Director: Clifford Brown (aka Jesus Franco)
Script: Julius Valery & Clifford Brown
Cast: Al Cliver, Ursula Fellner, Robert Foster, Antonio De Cabo, Gisela Hahn, Victoria Adams, Werner Pochath, Leonardo Costa, Lynn Mess
Running time: 102 minutes
Year: 1980
Certificate: 18

Devil Hunter started out under the directorship of Amando Ossorio (the Blind Dead film series), but Jesus Franco (Jess to his friends) stepped in and completed the film under the pseudonym Clifford Brown. However, I think Alan Smithee would have been a much more an appropriate choice of name! I can’t imagine Ossorio got very far with this movie though since Devil Hunter has Franco’s signature moves running right through its core, like sickly red swirls within a stick of rock.

The film was banned in the UK for a number of years, since it was on the DPP’s ‘video nasty’ list. The only reason this might be the case is due to some sexualised violence, but even this is relatively tame compared to other titles on that list. The gore is badly done too with very fake – paint-like – blood splashed about unconvincingly.

When sexy starlet Miss Crawford, (Ursula Fellner), is kidnapped and taken into the South American jungle, to be held there for ransom, heroic Peter Weston, (Al Cliver), is sent to find her and hand over the ransom, but if he manages to retain both he’ll get a sizable bonus from the actress’s studio sponsor.

Meanwhile some totem worshipping natives appease their weird devil god, by offering young female sacrifices to him to feast on – well, their intestines and hearts anyway. This ‘god’ is essentially a tall, broad-shouldered black dude with Ping-Pong ball eyes and some very sharp, but crooked, teeth.

It doesn’t take long for these two storylines to cross-pollinate, with old Ping-Pong eyes rapidly taking an interest in the actress, hence his starting to kill and munch his way through the kidnappers too. And then, finally, in the last reel, Weston rocks up and takes on both the kidnappers and the devil god thing with somewhat predictable results…

One’s enjoyment of Devil Hunter will depend on:

  1. Your tolerance for really bad films;
  2. Actually liking Jess Franco films;
  3. How drunk you are when viewing it!

Personally, I do enjoy watching the occasional bad movie, and I don’t hate all of Franco’s films (although most are very disappointing), but, sadly, on this occasion I wasn’t drinking so the experience was a fairly painful one. And, truth be told, I’d already seen the film on video a couple of years ago so it held no surprises for me, except that it felt even longer this time around!

Franco really pulls out all the stops of ineptness in this one, with way too many of his trademark crash zooms being employed (usually into women’s crotches); failing to develop any kind of tension or sense of peril at any time; smearing Vaseline on his lens for a more ‘arty’ effect; and even resorting to getting Cliver to pretend to climb up a rock face by actually laying the camera down on its side and having the actor crawl across the floor in front of it! He also co-wrote much of the film’s hugely irritating musical score with Pablo Villa (aka Daniel White), which we hear way too much of throughout the film’s overlong runtime. Personally, I’d had enough after about 45 minutes…

There’s also plenty of bad acting to behold, and some atrocious dialogue for them to either say or shout out, especially in the case of kidnapper, Chris, who swears a lot and hates the jungle, even freaking out when he sees, err, flowers! However, I did feel a bit sorry for the main actress Ursula Fellner, who increasingly looks more and more sunburnt as the film progresses, her light skin nicely cooking in the non-jungle sunshine…

Franco once amusingly claimed that Devil Hunter was the unaccredited inspiration for the Arnold Schwarzenegger blockbuster, Predator, saying that: “It’s exactly the same”. Err, no Jess, it’s definitely not!

88 Films are distributing The Devil Hunter on Blu-Ray and, as per usual, have done a good job restoring the film, despite there being a little grain here and there; although that might be intentional. The sound is also very good; perhaps too good given the awful musical score and incessant groaning and growling the devil god makes! 88 Films also seem to have spliced in some additional footage (Spanish language only), which I don’t remember seeing before.

There was only one extra on the review disc I was sent, but it’s a doozy:

Franco-philes (48 mins) –  A lengthy featurette talking-heads style documentary about the life and work of director Jesus Franco with contributions by the likes of: film critic John Martin, Rachel Nisbet (author/critic), Andy Black (author/publisher), Mike Hostench (Deputy Director of Stiges Film festival), Tony Timpone (ex- editor of Fangoria), Martin Unsworth (author/publisher), Julien Petley (academic), Howard Mauser (actor) and Dyanne Thorne (actress).

This is fascinating stuff and is nicely illustrated with clips and posters, and the like. I knew Franco had directed a lot of films, but I didn’t realise it was more than 160! Watching the documentary did make me want to revisit some of Franco’s older films and ‘classics’, including The Awful Dr Orloff and Faceless.

 

 

The Devil Hunter (Aka The Manhunter)
Justin Richards reviews Jess Franco's 'The Devil Hunter' once banned in the UK.
1.5Overall Score
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About The Author

After a lengthy stint as a print journalist, Justin now works as a TV and film producer for Bazooka Bunny. He's always been interested in genre films and TV and has continued to work in that area in his new day-job. His written work has appeared in the darker recesses of the internet and in various niche publications, including ITNOW, The Darkside, Is it Uncut?, Impact and Deranged. When he’s not running around on set, or sat hunched over a sticky, crumb-laden keyboard, he’s paying good money to have people in pyjamas try and kick him repeatedly in the face.

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