Movie review - Cannibal! The Musical

Cannibal! The Musical
Cannibal! The Musical

Cannibal! The Musical

Original title: Alfred Packer: The Musical (Made in 1993)

Created by the Avenging Conscience, Inc Production company

Written, produced and directed by Trey Parker

Original songs by Trey Parker

Score collaboration headed by Trey Parker

Released by Troma Films, 1996

Starring: Jaun Schwartz (Trey Parker), Matt Stone, Jon Hegel, Dian Bacher, Jason McHugh, Ian Hardin, Toddy Walters and an accompanying cast of several

Stats:

Genre: Musical comedy, western

Age appropriateness level: 14-adult

Content for advisory: contains some strong language, subtle sexual innuendo, obviously fake gruesome scenes

Venue watched: Netflix

Reviewer rating: 5 Popcorns (out of possible 5)


Official description: Cannibal! The Musical is the true story of the only person convicted of cannibalism in America - Alferd Packer (according to Colorado lore. The sole survivor of an ill-fated trip to the Colorado Territory, he tells his side of the harrowing tale to news reporter Polly Pry as he awaits his execution. And his story goes like this: While searching for gold and love in the Colorado Territory, he and his companions lost their way and resorted to unthinkable horrors, including toe-tapping songs!

Inspired by real-life events and turned into a musical comedy by Trey Parker (of South Park fame), this film opens up with a wry dramatic prologue (see below review) and ends with an equally sardonic ending (see below review).

Details

This movie opens with the recounting of the horrible deaths of five men at the hands of cannibal, Alferd Packer, during their trek to find the Colorado Territory. The tale is an appalling and moving one, and one totally conjured up by one very theatrical prosecutor. But to his credit, the prosecutor manages to get the town crying for Packer’s blood even before the trial ends. One person, however, is unconvinced of Packer’s villainy – pretty journalist, Polly Pry from Lake City. Polly gets to interview Packer in jail. During her visits Packer gives his account of the tragedy.

This film was made by Trey Parker (of South Park fame), with the help of his friend Matt Stone (also of South Park), along with several of their college friends and personal associates and before any of them were famous. It was filmed on location in Colorado and though the scenery is panoramic the budget was visually low by Hollywood standards. Most projects with such credentials might fairly need a Watch at Own Risk warning, and the hesitant viewer might expect nothing more than a cavalcade of sophomoric jokes and hijinks, pitifully convincing special effects and worse –as it is a musical- a bunch of puerile songs.

Except for the pitifully convincing special effects, however, the hesitant viewer would be wrong to make these presumptions.

Alferd Packer’s story begins by telling Polly how he and his beloved horse set out one day on a happy-go-lucky ride through the countryside. Packer and Liane (the horse) chanced upon a group of miners (mainly Mormons) who were hoping to find gold in the Colorado Territory but were in need of a guide to get them there. The friendly and not very sophisticated Packer was recruited for this role and he and Liane set off with five other men across the forbidding wilderness.

During the journey the men met up with some unforgettable characters: three trouble-making trappers, a Cyclops, a lamb and a group of “Indians” with samurai swords. They encountered frostbite and the “biggest freak’n river” any of them have ever seen. Lost and without even a compass, the men eventually ran out of food. Their once sunny dreams of wealth slowly turned to dark despair, and the only release to their suffering could be found in song and dance, Mormon optimism and some not-very-yummy boot leather.

But topping Packer’s list of calamities –even the threat of being convicted and hung by the neck- is that Liane abandoned him.

Reviewer comments:

This movie was released under the Troma label, and Troma is best known for such self-consciously bad films as Toxic Avenger, Nuke ‘Em High and the delightful Monster in the Closet. Now as enjoyable as these films are on a cult-following level, Cannibal! The Musical had some things going for it those others didn’t –namely an articulate script, real comedic magic, good music and quality acting. And for those pitifully convincing special effects mentioned earlier, they worked in perfectly for this production.

The humor here is deadpan at its best, with loads of non sequiturs and sight gags that are gentle compared to films like the Scary Movie films or the Naked Gun series. That Parker and friends also succeeded in parodying the whole musical genre without once spoofing any particular musical or film. I found this particularly refreshing.

If you are a South Park fan (and I am), it is practically impossible not to draw parallels between that show and this film. Most notable is Parker’s knack for composing memorably humorous songs, which, of course, was the paramount achievement with SouthPark: Bigger, Longer & Uncut. There are also preludes of things to come, such as the voice that shrieks out suddenly in one scene (Eric Cartman before there was an Eric Cartman). The character of Polly Pry is a adult (and sweeter) version of SP’s Wendy Testaburger. The anxious-to-hang judge is played by none other than Parker’s real-life dad, Randy, who Parker has openly admitted, inspired the SP character of Randy Marsh. And then there is that convincing yet at times uncomfortable male-bonding element going on between the ill-fated men. It is an element that carried over to the young characters in SP, and which has draw and maintain affection with fans.

