Cannibal Apocalypse

“In early 1980,” says the opening card to Cannibal Apocalypse Redux, “director Antonio Margheriti and his crew arrived in Atlanta, Georgia, to film an action/horror film, tentatively titled Tough City in the shooting script…Even today, this successful but widely retitled and censored film – best known as Cannibal Apocalypse – remains a controversial subject.”

That is all correct. This documentary looking back at the production (as a bonus feature on a newly reissued Blu-ray from Kino Lorber) still leaves out that the tough city in question was a Southern locale where plenty of trash fiends were later embarrassed to learn that the director of Mr. Superinvisible had snuck into town to shoot an unexpectedly smart drive-in epic.

The movie would later play Southern theaters as Invasion of the Flesh Hunters or Cannibals in the Streets. Both of those titles hinted at the script being more about zombies than a more metaphorical madness. Reliable leading man John Saxon is seen in Redux making a good case for the script having a deeper message behind the story of Vietnam vets who pass as fairly normal folks despite having a craving for human flesh that’s transmitted by bite.

This bonus feature’s look back at Cannibal Apocalypse also has Saxon skipping over his recent divorce while noting he had two mortgages to pay, but he adds that he was happy to take a job in “a pleasant city” like Atlanta. His costar John Morghen doesn’t have much to say about his own trip down South, but it’s charming to hear Margheriti keep referring to Apocalypse in variations of his “Atlanta movie.”

This might have been Margheriti’s last appearance before the cameras, as well. The director died in 2002, and Redux is actually added to this new Apocalypse Blu-ray from a DVD released that same year. In addition, Kino Lorber has added some fine new features – including third cannibal Terry King getting to reminisce on his own in King Cannibal. He doesn’t talk too much about Atlanta, although the former NFL player seemed to have already been living here after stints in L.A. and Rome. King remains pretty fascinating as a talented guy who charmed his way into an amazing filmography.

There’s also film historian Tim Lucas dredging up a few fun Atlanta facts in a new (and typically obsessive) commentary. That includes background on Wallace Wilkinson once the local actor starts stealing the show as a bedeviled police captain. Lucas helpfully provides a quick history of other local movie productions from the same period, before noting that Apocalypse captures “an Atlanta that no longer exists.”

Lucas is from Cincinnati, though, so he couldn’t be expected to pick up that Saxon’s TV-reporter wife works out of Channel 36 – with their WATL call letters turned into WLW. He certainly doesn’t get as excited as other viewers will when deranged vet Charles Bukowski (played by Italian schlock legend Giovanni Radice as “John Morghen”) goes nuts at the Candler Discount Mall. The mayhem there ends up with scattered LPs from the flea market’s formerly popular cut-out bins. That had the local hipsters even more baffled that they missed out on the filming.

The location shooting gets more attention with the Apocalypse In the Streets bonus feature. It’s another pick-up from that 2002 home video release, and “Vic Marlin” doesn’t make for much of a host as he drives around town. A gal billed as “Dixie Marlin” is wasted for a stupid gag about how the locals didn’t welcome the production.

The contrast between 1980 and 2002 remains interesting. This new Cannibal Apocalypse also has a longer look at this Atlanta time capsule than ever offered before – running at an uncensored 96 minutes in a spiffy 4K restoration.

Of course, that includes Vietnam War footage shot in the Philippines and an underground sewer chase filmed in Rome. The only thing seemingly missing is a shot of the 688 sign that was clearly shown on the big screen, but seems tough to catch on home video. At least an old C&S National Bank sign still gets to make a cameo.

 Cannibal Apocalypse
(Kino Lorber Blu-ray)