Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Cannibal Man

The Cannibal Man (La semana del asesino)
Directed by Eloy de la Iglesia, starring Vicente Parra, Emma Cohen, Eusebio Poncela, Charly Bravo (1973)

- Reviewed by Richard Glenn Schmidt

Tagline: “When the butcher goes berserk…”

The Cannibal Man opens with slaughterhouse footage which is –oh, how can I put this- agonizing to sit through. Onscreen animal violence is one of my least favorite things from the world of 1970s cult cinema so I’ve been avoiding this film for many years. However, I’m a meat eater and sometimes I’m not a total hypocrite, so I’ll get off my high horse and give this film a pass on the animal killing. At least I finally learned where hamburgers come from!

The film stars Vicente Parra as Marcos, a lowly slaughterhouse worker at a meat processing plant who vaguely masturbates in his free time while his rich gay neighbor Néstor (Eusebio Poncela) living in a high rise apartment spies on him through his skylight. The dizzyingly cute Emma Cohen plays Paula, Marcos’s girlfriend and I suddenly don’t understand why this isn’t a sex comedy. Clearly, Marcos has no problems until one night when he accidentally kills an uptight cab driver.

Bleccch, why didn't you floss after you scarfed that gyro?

Paula tries to appeal to his conscience but Marcos doesn’t want to go to the cops. He has a chip on his shoulder a mile wide about being poor and he just knows the cops won’t believe his story of self-defense. When she decides to break up with him over the whole manslaughter situation, he strangles Paula to death and hides her under the bed. Now he’s a criminal mastermind!

Marcos’s brother Esteban (Charly Bravo) shows up and he confides in him about what he’s done. Esteban wants him to go to the cops too? Thanks for having my back, brosef! Instead of taking his sensible brotherly advice, Marcos bludgeons Esteban to death with a wrench. Now his brother’s fiancée Carmen (Lola Herrera) shows up and yep, you guessed it, he kills her too. At this point, I completely side with Marcos. Buncha damn busybodies be makin’ shit hard on this totally relatable dude!

how many licks does it take to get to the center? The world will never know!

Now Néstor wants to hang out with Marcos in the middle of the night so that he can awkwardly flirt with the clueless duder. They go for a walk and end up at a café together. Néstor, the walking thesaurus, keeps using highfalutin language that’s probably going to get him killed. They get harassed by some cops but once they hear that Néstor lives in the fancy high rise apartment, they change their tune and move along.

And this is different from our wedding night, how?!

Now Carmen’s father shows up wondering where his daughter is. He demands to see her and Esteban but he ends up finding their corpses and the business end of Marcos’s meat cleaver instead. Marcos gets the idea to start disposing of the bodies a piece at a time by shoveling them into the meat processing machine at the slaughterhouse.

Because Marcos is so sexy and so irresistible, Rosa (Vicky Lagos) the waitress at the local cafe wants him pretty bad. She makes him breakfast and then “accidentally” spills milk on his pants just so that she can help him rub one off- oops, I mean rub it off. This chick is so horny that I’m surprised she didn’t burst into flames during this scene. Now Néstor returns for some more homoerotic tension because that should settle things right down. No wait, what’s this? Some “nightswimming” with his gay pal actually makes Marcos smile! Ohhhhh!

   Is that milk on your pants or are you just happy to see me?

Thanks to a promotion at work, Marcos gets harassed by his former coworkers in the street. Wait a minute. He hasn’t killed anyone in like 20 minutes and these guys actually kind of deserve to get slaughtered. What gives? Hilarity ensues at the café when Rosa serves him soup made with meat from his work. Knowing that there’s a chance that his former girlfriend he’s chopped up is likely in the broth, Marcos gets a little green around the gills.

Later, Rosa comes over and they get it on. Her post coital reverie is short lived because she starts to suspect that Marcos has corpses rotting away in the tiny craphole he calls home. So bashes her dang head in. It isn’t long before the stench is too strong even for Marcos to put up with and he just sits pathetically outside his place. Néstor comes to the rescue and invites the poor schlub back to his place.

back off bitch that's for my glaucoma! 

While speaking metaphorically to Marcos, Néstor nearly gets himself killed. He survives by dumb luck, having no idea just how much danger he’s in, and accidentally convinces the guy to turn himself in to the police. The film ends how it began with Néstor watching Marcos longingly through his binoculars while the police are presumably on their way. My dreams of steamy gay lovemaking were never realized but at least Néstor didn’t end up on the pile of bodies!

Whoops, I took the face loaf out before the ding

This odd and subversive little satire was disguised and marketed as a cannibal horror film which is hardly surprising because films like this don’t just pop up out of nowhere. Getting funding for something this strange is much easier when you can push it on the drive-in crowd with some salacious advertising. Atlas International Film, the distributors of The Cannibal Man, were responsible for bringing the public such arthouse classics as Tombs of the Blind Dead and Mark of the Devil. While director and writer Eloy de la Iglesia is about as subtle as a hand grenade with the film’s themes, he definitely packs a lot of violence and macabre thrills in to keep things from getting too pretentious. Co-screenwriter Antonio Fos is no stranger to grimy, tense, paranoid, and very sweaty films. I highly recommend you check out he and de la Iglesia’s other collaboration, The Glass Ceiling (1971).

An overhead shot makes the modern setting of Madrid look eerily desolate like somewhere in Egypt. Marcos’s dingy shack looks like it was made out of leftover parts and it’s one of the few remaining shanties surrounded by nice new apartments that someone earning his wages could never even dream of moving into. This disparity of wealth distribution is just a small clue of the director’s intentions. The horrors of modern life, class struggle, rampant homophobia, the Franco regime, and probably even the meatpacking industry are all put on trial here.

It’s especially telling when Néstor claims that he wants to help poor Marcos. Even though he has literally no clue what’s really going on in his life, this upper class dingbat wants to save the day. It’s also entirely possible that Néstor just wants to get into Marcos’s pants but hey, what can you do? Talk about exploiting the proletariat! But in the end, he’s back up in his tower looking down on the little poor people below, ineffectual as always. Néstor is a positive character despite all this (I mean, when he’s not scoping out young boys playing soccer with his binoculars) in that his presence in Marcos’s life causes a not at all vague homosexual awakening that ends the killing spree.

I’ve got something else you can put in your mouth.

My only complaint about The Cannibal Man is that it takes a little too long to wrap up. There’s a montage of Marcos walking through the city streets that feels completely tacked on. Other than that, I was really glad I finally got around to this film. I love the English dubbing but based on what I’ve seen of the original Spanish track, it takes some of the seriousness off the proceedings. Exploitation maestro Dick Randall handled the dubbed version and kinda botched it though I’ve seen much worse. The minimal and haunting score by Fernando García Morcillo (Night of the Sorcerers, The Witches Mountain) is fucking fantastic. Whenever there’s about to be some creepy badness, this weird backwards glockenspiel sound happens and it’s just chilling. The music when Marcos and Néstor go swimming together is the most effective piece in the film. It’s sweetly tragic melody makes me want to swim with Néstor too!




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