So-bad-it’s-rotten comedy-horror from Canada, notable only for the fact that it was an early effort by director Ivan Reitman.
This 1973 film, shot in just nine days, was the second feature by Ivan Reitman (following 1971’s FOXY LADY). These days it’s most famous for its lurid trailer, which is featured in numerous trash movie trailer compilations (including Something Weird Video’s DUSK TO DAWN TRASH-O-RAMA video series and Other Cinema’s EXPERIMENTS IN TERROR DVD), and is far more satisfying than the film it advertised.
Viewers of Reitman’s later movies will notice familiar names in the credits--most notably producer-editor Daniel Goldberg, a frequent Reitman collaborator. Note also the lead actors Eugene Levy and Andrea Martin, both of whom (no joke) won acting awards for their work in CANNIBAL GIRLS at Spain’s International Horror Festival, and would both go on to Second City fame three years after this mess of a film was released.
Cliff and Laurie, a hippie couple, are driving through the Canadian wilderness. Their car breaks down in a rural town, where they’re made privy to a local legend involving three sexy young women luring men to their lair. We’re shown a dramatization of the legend, in which the gals, a red head, a brunette and a blonde, serve three unsuspecting male guests copious cuts of meat--and then dispassionately kill and dismember the guys.
With their car stuck in a local auto shop, Cliff and Laurie head for a local bed and breakfast. The place turns out to be a creepy old house manned by a top hat wearing weirdo who identifies himself as a reverend, and regales Cliff and Laurie with the story of his eccentric family, who owned the house for generations. The reverend also reveals that “three awful young ladies” occupied the place--the same three young ladies whose story we just saw acted out.
During dinner, in fact, the reverend is interrupted in his account by a scream, which turns out to be emanating from a guy being dismembered by one of the so-called cannibal girls. The reverend, we learn, views the cannibal girls as his queens and he their king, claiming they’ll gain immortality by eating human flesh.
That night the reverend and his gals attack Cliff and Laurie. Laurie escapes, only to flag down a passing motorist who turns out to be in cahoots with the reverend. But, inexplicably enough, Cliff and Laurie are let go by the Reverend, who rationalizes his decision by claiming “our friends in town will take care of them…”
This horror-comedy fails as horror, and certainly doesn’t succeed as a comedy (with “jokes” that include actress Andrea Martin attempting to get her car to start by talking nice to it). It also tries, and fails, to capture the counterculture vibe of classics like I DRINK YOUR BLOOD and SIMON, KING OF THE WITCHES, with pretentious monologues by the reverend and a couple of pretentious psychedelic interludes. Then there’s the poorly constructed, heavily improvised narrative that for some inexplicable reason climaxes at around the hour mark, and meanders interminably for its final twenty minutes.
Eugene Levy and Andrea Martin are talented performers, but you wouldn’t be able to tell that from their work here, while the direction by the young Ivan Reitman is pedestrian at best, plain inept at worst. The commercial instincts that fueled Reitman’s later work can be glimpsed here, as when he commences a fight scene in the middle of the scuffle and waits until it’s over to reveal how it got started, but that’s hardly reason enough to endure this mess--although it is fun spotting the boom mike descending into the top of the frame, which it does frequently. Also, lest anyone doubt the Canadian-ness of the enterprise, this film contains what is almost surely a record amount of “Eh?’s” in its dialogue.
Alan Landsburg Productions
Director: Ivan Reitman
Producer: Daniel Goldberg
Screenplay: Robert Sandler
Cinematography: Robert Saad
Editing: Daniel Goldberg
Cast: Eugene Levy, Andrea Martin, Ronald Ulrich, Randall Carpenter, Bonnie Neilson, Mira Pawluk, Robert McHeady, Alan Gordon, Allan Price, Earl Pomerantz, May Jarvis