In 2001, a stage production was staged Off-Broadway at the Kraine Theater on East 4th Street in New York.
In 2008 a large scale stage production was produced by The Rival Theatre Company at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. It featured West end Performers. It was executive produced by Jason McHugh and directed by Frazer Brown.
The film begins with a reenactment of the gruesome events of cannibalism as described by the prosecuting attorney during Alferd Packer's trial in 1883. Packer insists that things happened differently than what has been recounted, and begins to tell his story to journalist Polly Pry (Toddy Walters) through flashback.
In 1873 a group of miners in Provo, Utah hear of new gold discoveries in Breckenridge and decide to travel to Colorado Territory to stake a claim. After the original guide dies from a lightning strike, Packer is nominated as the replacement since he claimed knowledge of the area. He and his trusty horse, Liane, set off with five miners, Shannon Wilson Bell, James Humphrey, Frank Miller, George Noon, and Israel Swan, on what Packer estimates will be a three week journey.
Four weeks later, they become convinced they are lost. At a nearby frontier post, they run into a group of three fur trappers, led by the diminutive Frenchy Cabazon. The trappers despise the miners, “diggers” as they call them, yet seem to like Packer’s horse. They tell the group they are heading towards Saguache. The next day, Packer wakes up to discover his horse and friend, Liane, is missing. The men press on and cross the Green River near the Utah border. The group asks Packer if there are any other big rivers they’ll have to cross to which he replies, “Oh no, just the Colorado River.”
Eventually, the Packer party is spotted by two “Nihonjin” Indians (obviously played by Asians and speaking Japanese). There are taken back to the tribe where they learn the trappers are waiting for the winter storm to pass as recommended by the chief.
The story returns to the present time, where Polly continues her research of Packer’s story by herself, revealing her growing affection for him through song. The next day, Packer is sentenced to death by hanging. Polly visits Packer once again in prison, where he continues his story.
The men set out in the wilderness after Packer learns the trappers have already left. The group begins to suspect that Packer is really only interested in following the trappers to find his horse. They soldier on until they encounter the foreboding Cyclops who recalls how a Union soldier shot out his eye in the Civil War. He realizes Packer's men are not “Southern boys” after they can’t finish the lyrics to Dixie. They escape but soon run out of food, resorting to eating their shoes as they become lost in the snow covered Rocky Mountains. The badly frostbitten Swan tries to cheer everybody up with a song about building a snowman, which includes an inexplicable tap-dancing solo. Out of frustration, Bell shoots him in the head. The men discuss their dire situation that night over the fire, speaking of the cannibalism that the Donner Party had to resort to in California. They decide to consume the body of their dead companion, but “not the butt”. Only Bell (after sitting away from the party, by himself) refuses the gruesome meal. After a few more days of searching for civilization, the group begins to talk about sacrificing a member of the party so the rest can survive by eating him. Packer asks for one more chance so he can search over the next mountain. He returns unsuccessful, only to find Bell surrounded by the slaughtered remains of his comrades. A fight ensues where Packer (eventually) strikes the final blow that kills Bell.
Days later, Packer emerges alone from the wilderness in the city of Saguache, where the suspecting sheriff begins an investigation. Packer finds Liane has taken to Frenchy Cabazon, despite their mutually exclusive relationship. Broken-hearted, Packer wanders into the local saloon where the drunken sheriff levels charges of cannibalism against him after the bodies are discovered. The crowd attacks him, but he uses his fighting skills (learned while staying with the Nihonjin Indians) to fend them off, delivering a long succession of blows to Cabazon’s crotch. Packer flees for Wyoming, and rues to Polly, “I should have let them kill me”. When asked why, he replies, “Have you ever been to Wyoming?”
Packer’s execution day arrives and he is marched to the gallows. At the last minute Polly stops the execution, carrying a stay of execution from the governor which states that Packer could not be convicted of a state crime since Colorado was not a state at the time of the incident. Packer realizes that Liane had aided Polly in one final act of friendship. Outraged, Cabazon rushes the gallows and throws the switch to release the trap door. Struggling for breath, Packer is once again saved by the Indian chief, who cuts the noose (and beheads Cabazon) with a samurai sword. All is well as Packer and Polly kiss – only to be startled by a resurrected and gruesomely wounded Bell.
After the closing credits roll, a warning card states “Due to the graphic nature of this film, it should not have been watched by young children.”
This film was originally filmed as Alferd Packer: The Musical in 1993. It was not released until 1996, however, when Troma Entertainment picked it up and renamed it Cannibal! The Musical for concern that not enough people outside of Colorado knew who Packer was. Few people outside of Colorado ever saw the film since Troma did not distribute it widely. Parker and Stone's animated satire South Park debuted the following year.
Following Matt and Trey's success with South Park, Troma re-released the movie on VHS and DVD and it has enjoyed a cult following. The DVD contains a "Drunken Director's Commentary" where Trey Parker and Matt Stone along with most of the cast get drunk as they watch the movie, although there are a few times when the commentary cuts out (either because the recorder was turned off or they spoke of things they later decided nobody should hear).
Several live productions of the show have been mounted, with excerpts from one live version available on the DVD.
Two songs that were originally going to be in the film, but later taken out, were "Shatterproof" and "Don't Be Stupid". An interview with Ian Keldin (Bell) said that Trey thought "Shatterproof" (which was going to be a rap song) made Packer seem too tough.