Cannibal Apocalypse (1980)

An observation about Vietnam vets and post traumatic stress disorder needs to be made after watching this odd hybrid of the Italian cannibal and Rambo genres. It probably would be better for your mental well-being if you are having flashbacks about how crappy the war was (specifically that time your friends bit you when you were rescuing them from a tiger cage) if your bedroom wasn’t adorned with photos from the war, including a really nicely framed and matted picture of a bunch of stuff blowing up.

John Saxon, the serious-looking dude from Enter The Dragon, plays Norman, the veteran tormented by the fact that his worthless pal bit him and now all these years later, he is starting to get the urge to take bites out of the young skanky neighbor girl.

As messed up as Norman is, he isn’t locked up in a mental hospital like the two guys that were in the tiger cage. But what exactly happened in that cage that caused everyone so many problems?

Charlie and Tommy were fed human flesh by their captors and through a process that only a movie like this can attempt to explain (oh wait – they didn’t except for some vague reference to a biological mutation and likening it to a rabid dog spreading rabies) now have an uncontrollable urge to eat other people!

Somewhere along the line, someone recognized that Charlie and Tommy were having problems re-integrating themselves into civilian life so they got locked up at the Hospital For Nervous Disorders. (That’s what it said on the screen!)

Charlie is supposedly progressing quite well, because his doctor gives him a day pass and he and Tommy will probably be released in a couple of weeks since they’re just about cured.


After Charlie bites a lady while out on his pass, he flees with a biker gang in hot pursuit! Charlie hides out in a flea market and gets into a shoot out with the bikers, who stupidly decide it would be cool to chase him in there on their motorcycles.

Finally, after windows have been blown out, tires squealed, engines revved, merchandise destroyed and a biker blasted by a shotgun, a security guard from the back decides to see what the devil is going on out front.

The police arrive and Captain McCoy is remarkable because he manages to swear in just about every sentence he utters. He also doesn’t mind letting Norman go in to try and talk Charlie down.

What is Norman doing there? His wife is a TV personality and their station got the report that some Vietnam vet went psycho down at the local flea market and she called Norman at home because she thought it might be him! Thanks for your support, honey!

Norman arrives on the scene and goes into the flea market and tries to talk some sense into Charlie. Charlie is a bit reluctant to listen at first, but finally seems to come around. The highlight of all this is when Captain McCoy has some tear gas fired into the flea market and Norman reminds Charlie how they used to handle tear gas back in the day. “Piss on it!” So Charlie did and it worked!


Charlie comes out and manages to bite a cop before being hauled back off to the very same hospital that just gave this crazy moron a furlough from the Italian Eating Disorder Unit. There’s some babble about treating this guy and getting him help and McCoy seems to forget about the two murders he committed and lets him go back to that cushy hospital.

Things finally get rolling properly once Charlie and Tommy (what luck that they’re both being held at the same mental hospital!) team up to bite and wreak havoc in the facility.

Meanwhile, Norman is starting to worry that he has the same problem that Charlie and Tommy do. He confesses to his wife that he wanted to bite the neighbor girl, but the wife brushes it all off, probably as some type of midlife crisis.

Soon he checks himself into this hospital for a little blood test to see if he has Cannibalism. The fact that he took a hunk out of the girl’s stomach is probably inconclusive.

While he’s there, there’s some trouble with the other two soldiers and soon a nurse that they bit is breaking them out and the next thing you know, Norman has bitten one of the doctors and all four make their escape and spend the remainder of the film engaging in all sorts of gorgeously gory mayhem!

The DVD’s extras includes a great interview with Saxon who bemoans how he got tricked into doing this movie (he didn’t realize it was a gory cannibal movie until halfway through), but that director Antonio Margheriti was a nice guy and he had two mortgages to pay.


Saxon is really good as Norman, his obvious discomfort with everything that was going on in the film translates very well to a restrained, bottled-up performance of a man battling the animalistic urge building inside of him. He anchors the movie and gives it a credibility that holds the viewer’s attention during even the most ridiculous scenes. (Even if only because you’re sitting there thinking, “I can’t believe John Saxon did this film!”).

Margheriti (Ark Of The Sun God, Jungle Raiders) is a sure hand and the movie looks very nice with the exception of the grainy Vietnam stock footage used at the beginning of the film. This is one of those DVDs where the picture is remarkably sharp for this type of thing and the accompanying sound actually resembles the sound you would hear on a movie and not from Bruno Mattei’s tape recorder.

A very entertaining package from beginning to end, the only quibble being the combination of CHiPs style music and regular zombie music they used throughout. The rest is all Italian goodness though and should not be missed by any horror fan.

© 2013 MonsterHunter

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