cannibal

Cannibal! The Musical

Cannibal! The Musical is a student film directed by future creator of South Park, Trey Parker, while studying at the University of Colorado at Boulder. A black comedy, it is loosely based on the true story of Alferd Packer and the sordid details of the trip from Utah to Colorado that left his five fellow travellers dead and partially eaten. Trey Parker stars as Alferd Packer, with Parker's frequent collaborators Matt Stone and Dian Bachar and others playing the supporting roles.

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.

Plot

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.”

Production

The film's origins stem from a short trailer they made for film class. The trailer, which was about three minutes long, drew much attention. Following repeated requests upon Parker and Stone to make the movie, they raised approximately $70,000 and began shooting the film.

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.

This movie has since been released on UMD for the Sony PSP.

Casting

Trey Parker stars in Cannibal! as Alferd Packer, with Matt Stone featured as James Humphrey, and Stan Brakhage, experimental filmmaker and University of Colorado teacher, as George Noon's father. Trey Parker is listed in the film's credits under the name "Juan Schwartz", which is a variant of "John Schwartze", a pseudonym used by the real Alferd Packer. Character George 'California' Noon is played by Dian Bachar, who also worked with Matt Stone and Trey Parker in Orgazmo and BASEketball, and provided some voices for Team America: World Police as well as South Park. Trey Parker's father played the role of the judge. The Japanese "Indians" were really Japanese foreign exchange students from Trey Parker's college.

Songs

Contrasting with the musical's dark comedy are its cheerful songs, all composed by Trey Parker, including "Let's Build a Snowman," "On Top of You," "Hang the Bastard," and "Shpadoinkle" (pronounced Shpah-doink-ul). The last of these is a transparent parody of the song "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning" from the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical Oklahoma!.

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.

Production Notes

  • In the opening court scene when Packer exclaims "But that's not the way it happened!", it is a reference to the Star Trek episode "Court Martial" where Captain Kirk is court-martialed and exclaims the same thing after viewing video footage that points to him being guilty.
  • The judge's declaration that Packer will be 'hung by the neck till you're dead, dead, dead!' is not only a line from another episode of Star Trek "The Squire of Gothos", but also believed to be included in the actual sentencing of Packer.
  • Near the beginning of the film when the miners have been travelling for three weeks, they come across a crazy stranger who says that the Rocky Mountains, "has a curse on it" and that "You're doomed! doomed! you're all doomed!" this is a parody of the character Ralph in Friday the 13th.
  • In the scene where Alfred Packer throws things at Bell and then tries to kill him, and Bell keeps surviving and attacking unexpectedly, it is another parody of a similar scene in Friday the 13th where Alice keeps trying to kill Mrs Voorhees, but in which the latter keeps coming back unexcpectedly despite serious injuries.
  • During the song Let's Build a Snowman, the camera moves from a close shot of Israel Swan to a zoomed-out view - at this point, the head of the snowman has been replaced with the head of an alien. Also, the skull of a steer hanging on the wall during the bar fight scene has large, alien-like eyes. Hiding aliens or 'Visitors' is a trait of Matt Stone and Trey Parker, as one can be found in various episodes of South Park.
  • According to the audio commentary, Trey Parker based the story partially on Homer's Odyssey. Some of the similarities are very clear, especially the scene with the Cyclops. Also, earlier in the movie, Bell is seen reading the Odyssey.
  • Packer's horse is named Liane after Trey Parker's former fiancee. He caught her with another man, so he also named the promiscuous South Park character Liane Cartman after her. Ironically, the real Liane choreographed the film and appears briefly in the "Hang the Bastard" sequence. This is commented upon in the DVD commentary.
  • The "Braniff Airlines" jingle played at the end of every South Park episode comes from the song "Shpadoinkle Day".
  • The woman at the very beginning of the "Hang the Bastard" sequence was played by Matt Stone in drag.
  • When Polly traces her finger over Packer's picture during her song, it can be seen Packer is inmate #24601, a reference to Jean Valjean from Les Misérables.
  • In the DVD menu under "A Cannibal Chorus", all the songs are played except for "This Side of Me" sung by Polly Pry.
  • Said Indians are referred to as the Nihonjin tribe. "Nihonjin" is Japanese for "Japanese people."
  • As the Nihonjin "Indians" walk away with the group at sword point, one of them is heard saying in Japanese (loosely translated), "This movie is really stupid!"
  • Trey Parker dubbed the singing voice of Frenchy (Robert Muratore). In the commentary, Jason McHugh jokes that he did it, but then Trey laughingly states that it was in fact he himself who sang the song.
  • Trey Parker dubbed the voice of The Voice of Doom (Aubrey Strafferd) and the two Indian braves' Japanese dialogue.
  • Matt Stone's character, James Humphrey, wears a hat very similar to that worn by Kyle Broflovski in South Park. Also when he takes it off he is seen to have a large ginger Jewfro, just like Kyle's.
  • While Humphrey was interpreting the Nihonjin Indians to the party with sign language saying, "Welcome to the land of blue light", his sign language reads, "Jesus Christ is dead".
  • The courthouse in the film is the actual courthouse where the real Alferd Packer was tried.
  • When Packer awoke from his ballet dream, he shouted out the name "Ike". This was a reference to a scene from the 1980 movie The Legend of Alfred Packer, in which Packer woke from a nightmare and shouted out the name Ike.
  • In an interview with Ian Keldin (Bell) he stated that most of the crew failed their film history class to make "Cannibal," which was shot during weekends and on spring break in 1993.
  • Trey Parker was thrown from one of the horses playing "Lianne", early in shooting, which caused him to get a fractured hip.

References

See also

External links

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