1972 - 93m.
My introduction to the cannibal subgenre was Cannibal Holocaust. This was followed closely by Cannibal Ferox and Eaten Alive both of which blew my fragile young mind with the intense scenes of violence that they contained. When the bar is set this high on excessiveness, it can be difficult for other movies to compete. This is the case with Man from Deep River. As a standalone jungle drama, it is a decent flick but when you are comparing it to some of the most notorious exploitation movies that came out of the golden age of grindhouse, it is very tame and a little boring. There are no obnoxious characters, no catchy score, and nowhere near the level of gore that one would expect from a movie that includes people who eat other people. The only thing that is sure to offend is the multiple scenes of animal violence that are we have come to expect from Italian jungle movies.
Ivan Rassimov stars as John Bradley, a photographer who heads to a remote section of Asia where he is captured by an indigenous tribe. After a number of awkward attempts to either escape or fit in with the people, Bradley eventually is assimilated into the tribe. He falls in love with the daughter of the chief and he works to win the approval of the tribe who have him endure a number of uncomfortable situations that seem to be a cross between initiation rituals and torture. It helps when he saves the life of a young boy by performing a tracheotomy although this pisses off the resident witch doctor. Bradley's adventure culminates when the tribe is attacked by a neighboring cannibal clan and everyone must come together to fight off the flesh-eating savages who want to eat them for breakfast. The basic plot is very similar to A Man Called Horse starring Richard Harris that was released two years prior (even down to the character's first name and a similar title).
This is the original Italian cannibal movie and it came out more than five years before the better known entries in the genre. It has the exploitation elements of nudity and blood that fans are hoping for but to a lesser degree than later entries where it felt as though Ruggero Deodato and Umberto Lenzi were in a competition to see who could create the most offensive movie. Although I feel that Deodato made better movies, it was Lenzi who took the overall prize in terms of grossing out the audience with eviscerations and breast hangings that came with his movies from the early 1980s. He lay the blueprint with this flick and set the tone for one of the most popular (albeit small) genres for gore fans to discover. As for the animal mutilations, the filming of these is deplorable no matter what the context but the scenes in this flick are not as gag-inducing as the turtle scene in Cannibal Holocaust or some of other sequences that my eyes have had the misfortune of seeing. Still, I find these scenes extremely difficult to watch and they are one of the few things that can make me look away or close my eyes when watching a movie. In this flick, we see a mongoose take on a cobra, a water snake get eaten, live monkey brain finger food, crocodile slaughter, a goat throat-slitting, and more.
Overall, I would say that this is my least favorite of the cannibal craze due to the fact that there is not a lot that happens and the flesh-chomping action is minimal with only a brief scene of a tribal woman being leisurely consumed. Rassimov does fine as the fish out of water but there isn't much dialogue as the tribe members do not speak English. Jungle film fans will recognize Me Me Lai as Rassimov's love interest. In addition to this film, Lai and Rassimov also starred together in Eaten Alive and Jungle Holocaust. Lai is not shy about taking her clothes off and does so often but that is pretty much what her role is limited to. I appreciate this movie as a new take on the jungle adventure for those of us who grew up with Tarzan but this is nothing like the mayhem we would see in later entries in the genre. (Josh Pasnak, 5/25/12)
Directed By: Umberto Lenzi.
Written By: Francesco Barilli, Massimo D'Avak.
Starring: Ivan Rassimov, Me Me Lai, Pratitsak Singhara, Ong Ard.
aka: Deep River Savages, Sacrifice!