BR: Cannibal Man / La semana del asesino / Apartment on the 13th Floor, The (1972)

October 10, 2021 | By

Film: Excellent

Transfer:  Excellent

Extras: Very Good

Label:  Severin Films / MVD Visual

Region: A, B, C

Released:  August 24, 2021

Genre:  Spanish Giallo / Thriller / Horror / Serial Killer

Synopsis: A worker at a meat packing plant begins a murder spree to cover up an death.

Special Features:  2 Interview Featurettes: “Cinema at the Margins: Stephen Thrower and Dr. Shelagh Rowan-Leggon Eloy de la Iglesia” (26:10) + “The Sleazy and the Strange: Interview with Film Scholar Carlos Aguilar” in Spanish with English subtitles (17:55) / Deleted Scenes (1:33) / Trailer / Slipcover / Reversible Sleeve Art / Contains 107min. Extended and 98 min. International Cuts.




Originally titled La Semana del asesino in director Eloy de la Iglesia’s native Spain, ‘Week of the Killer’ makes a lot more sense than its international title, Cannibal Man, as well as the iconic yet still misleading key poster art of a massive cleaver wedged oh-so-juicily into the face of an unfortunate victim. Yes, someone’s face is bisected, but it’s just a moment in a thriller that contains no cannibalism on the part of the killer, the victims, or surrounding characters.

Its thoroughly lurid title ultimately generated a cult following for CB, as well as extra notoriety as one of 39 films to be successfully prosecuted under Britain’s ridiculous Video Nasty purge, and while the deaths are graphic and plentiful, they’re not the centerpieces of a drama that will feel very modern to genre fans.

De la Iglesia had to temper his script and film for Spanish censors during Franco’s reign, but not unlike some of the classic Hollywood films during the infamous Production Code, severe restrictions sometimes force writers and filmmakers to find other creative means of inferring horror, sexual tension, and political critiques.

CB has a palpable crime-drama feel – daily title cards preface the next grisly events – and one can sense Hitchcockian sensibilities: when Marcos (former screen idol Vicente Parra) saves his young lover Paula (pretty Emma Cohen) from an abusive taxi driver, the resulting killing – part self-defense, part explosive action fueled by pent-up rage – Marcos becomes a sort of innocent man thrust into an extraordinary circumstance. De la Iglesia also choreographs Marcos’ killings from blunt, panic-fueled reactions and near-misses to coordinated entrapment, and heightens our fears for the next nasty means of execution as each death escalates in nastiness. (Marcos’ methods aren’t especially surprising, though, given there’s two out-of-place utility boards with oversized tools, long knives, and a mega-cleaver suspended by nails.)

Unlike Psycho‘s Norman Bates, though, Marcos becomes steeped in a state of PTSD, initially unable to deal with the cadavers, and he gradually becomes inured to the rising stench of rotting bodies kept in a bedroom with no ventilation; he’s more annoyed than concerned when feral dogs start to cluster by his front door, hungry for the source of the teasing scent of sweet chicken.

Marcos’ numbness during this hellish week is sustained by his natural tolerance of blood and gore, being an employee of a large Madrid slaughterhouse. De la Iglesia shows Marcos’ indifference to the sights, smell, and sounds of death by interpolating tracking and close shots of bovine cadavers cleaved in half, and fluid offal pouring out from punctured necks. (The film does not feature animal killings, just the aftermath; but there are graphic visual and sonic elements within a real processing plant.) When he’s promoted to a new meat shredding machine, he soon makes use of the automated device by disposing of bowling ball-sized human parts when not shovelling sliced cow skulls into the drop-chute.

Although CB has the aura of a giallo – composer Fernando García Morcillo does a good job evoking Ennio Morricone’s lounge-style writing for the genre – de la Iglesia’s film isn’t a full-blown classic giallo because it lacks a central mystery, an unseen killer, and a twist finale or revelation; leading character Marcos becomes a killer in the first third, and for the rest of the film, we follow him from various angles as each death is ostensibly an attempt to prevent the police from discovering the prior murder. The only mystery is whether Marcos will be caught by the police; whether gets away with his crimes; or is perhaps blackmailed by Néstor (Eusebio Poncela), a voyeur who both watches Marcos’ from his high altitude apartment with binoculars, and chats with him during nighttime dog walks.

CB’s modernity comes from the unusual attention de la Iglesia devotes to Marcos’ downward spiral from an accidental to desperate and blatant killer, indexing the chaptered drama with a title card for each new day, and giving CB a crime / docu-drama structure. Morcillo crafted some excellent trickling, ticking, reverse-processed, abstract cues for Marcos’ murderous states, and if the devotion to the killer’s PTSD is unique for a 1972 thriller, the film’s sexual content is integral to dramatizing Marcos’ need to get through the week amid the daily horrors piling up in his ramshackle home. There is de rigueur female nudity (fairly conservative for the genre), but there’s also Marcos’ own frank masturbatory exercises, the latter most clearly observed from a distance by Néstor, the thrust of the film’s homoerotic secondary stream.

