Vietnam was definitely the best thing that has every happened to America, nay, the world. All those long-haired, scruffy-bearded, sandal-wearing, placard-carrying hippies can go and eat a big, fat dick if they think otherwise. Why, if it hadn't been for 'Nam then people like me would never have had the pleasure of Combat Shock, First Blood, The Exterminator or Don't Answer The Phone! And we would never have experienced the delights of the most insightful comment on the after effects of war, The A-Team. Didn't you ever wonder about those psychos? Did you never wonder what "Howlin' Mad" Murdoch saw over there to make him gibber like a lunatic? What gave John "Hannibal" Smith so many split personalities? Why Templeton Peck had such an abnormally large sex-drive? And why muscle-bound man-beast BA Baracus had such a bizarre interest in young, Hispanic orphan-boys?
Maybe Cannibal Apocalypse holds some of the answers. It stars John Saxon: you may remember the time he starred in The A-Team as a Jim Jones style cult-leader (whose commune was known as "Jamestown") just a year or two after the Jonestown incident. Also on offer here is John Morghen, one of the most typecast actors ever, surpassed only by the Shirley Temple of rapists, Mr. David Hess. With a CV that includes roles as a fucked-up drug dealer in Cannibal Ferox, an imbecilic retard in City Of The Living Dead and a retarded imbecile in House At The Edge Of The Park, Morghen is doomed to skulk through life with the word WEIRDO tattooed on his Dwight Schultz-like receeding forehead.
Veteran Norman Hopper (Saxon) awakes from a nightmare. He was back in Vietnam, wading through a jungle of stock footage to rescue his old buddies from the evil clutches of communism. Somewhat shook up by an exploding dog he'd just encountered, he was even more surprised to find his good buddies Charlie Bukowski (Morghen) and Tom Thompson (Tony King) in a bamboo cage devouring a dead villager's breast (I hear it goes excellently with fine red wine), before taking a bite out of him too. Still trembling, he goes down to the kitchen and drools over the raw meat in there dripping blood. Meanwhile Bukowski has been let out of the looney bin as a reward for his recent good behaviour..... And you think our health service is poor!
Next door's flabby teenage nymph torments Hooper with a hairdryer (That's not what I meant when I asked you to blow me...) while Bukowski is trying to phone him. Hooper responds by pulling down her multi-coloured 80's slag-tights and trying to bite her stomach (she later admits that she enjoyed this impromptu love bite!). Saddened by his old friend's rejection, Bukowski wanders into a local cinema whistling Yankee Doodle Dandy to take in a cheap-ass war movie. But the film gets boring, and his cheap popcorn is nothing special either, so Charlie takes a massive chunk out of a woman's neck! He runs from the flea-pit into the nearby flea-market, whereupon a gang of marauding Hell's Angels (Permed Mullet chapter) decide to become pillars of the community and go in after him. Charlie's no fool though and grabs a gun, blowing one of them away. A bearded security guard, disturbed from reading the new issue of Playboy, also becomes target practice for Bukowski.
We now get to meet Chief McCoy. He's an all-American copper, with clothes stolen from the bins behind Oxfam and an awesome set of teeth: sparkling white and perfectly square, like Ikea cupboard doors. He's also got typical U.S. bad-attitude, regularly using phrases such as "Shit or get off the pot" and "Ashes to ashes, shit to shit". He wonders whether this insane sharpshooter is a black, a queer or a Muslim fanatic. When he finds out it a Vietnam vet he's devastated.
Hooper turns up and offers to help out, talking Bukowski into coming out. Bukowski is taken to the hospital and Hooper goes home to tell the missus about his encounter with the girl next door. She's close to tears but calms down considerably when she learns that he didn't bang her, just tried to cannibalise her.
Bukowski and Thompson go nuts in the hospital, strapped to their beds after biting a nurse, Helen. This is the first time we've actually had a chance to take a peek inside Thompson's complex personality and I think I can safely say he would make a perfect blaxploitation star: words such as "honky" and "motherfucker" flow from his mouth as easily as shit of a stick. Elsewhere Hooper is donning a ridiculously tight polo-neck (you can see each and every individual chest hair through it) and going to the hospital himself, concerned somewhat about his own personal health.
In the police station the cops have started eating each other. McCoy, who still retains some social graces despite his dishevelled appearance snarls to Officer Parker, "Oh my God son, put it down!" in the disgusted tones of a father who's just found his four year old son playing with an abandoned hypo in the bus-station toilets. After composing himself, he finally puts two and two together and mumbles, "Cannibalism." to himself....
