Devil Hunter – 1980 / Director: Jess Franco

Damn! Shit! What a fuckin’ awful place. Flowers? Shit! Dammit, dammit, dammit! This wild vegetation gives me the creeps!

It’s not, perhaps, a good sign when this piece of cinematic drivel is my favourite Franco movie by a considerable margin. Devil Hunter, I suppose, it a half-hearted mix of the Mangiati vivi genre and a dollop of sexploitation, all topped off with a touch of King Kong. Franco avoids the worst excesses of the cannibal films, and this has more of the feel of his own Cannibals and Alain Deruelle’s Cannibal Terror (the finest cannibal film ever, reviewed elsewhere on these pages) – next to no production values, unconvincing  jungle environments (usually within sight of a main road), apathetic acting/dubbing, plenty of tits and native tribes that consist mainly of chubby white guys.

The threadbare plot involves a famous actress, Laura Crawford (Ursula Buchfellner) who is kidnapped while scouting for locations for her latest film. The producers hire Vietnam vet Peter Weston (Zombie Flesh Eater‘s Al Cliver) to rescue her. Sounds pretty ordinary so far. Unfortunately, Laura was kidnapped on the island home of perhaps the most feeble movie creature since the 1950s. A local tribe worship a bloody-eyed monster, and regularly sacrifice their women to it. In the opening scenes, an unfortunate is tied to a stake in a jungle clearing. Cue a strangely synthesised growling sound, and a few glimpses of bloodshot eyes. In a distorted POV shot, the creature advances upon it’s victim, and tears what looks like smoked salmon from her body, munching happily. The creature itself is absolutely shameless. Nothing more than a tall, naked black guy, with ping pong balls for eyes. His ludicrous appearance sets the tone for the entire film. Robot Monster in the jungle.

Fuck knows who did the dubbing for this. While not remotely matching the lip movements of the actors, they must have been taking the mickey. Weston’s pilot friend (who perhaps isn’t the best choice to go into the jungle with – within five minutes, he’s in full ‘Nam flashback mode) has a superb ‘Gone With the Wind‘ accent that occasionally veers to a Stallone impersonation, and the leader of the kidnappers has the poshest British accent you’ll hear outside an Ealing comedy.  His ‘Sons of bitches’ upon being swindled by Weston is fantastically louche (they can’t be very experienced kidnappers – they’re fooled by the old trick of putting a real banknotes on top of a pile of blank pieces of paper) . In fact, to my ears, it sounds like there were only two voice actors – one for the men and one for the women.

The pace is achingly slow at times, with plenty of time-filling shots of people traipsing through the undergrowth, often being stalked by the creature. Wisely, Franco keeps him hidden for most of the time, but he’s seen in all his cost-cutting glory during the climactic clifftop battle. As usual, the fight scene is fairly clumsily done, but is worth a laugh or two. Amazingly, Franco has claimed that Devil Hunter was the inspiration for John McTiernan’s superb Predator. On the face of it, this seems absurd, but both films have a similar setting, a scene with people being hung upside down in trees and a punch-up between a regular guy and a seven foot bastard. Maybe…

Devil Hunter can’t really be recommended on any cinematic level at all. The only way to watch trash like this is with your tongue firmly in your cheek. There is pleasure to be had watching a supremely bad film (and, by God, this is one). Most of Franco‘s output is simply average at (very) best, and usually tedious in the extreme. This, however, goes way beyond ‘bad’ an into the realms of ‘BAD‘. There is some nudity (mainly from the lovely Ms. Buchfellner), who spends a good portion of the first half tied up and tormented, and some fairly unconvincing gore (Devil Hunter was one of the most undeserving Video Nasties on the BBFC list). If you enjoy a film where the hero is in full view of several assault rifle equipped villains and escapes by rolling, Captain Kirk-style, across a beach, then this is great Saturday night-with-beer-and-crisps viewing.