Néstor is neither a foil nor an instigator for further panicked actions, nor a starkly sleazy neighbour living high up in one of several sleek modern apartments easing into the dusty terrain of the great unwashed. He meets Marcos almost nightly as Néstor walks his boxer and Marcos comes home from either a late date, dinner at the local pub, or as happens soon after the first murder, Marcos as a jacked up serial killer in need of some fresh air, and oblique conversation to calm down.

Throughout this murderous debacle, Marcos doesn’t have a plan, and with a singular and pivotal exception, one can surmise that had many of his victims not knocked on his door, it’s more than likely the discovery of his actions would’ve been delayed, and he may well have gotten away for a while. Néstor’s full or fragmented awareness of Marcos’ crimes (and especially their grim details) remain vague; his motivations to befriend a mentally dishevelled Marcos becomes the primary mystery in the finale, but in spite of Néstor being very clearly attracted to Marcos, he’s a also a figurative psychiatrist who listens, interprets, and awaits the moment when Marcos needs a break from the mounting madness.

When CB’s killer is at his lowest (and most physically, emotionally, and spiritually grotty state), Marcos accepts Néstor’s invite for a midnight swim at the apartment complex’s exclusive club, and de la Iglesia layers in moments of energetic, euphoric, and playful above & underwater frolicking. The lengthy montage is an ephemeral, dreamy pause in the grim drama where Marcos symbolically washes away some of the torment from the murders, and considers Néstor as the guide towards a possible exit, and sexual liberation.

De la Iglesia’ direction and Parra’s superb understated performance ensure we retain some sympathy for Marcos. Néstor’s initial position as a subliminal confidante also brings the whole drama to a moment of great decision in the finale: before the morning sunrise, will there be another death? A sharing of further killings? A death of either of the two men? Or something else?

Just as director Alfred Hitchcock and screenwriter Joseph Stefano larded their Psycho script and the film with provocative elements to provoke censors, yet ultimately and tactfully pare their serial killer thriller down to what was arguably the version Hitchcock had intended to release in 1960, one suspects de la Iglesia may have played the same game, filming material to see what could be allowed, and if snipped, whether what remained would still be dramatically sound, faithful to the characters and the director’s vision, and push the risque material just slightly away from the government censors’ radar.

The trio of deleted material on Severin’s disc suggests footage snipped to appease the puritanical censors, but even without the provocative footage, CB doesn’t loose its potency; the only curiosity is whether Néstor and Marcos did bond during and after their swim, or whether their union was just a heightened fantasy.

Over the decades, CB has benefited from a reputation as a lurid, nasty slasher film, but under its original Spanish title (‘The Killer’s Week’), it’s a smart, prescient examination of the madness that blunts a killer’s moral instincts, and traces the inherently brief period in which a (sort of) accidental death becomes a fuse for an adrenaline rush, and creates a paranoid nightmare in which a killer inevitably burns out from the consuming, exhausting need to ignore the horror he creates.


Pictured: Catchy yet massively deceptive key art evoking Alfred Hitchcock’s REAR WINDOW (1954), which CANNIBAL MAN (1972) isn’t.


The longer Spanish version (107 mins.) was previously released by Anchor Bay, and Severin’s new Blu-ray supports a new transfer, plus the shorter International Cut. The Extended Cut seems to include some material from the shorter version, especially brief bits that extend an early scene with Marcos in a local diner, of which the surviving audio is only in English. The International Cut also cleaves the slaughterhouse footage in half, placing the goriest material at the very beginning prior to the Main Titles – a strange choice, unless it was an attempt to give audiences the immediate shock promised in the over-hyped English trailer.

Substantive extras include a pair of career overviews: “Cinema at the Margins” features intersecting interviews with genre historians Stephen Thrower and Dr. Shelagh Rowan-Legg, and Spanish film scholar Carlos Aguilar in “The Sleazy and the Strange.”

After studying filmmaking in France, de la Iglesia’s wrote for the children’s TV series Nuestro amigo el libro (1964), after which came the family-friendly anthology Fantasia… 3 (1966), his first work as writer-director. The drama Algo amargo en la boca (1969) was followed by The Glass Ceiling (1971), his first foray into the Spanish giallo.

Director Eloy de la Iglesia, lovely Emma Cohen, and star / co-producer Vicente Parra.

De La Iglesia had layered political subtext his in films during this period – the contrast between the poor and the privileged nouveau riche in CB is starkly evident in the gleaming brick apartments overlooking remaining shacks, doomed to be bulldozed for more developments – but after the death of General Franco in 1975, de la Iglesia explored social woes more directly, including politics, religion, and sexuality (de la Iglesia was an avowed Communist , and like star Parra, who also co-produced, and co-star Poncela, was gay). In some of his final work, de la Iglesia delved into drug addiction, a subject which ultimately consumed and destroyed his career when he became a heroine addict.

Severin’s three de la Iglesias releases include Cannibal Man (1972), No One Heard the Scream (1973), and the Quinqui Collection, featuring Navajeros (1980), El Pico (1983), and El Pico 2 (1984).



© 2021 Mark R. Hasan





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