It was 1980, there was a demand in the inter­na­tion­al exploita­tion flick mar­ket­place for can­ni­bal hor­ror flicks and Jesus Franco got the assign­ment to knock out a few. Devil Hunter was one of those films and it offers a sin­gu­lar­ly dis­in­ter­est­ed take on this sub­gen­re. Franco has sub­se­quent­ly admit­ted he didn’t go for can­ni­bal hor­ror and the amusement/interest that can be drawn from Devil Hunter involves see­ing how he could use the assign­ment as an excuse to indul­ge in his usu­al styl­is­tic tics.

The premise is unusu­al­ly involved in its setup: bomb­shell mod­el (Ursula Buchfellner) is kid­napped on a for­eign trip with the help of a duplic­i­tous assis­tant (Gisela Hahn) by a group of kid­nap­pers that includes Werner Pochath and Franco reg­u­lar Antonio Mayans. When a demand for a ran­som comes in, Laura’s boss dis­patch­es Peter Weston (DevHun-posAl Cliver) to res­cue her. None of the above know that the jun­gle Laura is being hid­den is also home to a tribe that reg­u­lar­ly sac­ri­fices nubile wom­en to a bug-eyed can­ni­bal god that they wor­ship. Slow-paced cat and mouse shenani­gans ensue, with a few dol­lops of butcher-shop gore and a tor­rent of male and female frontal nudi­ty.

Anyone expect­ing a Cannibal Ferox-style romp from Devil Hunter should look else­where. Franco seems per­verse­ly defi­ant in how he han­dles his cho­sen assign­ment: the gore is kept to a min­i­mum and the “chase” sequences move like a turtle with a bro­ken leg. The tribe at the heart of the sto­ry isn’t a can­ni­bal tribe per se but instead a tribe that makes sac­ri­fices to a can­ni­bal­is­tic, qua­si-super­nat­u­ral man with bugged-out eyes made from ping-pong balls(!). Franco has an inter­est­ing European exploita­tion-flick cast but no one gets a chance to make any impres­sion out­side the con­fines of the thread­bare plot (and Cliver always looks/acts like he was just wok­en up from a nap).

That said, Devil Hunter is like­ly to arouse a per­verse inter­est for Franco fans when the direc­tor finds a place in the mate­ri­al to remake it in his own sex-and-death-obsessed image. For instance, there’s a live­ly open­ing act that inter­cuts the kid­nap­ping of the mod­el with one of the jun­gle can­ni­bal sac­ri­fices, edit­ed in that sen­sa­tion-dri­ven “film­mak­ing as jazz” Franco style where plot and char­ac­ter are abstrac­tions that set up the car­nal chaos.

Franco seems most inter­est­ed in the ogling/manhandling of European Playboy Playmate Buchfellner: she can’t act but she’s a troop­er in all the phys­i­cal abuse she takes here, much of it naked. It’s telling that the sequence that is the most care­ful­ly filmed in the entire movie is the one where Buchfellner is rit­u­al­ly stripped of her clothes and mas­saged by a vari­ety of native hands as the cam­era glides up and down her bare flesh. On a sim­i­lar note, Franco gets to do sev­er­al of his beloved “zoom into naked female groin” shots when the tribe’s witch strips down and writhes her way through a DevH-CanT-bluspell, fran­ti­cal­ly thrust­ing her crotch up as Franco greed­i­ly zooms in for a close­up.

In short, Devil Hunter is a wash as a can­ni­bal hor­ror film but Franco addicts might be amused by the camp val­ue of the director/genre mis­match and par­tic­u­lar­ly the moments where he gets to deploy his trade­mark kinky quirks.

Blu-Ray Notes: Severin recent­ly released this film on blu-ray as part of a 2-for-1 disc with Cannibal Terror. The trans­fer for Devil Hunter does the best it can with an indif­fer­ent­ly shot film: the hit-and-miss film­ing results in an image where the col­or tim­ing shifts fre­quent­ly but the well-shot sce­nes show impres­sive col­or and detail. Fans will be hap­py to know this is the longest ver­sion at 102 min­utes. Both English and Spanish sound options are offered in LPCM form: there is one brief snip­pet of dia­logue that was nev­er dubbed on the English track that is pre­sent­ed on the Spanish track but oth­er­wise it sounds as good as a goofy vin­tage dub can sound. The Spanish track does not have sub­ti­tles.

A few extras are also thrown in on this part of the blu-ray. The first is a 16 and a half min­ute chat with Franco, who is in fun­ny form as he admits his mis­giv­ings about can­ni­bal movies, the chal­lenges and plea­sures of work­ing with untrained actors and even some thoughts on the can­ni­bal movie king Ruggero Deodato. There is also a chat with actor Bertrand Allmann that focus­es on his role in Cannibal Terror, which allowed him to shift from stunt­work to act­ing and also involves a bit of chat about Zombie Lake.

All in all, it’s a good deal for Eurotrash diehards, par­tic­u­lar­ly when you con­sid­er the inclu­sion of Cannibal Terror and its own film-speci­fic extras.