Video Nasty #36
Deep River Savages
HE DARED THE FORBIDDEN RIVER WHERE ADVENTURE ENDS AND HELL BEGINS!
Actual Italian Title: Il Paese Del Sesso Selveggio (literal translation: The Country Of Wild Sex)
Also known as: Sacrifice!, The Man From The Deep River, Man From Deep River, Mondo Cannibale
NTSC Running Time: 93:08
Directed by Umberto Lenzi
Written by Francesco Barilli & Massimo D'Avak, from an idea by Emmanuelle Arsan (Marayat Rollet-Andriane)
Produced by Ovidio G. Assonitis & Giorgio Carlo Rossi
Starring: Ivan Rassimov, Me Me Lai, Prasitsak Singhara, Sulallewan Suxantat, Song Suanhud
Human Body Count: 15 (simulated)
Animal Body Count: 6 (genuine)
Region 1 DVD available from Shriek Show as Man From Deep River
Why it's a Nasty: Animal cruelty and a scene of cannibalism.
What was cut: The Man From The Deep River was rejected for cinema classification when first presented to the BBFC on September 18, 1975. When finally approved with an 18 cert on August 22, 2003, 3 minutes and 45 seconds of animal cruelty was cut to be approved for release in the UK.
Current UK Status: Cut 18-cert version available from 88 Films. Savvy consumers with pick up the R1 DVD from Shriek Show...or just watch the film right here on The Rebellion!
Deep River Savages was seized, but was not successfully prosecuted.
We're halfway through the list! When I started this back in August of 2010, I didn't think this project would take so long to complete, but life happens and I will not give up. I'm still having so much fun!
Bangkok, Thailand, 1972. British photographer John Bradley (Ivan Rassimov) has arrived to document the area with his camera. He enjoys J&B whiskey and kickboxing, which has his girlfriend rolling her eyes and ditching him. Alone, but not bothered by her absence, he hits up a bar and is set upon by an angry man with a switchblade. Bradley struggles with the man, driving the blade into his attacker's gut. He flees the city, setting out for the Burmese border with his guide, Tuan (Tuan Tevan) on a small boat. They travel upriver. Bradley falls asleep telling Tuan about London...and when he awakes, he is alone.
Tuan's body is on the riverbank. Bradley rushes to him, hoping to save him, but is instead trapped in a net thrown by members of a native tribe. Believing him to be some kind of fishman due to the wetsuit he is wearing, they don't kill him. The chief's beautiful daughter (because of course the chief has a beautiful daughter) Maraya (Me Me Lai) is smitten with the newcomer and convinces her father to let him stay in the village as her slave. Bradley wants to escape and is aided by Taima (Prasitsak Singhara), an elderly woman who speaks English. But with village warrior Karen (Sulallewan Suxantat) always watchful and the cannibal Kuru tribe nearby, getting out will be more difficult than John Bradley could ever imagine...
Inspired by A Man Called Horse and initiated by a conversation with Emmanuelle Arsan, who hailed from the area, Umberto Lenzi's jungle adventure took the exploitation world by storm in the early 1970s. Playing in the US as Sacrifice! in the 42nd Street grindhouses, and across Europe as Mondo Cannibale, the film was a big success and launched an entire genre of film. Inspired by the Prosperi/Jacopetti "mondo documentaries", Lenzi made sure the film was chock full of weird and shocking scenes: animal butchery, bizarre sex rituals, and even a scene of a woman raped and eaten by the neighboring cannibal tribe. Since this was Italy, the copycats were not far behind, and the Cannibal Boom was in full swing. But this is where it all started.
So yes, there is animal cruelty in Man From Deep River, and these scenes are the reason it is still not available uncensored in the UK, among other places. Three snakes, a monkey, an alligator, and a goat are all killed on camera. Footage of a cockfight is also included, but neither of the combatants perish in the film. All of these scenes feel like a documentary, with the Thai/Burmese natives performing all of the killings, presumably in accordance with their natural way of life, although I haven't been able to find much documentation on the hows or whys of the animal action in the film. But the key difference between this film and, say, Cannibal Holocaust is mostly found in the feel of the action. While Deodato's opus was sleazy and cruel to all involved, Man From Deep River never feels sleazy even when horrible things are happening. Watch it yourself and decide. (We'll be seeing more from Lenzi later on when we cover Cannibal Ferox, his 1981 response to Cannibal Holocaust, which is also upcoming.)
I was surprised to learn that the original idea for a film about the natives living near the border of Burma and Thailand came from celebrated writer/actress/libertine Emmanuelle Arsan, who hailed from that part of the world and had a business relationship with producer Ovidio G. Assonitis. She was not involved with the production in any capacity beyond that (although Me Me Lai bears a bit of a resemblance to Arsan and her character's name, Maraya, is very close to Arsan's real name, Marayat). This becomes even more interesting when you know that one of the most notorious cannibal films of the era was Emanuelle E Gli Ultimi Cannibali (Emanuelle And The Last Cannibals, also known as Trap Them And Kill Them), Joe D'Amato's lone entry into the cannibal genre. Starring Laura Gemser as the "Black Emanuelle" character she portrayed in several films, it depicts the intrepid and often-aroused reporter heading into the jungle where she witnesses all manner of sex rituals and violence in between romantic entanglements. That the real Emmanuelle would be the harbinger of the entire disgusting genre, and then herself be homaged in a cannibal film, these are the things upon which cinema legend are based. I love this stuff. You can't make it up.
So if you're strong of stomach, love a spot of adventure, and can withstand the onslaught of bizarre that dwells within, give Man From Deep River a shot. I was hesitant, but it surprised me, and by the time I was halfway through the picture I was fully invested. Easy to overlook as just another jungle movie, this is a thrilling adventure loaded with gore, sex, and yes, a blatant disregard for common decency. My kind of program. Until next time, think twice before you try to flag down a helicopter. You may not want to get picked up at all. I'll travel by car. Because my name's Justin. JustinCase.