As a horror/exploitation fan, it’s easy to lament about the time in which I grew up. Born in 1978, I was too young to appreciate my preferred era of slashers (81-84) and I wasn’t even born when my favorite sleazy movies were wreaking havoc (60s and 70s). While it would have been cool to catch some of my favorites during their initial runs and really appreciate their impact, it doesn’t take much reminiscing to realize that I grew up through some incredible stretches that played a big part my having such amazing formative years.
The most obvious is the golden age of the video store. There is no way to overstate how important this was in making me the creep that I am today, but that’s not what I’m talking about right now. In fact, I’m thinking about the final great gasp of the VHS tape.
For me, the key player was Anchor Bay Entertainment. It was the late 90s and DVD hadn’t fully caught on. Anchor Bay started releasing special editions of some of the all time greats. Some were two tape sets with my first real exposure to extra features like A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Hidden, Hellraiser, and Dawn of the Dead. The bulk though, were fine looking clamshell cases that generally featured the movie followed by the trailer. Early highlights included Halloween, Tenebre, Phenomena, and yet two more editions of Dawn of the Dead (yeah, they’ve been pulling that shit for more than 15 years now…). These were nice and affordably priced, unlike the absurdly expensive laserdiscs that were way beyond the means of my $4.50/hour job.
Speaking of that $4.50/hour job, it was at a store called Record Town with a video section called Saturday Matinee. The company kept up with the times by also maintaining a store called Tape World long after anyone was interested in cassette tapes.
Anyway, it was this job that kept me on top of the Anchor Bay clamshell releases. Because a $14.99 tape was $11.01 after my employee discount and sales tax were applied, I was able to buy one for every 3 or so hours I worked. I didn’t pass on any of them, which is how I found today’s addition to my curious collection: Cannibal Man.
Now, Cannibal Man is an interesting enough movie that admittedly disappointed me the first go round. This was mostly due to what I thought was a misleading title. I was somewhat fresh off of Cannibal Holocaust and Cannibal Ferox at this point and this completely set me up with the wrong expectations for a movie like this. Even if the movie wasn’t especially memorable the first time around, what followed the movie most certainly was. The trailer became an instant favorite.
Trailers can take different approaches to promoting the movie. Clips can be strung together to create a sort of highlight reel that will ideally have the audience wanting to see more, or they can shoot new material specifically for the trailer to peak interest. Cannibal Man’s falls into the former camp.
A clever trailer can have clips strung together in such a way that shots make sense even when taken out of context. Cannibal Man’s decidedly does not fall into this camp. The trailer simply takes scenes as they were edited for the finished film and has a narrator that is either ominously mellow or mellowly ominous talk about the movie. Let’s break it down scene by scene:
The first clip lasts about 57 seconds and starts with a shirtless Cannibal Man talking with some guy who stomps around the shack like a petulant child. Cannibal Man pauses seemingly at random during his sentences, almost as if he runs out of breath before he can spit the whole thing out, “Don’t be hasty…Well…Please go in there…if you want to…if that’s what you need to…to…ease your mind.”
The guy barges over to the room as Cannibal Man discretely grabs for a meat cleaver that he keeps mounted on the wall. This is where the narrator first pipes up, “What strange foreboding secret is within this room?” If that’s an attempt to build suspense, they give up on it pretty easily. The guy goes in and discovers that the strange foreboding secret is, in fact, two dead bodies stashed under the covers. Cannibal Man slowly creeps up behind him and swings the cleaver.
This is a problem throughout the trailer. They never cut to the chase. In the context of the film, that scene may work. On its own though, it’s ineffective but rendered hilarious by peculiar dubbing, unusual dialogue, and a final freeze frame that never fails to bring a smile to my face.
The next 12 seconds are unremarkable and only features the Cannibal Man talking to a woman about the newspaper. The narrator doesn’t even care enough to chime in for this.
The next 25 seconds are pure gold though. The narrator wonders, “What lures the innocent into the death room?” We are offered little in the way of an answer other than a quick shot of a passing train. Does the train lure the innocent into the death room? More importantly, what’s in the death room? We see a young woman sneak in and turn on the lights. She screams at the sight of…a running faucet and an overflowing glass? The Cannibal Man then gives the horrified woman the glass before slowly cutting her throat. This is again achieved through a still shot while the slicing audio plays.
The baffling randomness of these shots is much more amusing than many movies and shows today that work so hard to be irreverent.
The next 19 seconds belong to the Cannibal Man and another woman who insinuates that his cannibal shack is smelly. Other than the fact that I’m pretty sure I can smell the shack through my screen, the best things about this part are the loaded pauses. The Cannibal Man has done it earlier and it appears to be infectious.
Cannibal Man: Please excuse me…I don’t want you to…suspect that I could…
Woman: What do you mean………………………… …………..suspect?
Things pick up from here as the narrator informs us that “The Cannibal Man in today’s jungle kills for his freedom.” This plays over him suddenly deciding to attack another man with a wrench and then cuts to him frolicking homoerotically in the water with another man. Yeah, it’s about as hilarious as it sounds.
We are then urged to, “Discover his unique ways of disposing of the bodies.” Notable here is the playful tone the narrator takes as well was the still of a meat cleaver wielding Cannibal Man silhouette. Listen for the “thwack” – it’s a good one.
Cut to a slaughterhouse that is apparently being hosed down and marvel as the narrator states that, “A river of blood is created by…The Cannibal Man.” with such lighthearted joy that he might as well be talking about Dr. Seuss characters. Oh, that silly Cannibal Man, you never know what he’ll do next!
And while we’re at it, take a look at that sandwich he’s eating. What in god’s name is dangling from the piece of meat hanging out of the left part? Gross. It doesn’t help that he has this sort of smug grin on his face like someone just recognized him in public and said, “Hey, you’re the Cannibal Man!”
One last bit of the depravity of the Cannibal Man is explored as he kisses a woman and then knocks her head into the wall with a hollow sort of thud. I don’t think she hit a stud. Frankly, I just get the feeling that The Cannibal Man wasn’t all that into it. Luckily, this is intercut with scenes of a bunch of shirtless people playing soccer. Well, it looks like soccer to me, but people keep trying to catch the ball with their hands. Not important, but still funny.
Because all good things must come to an end, The Cannibal Man trailer closes out with a guy who appears to be either bird-watching or watching shirtless boys play soccer. He’s in fact, watching the shack…possibly even the death room. A point the narrator drives home, “Does this man uncover the dark secrets of the Cannibal Man?” I’m just not so sure this man uncovers many dark secrets. He looks more like the kind of guy who has dark secrets.
This whole thing is a goofy affair and, as you can probably tell, I get a huge kick out of it. When I first got the tape, I would show this trailer to anyone who was willing to spend 2 minutes and 51 seconds with me. It became a tradition not unlike spending Christmas morning at my grandmother’s house. I have such great memories watching this over and over and quoting it endlessly. Putting it my collection here was an absolute no-brainer.
Let me know in the comments section what you think. Maybe I just saw it at the right time in my life and I associate it with great friends and great memories, but my mouth is actually sore from smiling the entire time I spent writing this post.
Go on, watch it again! It gets better each time.