Laugh while you can

Offering something new on the menu

Published: Oct 27 2015, 01:01:am

Tuesday, March 5, 1974.
CANNIBAL GIRLS. Written by Robert Sandler, based on a story by Daniel Goldberg and Ivan Reitman. Music by Doug Riley. Directed by Ivan Reitman. Running time: 84 minutes. Restricted entertainment with the B.C. Classifier's warning: scenes of horror.
"I'M SURE YOU'LL ENJOY the restaurant," Mrs. Wainwright (May Jarvis) tells the young couple who've just registered in her motel. "It has a flavour all its own."
    The same can be said of Cannibal Girls, the tongue-in-cheek  tale of a small Ontario town that has found its own solution to the meat shortage. Taken for what it is, the taste is surprisingly good.
    A domestically-made horror comedy, it is one of a handful of features produced recently without the financial assistance of the Canadian Film Development Corporation. It's not that Ivan Reitman, the film's 25-year-old director, didn't want their money.
    When asked, the federal agency turned him down flat.
    Reitman was not dissuaded. He had faith in his ability to make a marketable movie and so, with $28,000 in cash, $70,000 in credit and $50,000 in deferred payments to his cast and crew, he turned one out.
    He was right, too. Much to the chagrin of the gatekeepers at the CFDC, Cannibal Girls "is doing rip-roaring business everywhere," according to the entertainment trade paper Variety.
    Sold in Britain and a half-dozen other European nations, the film is being distributed in the United states by American International Pictures, best known for its Edgar Allan Poe adaptations. (There, it is often double featured with Raw Meat, a more serious and considerably more frightening British film with a similar cuisine-driven theme. When that feature played Vancouver late last year [1973], I suggested that, as a cult film, it would be a worthy successor to 1968's Night of the Living Dead.)
    Even more surprising is the fact that the film's stars, Eugene Levy and Andrea Martin — both appeared in the recent Toronto stage production of Godspell — collected best acting awards at the Festival of Fantasy and Horror held last year in Sitges, Spain.
    In Cannibal Girls, they play Clifford and Gloria, an unsuspecting undergraduate couple who arrive in rural Farnhamville (population 1,124) for a dirty weekend. He has sex on his mind. She is a happy dumb-dumb who just doesn't know any better.
    Together, they bring a collegiate cool to the gothic goings-on that gives the film its feeling of carefully calculated nonsense.
    Reitman, who made his directorial debut with the uneven romantic comedy Foxy Lady (1971), strikes a more effective balance here. His second feature doesn't take itself too seriously, but it is carefully made nonetheless. Robert Saad's atmospheric photography and Dan Goldberg's tight editing give the picture a gloss usually absent from quickie screamers.
    Reitman's cast — including the lovely-to-look-at Randall Carpenter, Bonnie Neilson and Mira Pawluck as cannibal girls Anthea, Clarissa and Leona — are properly spooky. The result is an unpretentious entertainment package that works well for its expected young adult audience.
*    *    *
    IN CANADA, DISTRIBUTION OF Cannibal Girls is being handled by Cinepix, a company whose enterprises range from presentation of the distinguished epic Kamouraska to the operation of the sex-exploiting Eve cinema chain.
    What it has double-featured with the Canadian comedy screamer is a German-made groaner. Made in 1971, its original title was Ich Schlafe mit meinem Morder. England knew it as Dead Sexy, but it is showing here as Moonlighting Mistress.
    Regardless of the title, it's awful.

The above is a restored version of a Province review by Michael Walsh originally published in 1974. For additional information on this archived material, please visit my FAQ.

Afterword: Along with Mira Pawluk (cannibal girl Leona), both Eugene Levy and Andrea Martin had bit parts in Ivan Reitman's first feature, the mostly forgotten Foxy Lady. The two comedians went on to join the legendary SCTV ensemble, and individually enjoy successful careers working both in Hollywood movies and Canadian television. Reitman, who celebrates his 69th birthday today (October 27), can take credit for many things, including jump-starting actor Bill Murray's career (with the starring role in his 1979 feature Meatballs). As a director, he saw the comic potential in Arnold Schwarzenegger (casting the action star opposite Danny DeVito in 1988's Twins) and, in 2006, gave us the best comic-book comedy not based on an actual comic book (My Super Ex-Girlfriend). He'll always be remembered, of course, for his 1984 hit Ghostbusters, and has put his stamp of approval on director Paul Feig's upcoming reboot with an all-woman team. Reitman is the producer of Feig's Ghostbusters, currently in post-production and scheduled for release in July 2016.    

See also: For more on the remarkable early career of Ivan Reitman, see my coverage of Heavy Metal, the 1981 animated feature that he produced. Filed in the Reeling Back archive are a story on its financing,  my review on its release, as well as background on its production, and on the film's music. All include details on Reitman's involvement in the project.