Whether you call it Apocalypse domani, Cannibals In the Streets, Invasion of the Fleshhunters or another of the many titles this movie has been given, you have to respect the vision of Antonio Margheriti who continually brings something amazing to each of his movie, no matter if they’re in science fiction (Assignment: Outer Space, The War of the Planets, The Wild, Wild Planet, Battle of the Worlds), horror (The Long Hair of Death), giallo (Seven Deaths in the Cat’s Eyes), westerns (And God Said to Cain), war (Jungle Raiders, Code Name: Wild Geese) and whatever magical genre Yor Hunter from the Future is from.
In an interview with The Flashback Files, star John Saxon said, “It was talking about the Vietnam war like it was a virus you could bring home. I thought it was a great metaphor for a psychological condition.”
But then he started making the movie.
“At one point we were shooting a scene and a guy brings in this tray of meat. I asked what it was for and they explained to me it was supposed to be body parts, even genitals, and we were supposed to gnaw on them. I asked Margheriti to take me out of the scene and I went to my hotel room. Once I found out what the true nature of the film was I got so depressed.”
Yet no matter how wild this movie gets, Saxon is the glue that holds it together, adding energy and emotion to every scene he’s in.
Saxon plays Norman Hopper, a man haunted by his experiences in Vietnam, remembering one night when he was bitten by Charlie Bukowski (John Morghen AKA Giovanni Lombardo Radice, who had quite the year, also appearing in 1980s City of the Living Dead and The House on the Edge of the Park), a POV that he rescued.
He hears from Bukowski, who wants to meet him for a drink, but he’s late as he’s giving in to the charms of his young next door neighbor Mary (Cindy Hamilton AKA Cinzia De Carolis, Lori from The Cat O’Nine Tails). In the middle of them starting to make love, he bites her. And she likes it, because yes, this is an Italian horror movie.
Just then, Norman discovers that Charlie has barricaded himself in the mall and is threatening to kill civilians. Norman convinces him to surrender, but as they’re taking him away, he bites a cop. When he returns home, he confesses to giving in to his sexual impulses and feeling the need to bite Mary. His wife Jane (Elizabeth Turner, Beyond the Door, The Psychic) struggles to understand. Meanwhile, Bukowski and another vet named Tom (Tony King, who is now Malik Farrakhan and the head of security for Public Enemy; he’s also in The Last Hunter, The Toy, Atlantis Interceptors and Hell Up In Harlem) battle guards; Bukowski tops that by biting a nurse named Helen (May Heatherly, Pieces, Edge of the Axe).
No one is innocent, as Jane has been making time with Dr. Mendez (Ray Williams AKA Ramiro Oliveros, The Swamp of the Ravens, The Pyjama Girl Case), who takes her on a date to a piano bar where he tells her that the virus causes a mutation that causes human beings to crave flesh. Norman goes to get tested by the doctor, but he really wants to find out what the man’s intentions are with his wife.
Everything gets bad fast. Nurse Helen bites a doctor’s tongue clean off, just as the infected cop goes wild, tearing through several of his fellow officers. Captain McCoy (Wallace Wilkinson, Invasion U.S.A., The Visitor) resolves to end the outbreak and sends his men into the sewers to stop the outbreak, which finds Norman, Helen, Bukowski and Tony battling a biker gang and slicing a man apart with a disc grinder. Despite battling cops armed with a flamethrower and being shot, Norman survives and makes his way back to his home just in time to save his wife from an infected Mendez. As he expires in his dress uniform, she kills herself. As for the disease, perhaps Mary and her brother might know something as well.
It would take several websites to contain everything that Dardano Sacchetti wrote. I love that this film is a cannibal movie and a zombie film together, yet the infected retain their intelligence. It looks gorgeous as well, as the Italian film crew uses Atlanta — and De Paolis Studios back in Italy — to its fullest. It definitely earns being a video nasty, making its way to the section 1 list of prosecuted movies.