Ursula Buchfellner goes through hell in Jess Franco's cannibal horror also starring Al Cliver and Antonio Mayans. Severin R0 DVD.
The cannibal genre had been a minor component of European cinema during the 1970s, but Ruggero Deodato's shocking Cannibal Holocaust (1979) made it a hot property and French exploitation producers Eurociné quickly commissioned a trio of cash-in films, the first of which was Devil Hunter.
Popular young actress Laura Crawford (Ursula Buchfellner) is kidnapped from her hotel room by a gang of criminals. They take her to a remote island where they await her producer and his six million dollar ransom. The producer contacts his friend Peter Weston (Al Cliver) who brings the money to the island, but when the gang try to kill him during the exchange, Laura flees into the jungle and Weston's helicopter is destroyed. As the gang try and get both the money and the girl, Weston sets out on a rescue mission hoping to save her and hang on to the money - however the island is also inhabited by a native tribe who like to sacrifice young women to their "God"...
As far as plot goes, Devil Hunter is easily summarised in less than a paragraph. An incredibly basic kidnapping storyline brings all of the characters to this random island where there happens to be a deadly tribe. We never find out where in the world they are nor do we find out any more about the response to the kidnapping than Laura's producer telling Peter to go and get her back. Accordingly the film runs very slowly as it desperately stretches this plot out to 90 minutes - but there is never any effort to create characters in the long gaps between action. We do learn that Peter's helper Jack is a Vietnam veteran but nothing ever comes of this. Equally the natives are pretty much unexplained - amusingly they seem to follow the same sacrificial practices as those in King Kong (1933), although their "God" seems rather less terrifying (posing the obvious question of why the large group of tribesmen have never tried to kill it...).
Of course, the natives in King Kong left their victims clothed, while this group like to get them undressed, felt up by the scantily clad priestesses, washed by hand in a waterfall by naked priestesses and then felt up again as part of the ceremony. All of which is evidence of the pure exploitation nature of this film - several other gratuitous nude scenes manage to work their way into the script as well as a rape scene, although this is not shown in detail. Oddly however the gore is rather less pronounced than usual in the genre - there is certainly plenty of blood, but none of the detailed anatomical gore that many of the rival Italian films boasted - the one real gore shot in the film is a post-production insert.
Director Jess Franco was not on his best form at this point and the film is directed without any real flair, but he does at last do a solid job - the opening, intercutting the kidnap of Laura with the murder of an unfortunate victim by the tribe's "God" is probably the highlight (although it goes on for a rather dreary 15 minutes). Although never really erotic, Franco does make the most of the nude scenes and includes plenty of nice long shots of his actresses (although also, rather less pleasantly, of the naked jungle "God"). Unlike many of the bigger budgeted pictures, this entry seems to have been shot entirely in Southern Spain rather than the Amazon or East Asia but fortunately Franco has chosen an area with some good looking vegitation and the natives themselves look a little more plausible than the entirely darkened up European cast of Eurociné's later Cannibal Terror (1981), he also avoids the over-use of stock footage that marred the jungle scenes in the later film. Although the music is rather generic, the film does at least have some very interesting sound effects to herald the arrival of the "God", remniscent of the Blind Dead series.
The lead role goes to the very attractive German Ursula Buchfellner, a former Playboy Playmate. Although very happy to do what was required (in this case she has to put up with an awful lot of abuse) her acting was apparently very poor so the script gives her only a few lines which helps to cover this up well. Franco would use her again in Orgy of the Nymphomaniacs (1981) and Sadomania - Hölle der Lust (1981). Franco regulars Al Cliver and Antonio Mayans put on a decent show as the rescuers.
Jess Franco has repeatedly expressed his distaste for the cannibal genre but he manages to provide a decent entry here. Marked by some very slow pacing and a thin script, but boosted by a fair helping of well directed and attractive nudity, Devil Hunter should be of interest to cannibal movie and Franco fans, but is not one for general consumption.
|Anyone famous in it?||Al Cliver - an Italian actor who also appeared in Lucio Fulci's Zombi 2 (1979)|
|Directed by anyone interesting?||Jess Franco - the biggest name in euro-cult cinema with over 180 films to his credit, from British adventure film Blood of Fu Manchu (1968) to the disturbing Sexual Story of O (1984)|
|Any gore or violence?||Several bloody death sequences but only one short gore shot.|
|Any sex or nudity?||Several lengthy female nude scenes and some male nude scenes.|
|Who is it for?||Fans of Franco and Cannibal films will probably want to see this.
|Cannibal Holocaust (1979)||Although not the first cannibal film, Ruggero Deodato's controversial picture was responsible for making the genre popular and spawning dozens of cash-ins and rip-offs.|
|Mondo cannibale (1980)||The second cannibal film that Franco helmed for Eurociné; Lina Romay and Antonio Mayans star, alongside Al Cliver as a man looking for his daughter, kidnapped by cannibals years before.|
|Cannibal Terror (1981)||Eurociné's third Cannibal film of the series practically lifts the plot from Devil Hunter and suffers from some much poorer production values.|
|Visuals||Original Aspect Ratio - 1.75:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colour
Although the print is generally good, with only a few specks of damage and some light grain, the transfer seems to be quite low quality, with some very noticable artifacting in a few scenes. A number of scenes seem to have been filtered day-for-night, but with no continuity between different scenes.
|Audio||English mono - sounds fine - it switches to Spanish for one short sequence with no subtitles.
French mono - sounds good, with no drop-out.
|Subtitles||English (translate the French).|
|Extras||The disc includes:
|Region||Region 0 (ALL) - NTSC|
|Other regions?||Previously available on low quality and cut prints in Germany and the US. Due out on an uncut DVD in the UK in 2009 from Severin, likely to include the same features and print as this disc.|
|Cuts?||Believed to be fully uncut. The print used is French language.
Was previously cut by up to 10 minutes on DVD and VHS.