At the hospital Helen, the now infected nurse, graphically bites a doctors tongue out during a french kiss and spits it out on the floor. It could have been worse though, she could have been performing oral on him (Don't tell me you didn't expect that.....). She then stoves his head in with a paperweight and frees the boys who are by now hungry for even more fresh meat and the three are joined by Hopper, who has also given in to his culinary urges. Back together again.
They kill a mechanic and cut him up with a circular saw. Even more frightening however is Bukowski's new dungarees which he must have stolen along the way from a lesbian steel-worker. The fact that he seems to bear no shame is enough to make even the hardiest skin crawl. After chowing down on some delicious grease-monkey they find themselves in another confrontation with the Hell's Angels. The Angels aren't prepared though because as well as his intensive 'Nam training, Saxon also starred in Enter The Dragon and has no problems knocking fuck out of them. Not one to be upstaged, Bukowski pokes not one, but two rebel-rousing eyeballs out.
Next into the sewers. The cops give chase with flamethrowers (eh?), oblivious to the dangers of igniting the rectal gases floating rampantly in sewers. Helen is shot, Thompson is burned alive (how's about that for police brutality!) and Hopper is merely wounded (dying in a sewer just ain't good enough for a major league star like Saxon) but the coup-de-grace definately goes to Bukowski: while hanging onto some railings his entire stomach area, guts and all, is blasted out with a pump-action shot gun. The voyeuristic camera gives us a fantastic view through his massive, gaping, open wound.
And so to the end. Hopper heads home and terrifies his missus by donning his old military uniform and bleeding to death. Mrs Hopper is bitten by her infected psychologist friend (who has been trying to get off with her since the beginning of the film), and he in turn is blasted by Hopper, who has just enough life left in him to dissuade horny doctors from hitting on his bird. Husband and wife die together in a loving embrace, thus making Cannibal Apocalypse a more emotional movie. However, we can't leave without the obligatory surprise ending now, can we? It turns out the saucy hussy next door and her brother have chopped up their aunt and stuffed her in the fridge, leaving the viewer with a bad taste in their mouth much fouler than a McDonalds Happy Meal.
It is often theorised that Cannibal Apocalypse is actually a metaphor for the way the Vietnam war devoured the United States. However, the connection is really only a superficial one; rather than focusing on war's psychological effects it instead uses a disease as an explanation of the soldiers' cannibalistic tendencies. Indeed, it has much more in common with the chemical and biological mutations of Nightmare City and Zombie Creeping Flesh than it does with, say, First Blood. If made fifteen years later, Cannibal Apocalypse would have been able to exploit so-called Gulf War Syndrome with more credibility. But it would seem that yet again unscupulous filmmakers have decided upon the lowest common denominator when it comes to simple scenarios! However, the 'Nam element should not be totally dismissed; for example, the final scenes in the sewers stir something up within the mentally disturbed Bukowski, taking him back to his days in the war. Hooper too seems to have trouble forgetting Vietnam... his house is plastered with photographs of Vietnam battle scenes. And there is also a certain brotherhood between the soldiers that stays true till the end, in that they stick together no matter what the odds and will even die for each other. They are on a mission against society, and it's either fight or die. Yet again, The A-Team comes to mind, with Amy being substituted for the fleah-eating Helen. It would come as no surprise to hear Bukowski bubbling out the words, "I.... love it... when a.. plan... comes together." as he hangs bleeding in the sewers!
Cannibal Apocalypse is often dismissed by critics, but I honestly can't think why. Of all the "video-nasties, it is one of the best, in direct competition with Zombie Flesheaters, Cannibal Holocaust and even The Beyond. Unusual in movies like this, the gore (which, for the record is both excellent and extreme in equal measures) takes second place to the action. From beginning to end, the excitement barely lets up, with explosions and fighting almost constantly. Of course it is extremely derivative, the most obvious sequence being the Hell's-Angels-in-the-shopping-mall scenes plucked straight out of Dawn Of The Dead, but Margheriti (credited as Anthony M. Dawson) can easily be forgiven for this. Cannibal Apocalypse is also very well made, with interesting characters, a tight plot and great camera work, putting it head and shoulders above many similar movies.
And Cannibal Apocalypse is almost the best vetsploitation movie ever, second only to the mighty Exterminator. You disagree? Well hows about I just bite your throat out here and now... Or perhaps I should just blow out your innards with a shotgun and stick what's left in my refridgerator. War. What is it good for? A damn good movie, that's what.
aka Cannibals In The Streets, Invasion Of The Flesh Hunters, Savage Apocalypse, Apocalypse Domani