DEVIL HUNTER
Germany - France - Spain | 1980
Directed by Jess Franco
Starring
Ursula Fellner
Al Cliver
Robert Foster
Color
| 101 Minutes | Not Rated
Format: DVD (R0 - NTSC)
Severin Films
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3
    4   10 = Highest Rating  
Guest Review by Rod Barnett
Hiding behind one of his many jazz musician-influenced pseudonyms, mad auteur Jess Franco dives headlong into jungle exploitation with this film. It's kind of a cannibal film, kind of a kidnapping drama, kind of a jungle action picture but it's also several kinds of sloppy!
    Devil Hunter begins by showing us how slick an editor ol' Jess can be. We are introduced to international movie actress Laura Crawford (Ursula Fellner) as she cavorts around being all glamorous and denying reporter's rumors about her sex life. But at the same time we're also shown a black native girl running through some jungle someplace with other native folks in pursuit. See, by intercutting these separate events the film is drawing a comparison between the two women's lives. The pampered hot blonde being showered with money and attention is contrasted with the poor native girl being chased and attacked by cruel men. Sound the pretension alarm! Franco's occasional stabs at social commentary are usually silly and over-obvious but the opening 10 minutes of Devil Hunter reach a new level. By the time Laura is being drugged and kidnapped, while the native girl is being strapped to a tree as a sacrifice, I was moaning out loud, "I get it Jess, I get it."
    The story lumbers along as the kidnappers fly Laura off to the island of Puerto Santo (yeah, I know) and make their ransom demands known to her agent. This worthy hires Peter Westin (Al Cliver of Fulci's Zombie fame) to pay the six million dollars and return with his cash cow intact but if Westin can make it back with the cow and the cash he can claim 10% as his fee. This motivates the macho man pretty effectively and he enlists his Vietnam vet friend Jack (Robert Foster) to fly him to the island in his helicopter.
    At the same time we are shown that the native tribe on the island has a pretty strange religion. The girl that was tied to a tree before was just the latest sacrifice to their naked zombie god. You read that right. The island has an unexplained naked zombie guy (Burt Altman) stumbling around the jungle who occasionally rips out the heart of a human being for lunch. The island tribe (showing good sense) throws the occasional victim to the Mighty Naked One to keep themselves safe. They've even gone the extra mile and built a religion around the pop-eyed freak. They've constructed a sort of tiki idol in the center of their small village, in front of which the hottest woman of the tribe prays as well as, on occasion, writhes like a weasel having an orgasm.
    Westin reaches the island, makes contact with the kidnappers and tries to pull a fast one with the cash. When the swap for the girl goes bad, Laura runs off into the jungle with neither the criminals nor her rescuers knowing where she might be. But of course the naked zombie god does. Faster than you can say bouncing breasts, he's stumbling after her in hopes of a date and a hot meal not necessarily in that order. As the kidnappers search for her they start getting picked off one at a time by the native tribe. This includes a pungi stick pit and the funniest decapitation I've seen in a while: a severed head bit so good they show it to us a second time later on in the film. So, will Westin rescue the pretty girl? Or will the kidnappers survive long enough to grab her back and try for the ransom again? And what will become of the pop-eyed zombie god?
    This being a Franco movie, the zombie makeup is terrible. Jess zooms in close to the face repeatedly showing us the details of the sad plastic stuff and making the ping pong ball eyes look even dumber than they do from a distance. By the half hour mark I was pretty sure that no one involved had taken this film seriously least of all Franco. There are so many moments in which it seems as if everyone is just half-assing around waiting to get things finished so they could eat lunch. Early on you can that spot one of the island natives is wearing his wedding ring so attention to detail was a phrase unknown on the set. At times things turned up in the movie that later on seem to be there for no reason other than to extend the running time. We learn that helicopter pilot Jack is a Vietnam vet who suffers from occasional flashbacks and watch one of the kidnappers act like a nervous little bastard who can't shut up voicing every worry or thought that runs through his (eventually severed) head. Neither of these things means anything at all and to say the actors involved can't quite pull the dialog off is to be kind.
    Overall this is a below par outing for Franco. He just doesn't seem to have cared very much about the film and it shows. Sloppy, silly, slow and, strangely for one of his efforts, it's overlong. This is certainly not the movie to present to a newbie hoping to catch Franco Fever.

Sadly, the Severin DVD of Devil Hunter is as disappointing as the film itself. Most of the time the movie looks terrible, as if we were watching it through a color deadening haze that sucks all the brightness from the image. Some scenes look okay but most seem to have been filtered down for some reason, making daytime shots look far too dark. Also, there is a short section of the film about an hour in which the English soundtrack drops away and is replaced with unsubtitled Spanish. Although there is a subtitle option available for the French audio track this odd lack of automatic subs for the gap in the English version is irritating. The movie is presented in 16X9 enhanced widescreen with the already mentioned two mono audio choices and optional English subtitles. The only extra is a 17-minute interview with Uncle Jess discussing the film and its reasons for being made. He reveals his dislike of cannibal films of the period and explains why the script involved a flesh-eating monster rather than a flesh-eating tribe. As always, Franco's honest appraisal of his own work is entertaining as are his opinions of his actors. Impolitic, thy name is Jess Franco! 12/28/08

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