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    Ian Jane
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  • Cannibal Girls (Blu-ray)


    Released by: Films We Like
    Released on: 10/26/2010
    Director: Ivan Reitman
    Cast: Eugene Levy, Andrea Martin, Ronald Ulrich, Bonnie Neilson
    Year: 1973

    The Movie:

    There are those of us who grew up in Ontario in the eighties who saw Cannibal Girls at just the right time for it to make a strong impression on our fragile young minds. Directed by a young Ivan Reitman in 1972, long before Ghostbusters and Twins put him at the top of the Hollywood ladder, the movie was frequently shown uncut, boobs and blood fully intact, late at night on Toronto's CityTV channel. While it seems fairly tame, is still surprisingly sleazy, by modern standards, back then it was akin to witnessing some sort of taboo being smashed right before your very eyes.

    The movie follows a young couple, Cliff Sturges (Eugene Levy) and Gloria Wellaby (Andrea Martin), who decide to take a vacation in the small town of Farnhamville (which was actually Richmond Hill, just outside of Toronto). Unfortunately for them, they run into some car trouble along the way and while the local mechanic will fix their ride for them, it's going to take a few days. They decide to make the most of it, however, and hole up in a small hotel where the woman behind the counter, Mrs. Wainwright (May Jarvis), tells them a local folk story. It seems that years back a trio of beautiful young women who lived in a quaint farmhouse on the outskirts of town. These foxy young ladies would use their feminine wiles to lure unsuspecting men back to the house where they'd promptly eat them. These days, however, the house has become a bit of a tourist attraction as it's since been turned into a fancy restaurant.

    Without much else to do in the small town, Cliff and Gloria decide to make the most of their understandable curiosity and have dinner at the restaurant. They show up and soon realize they're the only diners there and are promptly greeted by one Reverend Alex St. John (Ronald Ulrich) who regales them with stories of his own bizarre family tree and the history of the strange house. Once three beautiful young women (Randall Carpenter, Bonnie Neilson and Mira Pawluk) show up on the scene to help the Reverend out, however, things take a turn for the macabre. It seems that these girls are under the bizarre reverend's control and that he's got his eyes set on Gloria next, whether Cliff likes it or not.

    If you've ever wondered what it would have been like if H.G. Lewis made a movie in a small Canadian town, Cannibal Girls holds the answer. Featuring a lurid add campaign ("These girls do exactly what you think they do!") and distributed theatrically by American International Pictures, the film did quite well during its run only to then languish in obscurity, relegated to occasional Canadian TV airings until it was released briefly on VHS by CIC. Despite the prominence of Eugene Levy (here looking very much like one of the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers) and Andrea Martin when SCTV took off, the film has remained a tough one to track down.

    Performance wise, Levy and Martin are fine in their respective roles. Their largely improvised dialogue is often times quite funny and a few running jokes, one of which involves Levy always sporting some sort of inappropriate clothing or accessory whenever it's time to make out, add some humor to the film. A fine, stilted supporting performance from Mary Jarvis is amusing and Bob McHeady makes for a great, surly small town sheriff not too keen on strangers. The real star of the show, however, is Ulrich as the good Reverend Alex St. John. He plays his role with some great theatrical menace and has a strange perverted vibe to him whenever he's around the three girls. As to the cannibal girls themselves? They're fun to look at and frequently undressed, and some of their kill scenes are surprisingly well done and a fair bit bloodier than you might expect. They don't have a whole lot of acting to do, but it is a little creepy when throughout the film, in unison, they chant 'Within me and without me, I honor this blood which gives me life.' Hilarious House Of Frightenstein devotees will appreciate seeing the instantly recognizable Fishka Rais show up as a butcher here (for some reason he's credited as Kingfish).

    The film isn't strong on story and a dream sequence plot device used in the later part of the film will definitely feel like a cheap shot to some viewers, but the picture holds up well. Not only is it amusing to see a few would be stars before they were famous trudging through the low budget depths of Canadian exploitation cinema but the movie is a good mix of black comedy and quirky small town atmosphere. It isn't particularly scary, though the gore is plentiful, nor is it all that suspenseful but it is definitely entertaining. For those of us who saw it at the right time growing up, it still has an eerie vibe to it, no matter how amateurish and unpolished it might be.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    The film is presented in its original 1.85.1 aspect ratio in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer that offers a slight but noticeable improvement over the American standard definition release. Clarity is better and the grain more natural thanks to the considerably higher bit rate. There are no problems with compression artifacts to complain about but print damage of the mild variety is a constant throughout. That said, given the age, obscurity and low budget of this production, it really does look quite good in high definition - at least by the standards of low budget 70s Canuxploitation.

    Films We Like's Blu-ray release gives you the option of watching the film in its standard English language Dolby TrueHD 1.0 Mono sound mix, or with the added bonus of the 'warning bell' option. When the film played theatrically in certain territories audiences would be warned by a loud noise before anything of an especially erotic or grotesque nature were to occur so that they could cover their eyes. Having this option included here is definitely a cool bonus. Regardless of which option you go for, the audio quality is about what you'd expect. It's a little on the flat side but there are no problems with clarity and the levels are well balanced. The score sounds good as do the effects and any hiss that creeps in is minor. There are no alternate language tracks or subtitles offered.

    There are two primary featurettes here, the first of which is a length interview with Ivan Reitman and Daniel Goldberg that covers the early days of their career, putting this project together, selling it to AIP (apparently Arkoff told Reitman that the movie was so bad that it might just make some money!), and working with the various cast members who show up in the film. It's a warm, funny and surprisingly affectionate interview, as is the follow up piece, Meat Eugene, in which Levy is interviewed in a butcher shop about his work on the picture. Here he discusses his days at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario where he first met Reitman and what it was like working on this low budget feature with would be SCTV co-star Andrea Martin.

    Also included on this release is Orientation, a twenty-two minute short film that Reitman made in film school with some help from Goldberg. It's an interesting, though not particularly good, spoof on the typical student film done in a faux-documentary style. This isn't something you're going to want to watch over and over again but it's certainly got some historical significance and is interesting to see here in a grainy, fullframe presentation.

    Aside from that, there's the aforementioned warning bell audio track, the film's original theatrical trailer (in anamorphic widescreen), a TV spot, two radio spots, animated menus and chapter selection.

    The Final Word:

    Despite its many and obvious flaws, Cannibal Girls is a pretty entertaining and enjoyably sleazy drive-in oddity with some solid atmosphere, and fun cast, and a few standout performances. Films We Like's Blu-ray release is a good one, sporting a nice transfer and some fine extras and fans of the film will be happy to finally own it in as nice a presentation as its been given here and fans of low budget seventies oddities ought to eat this one right up. Currently the film is available on Blu-ray in Canada only, though a standard definition DVD is available (missing the Reitman short film) from Shout! Factory in the United States.

    Click the images below for full size screen caps!


















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