that is both intimidating and terrifying. Joe D’Amato would later collaborate with George Eastman again to follow up Antropophagus with a pseudo-sequel known as Absurd in 1980.
Anthropophagus could be a difficult film to recommend to genre fanatics as it can become difficult to watch due to it’s slow tedious pace. Not everyone will appreciate watching a group of tourists run around an island doing absolutely nothing for 60 minutes of the 90 minute running time. The extreme, unpleasant nature of the violence during the final act however is more than worth the price of admission alone. For the curious I highly recommend Anthropophagus. Joe D’Amato and George Eastman have created an atmospheric exploitation slasher that will punch you in the stomach just before the end title, leaving you breathless.