The Cannibal Man - the 1972 psychological thriller from iconic Spanish filmmaker Eloy de la Iglesia that is best known for its gory death scenes. When slaughterhouse worker Marcos kills a man in self-defense the bodies begin piling up as he attempts to hide the evidence and battle his inner demons. Starring Vicente Parra and Eusebio Poncela this brooding genre outing is an intelligent examination of class disparity. Severin Films brings the bloody film to Blu-ray with an impressive A/V package, two cuts of the feature, and compelling interview featurettes to chomp into. Highly Recommended.
“The police will listen to the rich only.”
The Cannibal Man follows the slow descent into madness of slaughterhouse worker Marcos (Vicente Parra, No One Heard the Scream). After accidentally killing a cab driver in self-defense his girlfriend Paula (Emma Cohen, Horror Rises from the Tomb) tries to persuade him to call the police. Marcos knows that as a poor man he’ll never get treated fairly by the police and chooses to strangle Paula instead. Covering up two murders is taking its toll on the blue-collar worker and soon people start asking questions. The bodies begin piling up in his ramshackle house as his downward spiral continues. When the slaughterhouse installs a new meat grinding machine he makes a plan to dispose of the bodies.
The sweltering summer heat and the smell of rotting bodies begin to take their toll leaving the killer outside seeking relief. Marcos befriends a wealthy gay neighbor named Nestor (Eusebio Poncela, Intacto) who lives in the luxury high rise nearby. Offering friendship Nestor becomes a kindred spirit who shares his disdain for class division and the authoritarian regime. Sexual tension arises as the two men spend the evenings together allowing Marcos some needed relief for the horrors behind his bedroom door. When Nestor reveals his high-rise apartment offers a clear view into the skylight of Marcos’ home their friendship takes a turn.
More of a psychological thriller with bouts of gore, The Cannibal Man is an entertaining examination of one man’s descent into madness. Fueled by class disparity, grief, and his rut of a slaughterhouse job, Marcos represents the lower classes struggling to bear the weight of an oppressive society in 1960’s Spain under the Franco regime. It isn’t schlocky or mean-spirited and should be taken seriously as a genre film with political undercurrents dealing with upward mobility, homosexuality, and the societal pressures of living under an oppressive religious environment.
Though not as terrifying as Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, The Cannibal Man feels like a brilliant case study that tackles more levels than just sheer killer instinct driven by madness. The Spanish title of the film translates to The Week of the Killer which is a fitting title given that there isn’t any cannibalism portrayed aside from a single line of suggestive dialogue. Performances are subtle yet magnetic. Vicente Parra carries the raw scenes with ease allowing the emotional tides to flow across Marcos’ brow from dealing with a flirty waitress to hacking up his girlfriend’s father. Eusebio Poncela’s intense gaze and quiet confidence allow the restrained Nestor to become a fascinating character rather than a cardboard stereotype. Emma Cohen, Vicy Lagos, and Charly Bravo provide great supporting performances here further elevating the tense thriller beyond genre trappings.
Director Eloy de la Iglesia’s film employs political and social criticism with an emphasis on homosexual identity. Gay neighbor Nestor is allowed to be gay and skirt small offenses like forgetting his ID when the cops come by because he is rich. Marcos on the other hand can’t afford to marry, change jobs, move upward in life so naturally, he is reluctant to trust anyone in authority. Iglesia handles the proceedings carefully with homosexual and political references only implied. Spanish filmmakers at the time like Iglesia and Jess Franco bent towards genre films to keep cultural and societal issues present without blatant display. These films could find distribution because they weren’t political in nature.
The Cannibal Man gained unfortunate cult status when it was added to the Video Nasty titles in the UK. It was unfairly labeled as a sleazy gorefest causing it to be lumped in with other cannibal genre films of the time. The bloody violence here stems from the psychological strongholds that break free as an expression of the systemic repression the protagonist faces. It’s a shocking experience for sure but viewed as a critique of the fascist government disguised as a violent exploitation film The Cannibal Man excels on both fronts.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
The Cannibal Man arrives on Blu-ray thanks to Severin Films. Housed in a standard keepcase with reversible artwork the BD-50 disc supplies two cuts of the film. A limited-edition slipcover is available featuring the infamous meat cleaver kill scene. Loading the disc displays a Severin Films logo before landing on a static menu screen where you select the version of the film you want to watch. After your selection, the Main Menu screen arrives with typical navigation options and a glance at Marco’s reflection in the infamous meat cleaver.
Severin Films presents The Cannibal Man with an impressive 1080p transfer in 1.85:1. Struck from the original camera negative this image supplies an overall better experience than previous HD releases. Image quality improves greatly with even skin tones on closeup with plenty of fine detail. Primaries pop from Rosa’s bright eye shadow to the dynamic artwork in Nestor’s apartment. Black levels look strong though some noise is apparent in the taxi scenes. Dirt and specks apparent during the Paula sex scene are evident but don’t distract from the experience. Grain levels are solid though become noisy on some interior shots in Marcos’ home.
Those with previous HD releases from Code Red in 2018, Mercury Films in 2016, or the Subkultur Blu-ray from 2015 should absolutely consider upgrading to this Severin version. Colors here are much more pronounced and lifelike with an improved white balance. Coupled with the added language tracks on both cuts it's a no-brainer.
The Cannibal Man arrives on Severin Blu-ray with both Spanish and English audio tracks in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono for both cuts of the film. While the English dub is more accessible for audiences I recommend the Spanish track to allow the performances to carry the intended emotional weight and tone. Dialogue overall is clean with some cracking on the Spanish track early on in the feature. Levels are balanced well offering a flat yet enjoyable audio mix for this feature.
Severin has loaded The Cannibal Man with plenty of interesting bonus features worthwhile for fans new and old. The big draw is the two cuts of the film. Those unfamiliar with the film should start with the extended cut as it conveys the characters and story with more depth and detail. Interviews provide a compelling look at the film’s legacy and its iconic director Eloy de la Iglesia.
Offering more than the cover art advertises, The Cannibal Man is a thrilling examination of one man’s bloody downward spiral in a society that is eating itself thanks to an authoritarian regime’s socio-political control. Iglesia’s film offers plenty to chew on with excellent performances and a slow brooding visual style. Audiences should take a risk and discover this unique and engaging thriller. Severin Films’ Blu-ray offers an impressive A/V package with two cuts of the film and a few interesting interview segments. Highly Recommended.