One obvious contrast is that CTM has little of the crudeness and none of the mean-spiritedness typical of South Park. And while SP often relies on contemporary issues for background and celebrities as villains/side-characters, CTM doesn’t rely on any of this. Its comedy is exclusive of itself.

That the creators of this film were still in college and that the story inspiration behind it a pretty dark one deserves noting as well. If it had been an average group of college kids and their friends and family taking on such a challenge the end product might have been cute at best. But CTM had more than cute behind it; there was genuine talent and a distinct sense of ensemble purpose to create quality humor out of a very grim true-life subject.

Reviewer’s final verdict:

I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of Cannibal! The Musical. It is an entertaining hilarity fest with a remarkably novel premise, energetic cast and catchy songs. It not only made me laugh, but laugh until tears poured down my cheeks. If you enjoy parodies with subtle mature subject matter, I think Cannibal! The Musical is sure to find a fond niche in your heart, too.

Reviewer rating: Five Popcorns

As promised earlier:


The film’s Prologue: “The film you are about to see was originally released in 1954. Upstaged by the overwhelming popularity of "Oklahoma!", it's short-lived theater run was cancelled, and "Alferd Packer: The Musical" soon fell into obscurity. The original negative, re-discovered just last year, has been painstakingly restored using state-of-the-art color enhancing and computer reconstruction technology. The film's violent scenes have been edited out for your viewing pleasure.”

The film’s Epilogue: “Due to the graphic nature of this film, it should not have been watched by small children”

The official Cannibal! The Musical website

Soundtrack

Music & lyrics by Trey Parker

Shpadoinkle

Don’t Be Stupid (cut from original release)

That’s All I’m Asking For

When I Was On Top of You

Trapper Song

This Side of Me

Let’s Build a Snowman

Hang the Bastard!


reviewed © November 15, 2011 by Beth Perry


Watch the “That’s All I’m Asking For” scene from Youtube

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Comments 15 comments

Anonomous 5 years ago

Loved the Reveiw, but the movie had amazing effects for what it was


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

I've never heard of this! Now I'll have to find it.

(See what you've done?)

^_^


bethperry profile image

bethperry 5 years ago from Tennesee Author

Anonymous, thanks for dropping by and thanks for commenting!


bethperry profile image

bethperry 5 years ago from Tennesee Author

Will, knowing your love of the old west and your sense of humor I really think you'll enjoy it. Thanks for reading :)


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 5 years ago from Portland, Oregon

thanks for this review! I love this movie. Thanks for reviewing!


bethperry profile image

bethperry 5 years ago from Tennesee Author

PDXKarokeGuy, very happy to. It is one of my new favorites :)


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 5 years ago from Portland, Oregon

have u watched it with the commentary yet? Lots of drinking, farting and sexual innuendo


bethperry profile image

bethperry 5 years ago from Tennesee Author

PDXKarokeGuy, I saw it, without commercials, on Netflix. Yeah, there was all that but still pretty tame IMHO :) I really, really enjoyed it and my kids are begging to watch again.


femmeflashpoint 4 years ago

Lady Beth,

I've been running behind in my hub-hopping, but in going down the list, I was laughing before I even opened the page on this one. The title alone was enough to snare me, lol.

After reading the review, which was excellent by the way, I've GOT to see it!

Since I'm not a popcorn fan, but it rated for five triple-servings of the stuff, I'll gift mine to whomever ends up sitting next to me during the show. ;)


bethperry profile image

bethperry 4 years ago from Tennesee Author

femmeflashpoint, hey girl! Thanks much and it's nice to see you back :)


femmeflashpoint 4 years ago

I've been working at catching up since five this afternoon. It's now after 10, lol!

Slow going, but getting there!


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon

beth, if you can get a version that has commentary, i highly recommend it


JohnGreasyGamer profile image

JohnGreasyGamer 4 years ago from South Yorkshire, England

Looks like a good film, I'll be sure to see it. Especially if it's by Troma! ^^


bethperry profile image

bethperry 4 years ago from Tennesee Author

PDXKaraokeGuy, thanks, I'll be on the look out for it!


bethperry profile image

bethperry 4 years ago from Tennesee Author

JohnGreasyGamer, I think you'll enjoy it. Btw, I just recently watched the Troma film "Rabid Grannies", which is also pretty darned good!

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