The New, Original Anthropophagous From 88 Films (DVD/ Blu-Ray Comparison)


And we have another new blu-ray release from 88 Films, this time it's Joe D'Amato's most successful horror flick, spelled here as Anthropophagous. I also have this on DVD, where it's spelled Antropophagus, but the most common spelling seems to meet those two in the middle with Anthropophagus. However the heck you're supposed to spell it, the word apparently means cannibal, which is certainly fitting for this nutty film.
But this isn't your typical Italian "cannibal film" about a native jungle tribe... This is actually set in a very interesting little Greek island town. A couple of young tourists, including Tisa Farrow, sail over for a short vacation, only to find the entire town abandoned. Eventually they do find one or two inhabitants, or more accurately survivors, who seem to have gone a bit funny since of their locals, George Eastman, has turned into a completely insane and even somewhat monstrous killer. The film can be a bit flat and plodding, with a lot of these bland vacationers wandering around empty locations, but Eastman's character has a perfect, memorably horrible look. And when the film finally does come around to its shock sequences, they're rather effective and a couple are particularly over the top, giving this film a nice touch of infamy. It's one of those movies where people who've seen it probably won't remember it too well, but they'll be like, "was this the film where ____ happened?" And oh yes, it's that movie. Those few moments are certainly etched into the memories of everyone who's seen it and they're really what everybody who's interested in this release are here for. And at least there's some interesting scenery during all that time in between.
So, interestingly, this new blu-ray is a webstore exclusive from 88 Films, meaning you can only order it directly from their website. That's pretty curious, especially for being one of the better known, and again infamous, Italian horrors, and this being its worldwide HD debut (though they have a DVD edition available as well). But I wouldn't be at all surprised if title winds up in stores at an eventual later date in a second pressing. But for now, it's an exclusive. And a lot of people are naturally comparing it to Shriek Show's previous release of the film; but that's not the one I've got. I used to have an old German DVD from Astro that was taken from a VHS source, but when I upgraded from that, instead of picking up Shriek Show's cropped 1.78:1 DVD, I imported the Italian 2-disc DVD from Beat Records. It's a two disc set with some extras, which I'll get into, and kept the film more open at 1.66:1. It's debatable which of the two DVDs is better, but the real question is how it stacks up to this new blu. Some early reviews have been a little tough on 88 this time around, so let's see.
Beat Records DVD on top; 88 Films blu on bottom.
So 88 has kept the more open, 1.66 ratio, with both discs being slightly pillar-boxed. Despite having the same ratio, however, we see there's actually a little more picture on blu on the top and right sides, and maybe a sliver less along the bottom. Overall, I think we get a little more and the framing is marginally improved. The colors are kind of flat, and maybe a bit green. I could certainly imagine some viewers preferring deeper blacks and a higher contrast in general, but at least this look gives the film in a very natural, untampered with feel, with more genuinely film-like grain.
DVD on the left; blu-ray on the right.
And there's not a wealth of additional detail or anything here. It might strike viewers as a little underwhelming, and perhaps that's why this film was given the limited release. But getting in close, we see maybe not new information, but what is there isn't nearly so splotchy and messy as the grungy DVD. It's definitely a crisper, cleaner image, looking much smarter in dual-layered HD. This may not be one for the showroom floor, but it's definitely an upgrade over what came before it.

This film also has both the original mono English audio and the Italian mono audio with optional English subs. Unlike Zombie Holocaust, that's not so new - both Shriek Show and Beat Records' DVDs already had both options. But it's still the best way to present the film (especially since both tracks have different music, so be sure to dip into both) and good to know that's how it is here.I should note that the opening scene with the German tourists is not subtitled or dubbed into English on 88's blu. Beat's DVD subtitles the second half of the scene, after they sit down on the rocks, but not the first half as they walk down the beach.
Now, labels have always had a hard time coming up with extras for Anthropophagus. Shriek Show just had an interview with Eastman and a general featurette on D'Amato's career, and that's pretty much the best anyone's achieved. The DVD I've got comes close to tying them, however. It its own Eastman interview, which is pretty fun; and a 12 minute D'Amato featurette, including a brief on-set interview where he's working on a film called The Monk. And since Beat Records is also a record label, there's a feature called "Best Of," which is a collection of music tracks from D'Amato soundtracks. Those are the main things, though there's also a useless photo gallery which just consists of stills from the film, but framed in a small, distorted "TV screen" image making the whole endeavor completely pointless, a text-only filmography and trivia, and the trailer. Oh, and it has a nice double insert with some cool poster images.

And 88? Well, I think this is another one of the reasons they've been getting flack on this disc. There are practically no extras directly pertaining to the film at hand. There is, however, one big extra, which is pretty cool... it's just very indirectly related to Anthropophagus. It's called 42nd Street: The Rise and Fall of America's Most Notorious Block. They don't even mention Anthropophagus as one of the countless films that potentially played on 42nd St, so there's really no direct connection at all. So it's not a topic I was particularly keen on, and it doesn't connect to the film we just bought, but it is a feature length film and they interview a heck of a lot of interesting people, including: William Lustig, Joe Dante, Lloyd Kaufman, Roy Frumkes - who also came up in my post about 88 Film's Zombie Holocaust, Frank Henenlotter. Lynn Lowry, Larry Cohen and a bunch more. I would've preferred to hear these guys talk about their films than the street, but it's still worth the watch. Besides that, there's just a couple trailers (including a bonus trailer for Zombie Holocaust, which is unskippable at start-up), an alternate set of opening credits in Italian, four neat little postcards with different poster art, some cool reversible art, and a neat slipcover.
For some, the 42nd St. doc may be more of a draw than for others. Heck, I could see some people buying this release just to see that. But for Anthropophagus fans, it's a little disappointing not to have any extras on here about the actual film. And while the transfer won't get anybody excited, it's still the best this movie's ever looked. If early criticisms had anybody worried about this being a cheap upconvert or anything, let me lay those fears to rest. If you have other DVDs in your collection you're looking to replace with blus, you might prioritize those higher; but this is still a genuine upgrade and a fully respectable, if not reference quality, blu-ray edition of a movie that's not likely to see a fancier restoration anytime soon.

4 comments:

  1. Could you please let us know if these discs are region free in your reviews???? Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, region coding is such a pain, I usually try not to even think about it. haha Region free and no looking back. But since you asked on this post, I can tell you 88's Anthropophagus blu is region B.

      Delete
    2. You should add a "handy little guide to getting yourself a region-free blu ray player" section to this site.

      Delete
    3. Ha! That's actually a good idea. I think I will add something like that...

      Delete