Anthropophagous The Beast and the glories of the video nasties

Originally published for Liverpool Small Cinema

Thirty years ago this month the Video Recordings Act came into force, finally ending the reign and moral panic linked to the Video Nasties Scare. In total 72 films were named as potentially obscene between 1983 and 1985.

Modern audiences tend to dismiss a lot of the films that fell on the list as sub-par slashers and cheesy Euro-cannibal or zombie films. Amongst movies, like Zombie Creeping Flesh and Jess Franco’s The Devil Hunter, there are still a few that deliver some rather dubious delights.

Banned in the UK since 1983, Anthropophagous: The Beast has only this year been given an 18 certificate. Despite starting as a standard Euro-slasher the Italian B Movie escalates into a third act which features some ridiculous gut-munching violence. Its story is of a group of American tourists who, while on holiday on a Mediterranean island, find themselves stalked by a crazed cannibal eager to feast on them, and even an unborn baby.

Despite its reputation the film, which has been confused with a snuff film in the past due to its extreme violence, was actually a stab at respectability from its director. Joe D’Amato, before this 1980 effort, was known for bizarre violent mixtures of sex and violence such as Emanuelle in America and Erotic Nights of the Living Dead. Anthropophagous: The Beast was aimed to cash in on the booming craze for zombie films and the American surge in slasher movies. The result is a slow first 45 minutes, with the exception of a Jaws pastiche, followed by utterly over-the-top gore, allowing for plenty of pent up release for the audience who have been stuck on the island with the squabbling tourists.

This slow-but-steady build-up is to D’Amato’s credit, showing an uncharacteristic amount of patience in his direction, which allows for a satisfying build up, even if it wasn’t the best paced film. The scene as the killer climbs up through a roof to kill our heroine, along with the most notable couple of the shock deaths, mark this out as more than just a low-grade Italian gore-fest.

Amongst the other things to look out for is the music. Fans of unusual soundtracks will also be able to marvel at Marcello Giombini’s synth score which can stand alongside some of the best for Italian horror from the time. It mixes Greek themes, discordant rhythms and speedy synth to create something that matches the bizarre gore on the screen.

The flesh-crazed monster is played by co-writer George Eastman, while video nasties fans will spot one of the stars of Zombie Flesh Eaters, Tisa Farrow. Tisa, Mia Farrow’s sister, decided to leave acting after the film to work as a nurse.

As well as thriving off its UK notoriety elsewhere in the world the film spawned a pseudo-sequel, Absurd. This movie, heavily influenced by Halloween, again teamed up D’Amato with Eastman as a seemingly impossible to kill murderer, running around an American town, picking off whoever he can. Absurd also made it on to the video nasties list. Only in the days of European 70s and 80s exploitation would both films be considered sequels of each other. Absurd (also known as Anthropophagous 2) was retitled Zombie 6: Monster Hunter, while Anthropohagous was called Zombie 7: Grim Reaper.

D’Amato returned to more familiar ground in 1981, taking the same plot as the original film he then injected his usual amounts of sex and nudity to produce the far more sleazy Porno Holocaust.

Anthropophagous The Beast was released uncut by Video Film Promotions on VHS in February 1983 before falling foul of the video nasties scare and being banned and languishing on the list from November 1983.

The film, with its salacious cover, violence and early ‘80s slasher charm harks back to a very particular point in the video cassette’s history. This was a time of small, dingy video shops, of garage businesses grabbing whatever releases they could and freedom for the audience to pick the films they wanted without censorship.

This was a time of garish covers that promised delights that wouldn’t have been shown in cinemas. The subsequent furore led to heavier censorship in the UK through until 1999. But at the time these video nasties were like mini Pandora’s Boxes, begging people to open them. It was a point in time when film and VHS were genuinely seen as dangerous.

By extension Anthropophagous is a mix of odd nostalgia, silly ideas and brutal pay-off. Like many of the films on the video nasties list it’s best enjoyed with an audience, a drink and a knowing wink towards its reputation to deprave and corrupt.

Thirty years ago this month the Video Recordings Act came into force, finally ending the reign and moral panic linked to the Video Nasties Scare. In total 72 films were named as potentially obscene between 1983 and 1985.

Modern audiences tend to dismiss a lot of the films that fell on the list as sub-par slashers and cheesy Euro-cannibal or zombie films. Amongst movies, like Zombie Creeping Flesh and Jess Franco’s The Devil Hunter, there are still a few that deliver some rather dubious delights.

Banned in the UK since 1983, Anthropophagous: The Beast has only this year been given an 18 certificate. Despite starting as a standard Euro-slasher the Italian B Movie escalates into a third act which features some ridiculous gut-munching violence. Its story is of a group of American tourists who, while on holiday on a Mediterranean island, find themselves stalked by a crazed cannibal eager to feast on them, and even an unborn baby.

Despite its reputation the film, which has been confused with a snuff film in the past due to its extreme violence, was actually a stab at respectability from its director. Joe D’Amato, before this 1980 effort, was known for bizarre violent mixtures of sex and violence such as Emanuelle in America and Erotic Nights of the Living Dead. Anthropophagous: The Beast was aimed to cash in on the booming craze for zombie films and the American surge in slasher movies. The result is a slow first 45 minutes, with the exception of a Jaws pastiche, followed by utterly over-the-top gore, allowing for plenty of pent up release for the audience who have been stuck on the island with the squabbling tourists.

This slow-but-steady build-up is to D’Amato’s credit, showing an uncharacteristic amount of patience in his direction, which allows for a satisfying build up, even if it wasn’t the best paced film. The scene as the killer climbs up through a roof to kill our heroine, along with the most notable couple of the shock deaths, mark this out as more than just a low-grade Italian gore-fest.

Amongst the other things to look out for is the music. Fans of unusual soundtracks will also be able to marvel at Marcello Giombini’s synth score which can stand alongside some of the best for Italian horror from the time. It mixes Greek themes, discordant rhythms and speedy synth to create something that matches the bizarre gore on the screen.

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The flesh-crazed monster is played by co-writer George Eastman, while video nasties fans will spot one of the stars of Zombie Flesh Eaters, Tisa Farrow. Tisa, Mia Farrow’s sister, decided to leave acting after the film to work as a nurse.

As well as thriving off its UK notoriety elsewhere in the world the film spawned a pseudo-sequel, Absurd. This movie, heavily influenced by Halloween, again teamed up D’Amato with Eastman as a seemingly impossible to kill murderer, running around an American town, picking off whoever he can. Absurd also made it on to the video nasties list. Only in the days of European 70s and 80s exploitation would both films be considered sequels of each other. Absurd (also known as Anthropophagous 2) was retitled Zombie 6: Monster Hunter, while Anthropohagous was called Zombie 7: Grim Reaper.

D’Amato returned to more familiar ground in 1981, taking the same plot as the original film he then injected his usual amounts of sex and nudity to produce the far more sleazy Porno Holocaust.

Anthropophagous The Beast was released uncut by Video Film Promotions on VHS in February 1983 before falling foul of the video nasties scare and being banned and languishing on the list from November 1983.

The film, with its salacious cover, violence and early ‘80s slasher charm harks back to a very particular point in the video cassette’s history. This was a time of small, dingy video shops, of garage businesses grabbing whatever releases they could and freedom for the audience to pick the films they wanted without censorship.

This was a time of garish covers that promised delights that wouldn’t have been shown in cinemas. The subsequent furore led to heavier censorship in the UK through until 1999. But at the time these video nasties were like mini Pandora’s Boxes, begging people to open them. It was a point in time when film and VHS were genuinely seen as dangerous.

By extension Anthropophagous is a mix of odd nostalgia, silly ideas and brutal pay-off. Like many of the films on the video nasties list it’s best enjoyed with an audience, a drink and a knowing wink towards its reputation to deprave and corrupt.

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