May 2, 2011

Man From Deep River (1972) Il paese del sesso selvaggio

aka Deep River Savages, Sacrifice!

From director Umberto Lenzi (CANNIBAL FEROX, EATEN ALIVE) comes MAN FROM DEEP RIVER, a story about a British photographer (the excellent Ivan Rassimov) who's in Thailand on assignment. His first night in Thailand he attends a kickboxing match, gets into a bar fight, stabs a dude and then decides to ditch his annoying girlfriend. He figures he better lay low after his attempted murder and heads out to the jungle to get some photos. He travels by boat with a funny little Thai dude as his guide. He warned not to go too far up the river but doesn't listen. After waking up from a nap on the boat he finds his guide dead in the water with an arrow through his neck. So far I’m thinking none of this stuff is mentioned on the Thailand traveling brochure…wait a minute, yes, here it is right under the ‘underage prostitutes’ section.

 He is soon captured by a tribe of savges (not the cannibals). The tribe, assume the man's a fish because he's wearing a wet suit (naturally). They string him up and poke at him and try to feed him dead fish like he's a seal (I assume getting him to balance a ball on his nose was next). They soon figure out he's a man and make him a slave, putting him to work making a love-hut for a soon to be married couple (among some other projects). Maraya (the gorgeous Me Me Lai) the daughter of the tribal leader gets a craving for white meat (sexually speaking…we still haven’t got to the cannibals yet) and uses some 'damn sexy' flirty eyes to get his attention to only some avail at first. With the help from the tribe’s female elder (who just happens to speak English) he tries to escape, but ends up being caught. For this act he is put through grueling torture, which ultimately earns him the respect of the tribe for being able to take the pain and winning a fight w/their strongest warrior. Badass, thy name is Ivan Rassimov.

Slowly he's accepted by the tribe and becomes one of them. Tribal acts that he found barbaric in the beginning, he now openly takes part in. When the cannibals (oh, hear they are) attack the first time he ends up defending the tribe as if they were his own. He also helps an ill boy with a DIY surgery and saves his life. Ultimately scoring himself some more points (not with the witch doctor who was convinced it was evil spirits…ain’t that always the way with witch doctors? Jeesh). He ends up marrying Maraya and knocking her up. Maraya gets sick due to the pregnancy and looses her sight. They try to escape yet again so Maraya can get to a ‘city’ doctor and are caught…again. Before the tribe can punish him, the cannibals return to attack the village and of course our hero (John by the way) helps defend it. Will John escape? Will he stay and become one of them? Are you still reading this review? Hi…thanks for hanging around.

Now I should add that this movie IS NOT as brutal as the trailer and poster would allude. That does not mean it's not a damn good movie. In fact it's quite tame for a "cannibal flick" and Umberto's later films would be way more brutal. Where as most cannibal movies are exploitation, MAN FROM DEEP RIVER most definitely is not. There’s a ton of nudity, some moments of gore and there is lots of animal violence (PETA would have a conniption), but the films never feels like exploitation for exploitation sake. The animal violence (which for the record, I’m not a fan of with these movies) is ritualistic and the kind of thing that really goes on in that area (unlike the animal violence in Deodato’s CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST). Really if you're an animal lover, avoiding all Italian cannibal movies is a good rule of thumb.

MAN FROM DEEP RIVER tries to be a good ol' fashioned, Americanized adventure film. It borrows a lot from A MAN CALLED HORSE that came out 2 years prior. Here instead of Indians it’s Thai savages (tomato, tomatoe). It has its touching moments too, which I found refreshing. Also, Ivan Rassimov is a great actor (bad dye job and all) and makes the movie. The guy could have been an action star if he wanted to, but he usually ended up playing the villain. He would return to the cannibal sub-genre in Ruggero Deodato’s LAST CANNIBAL WORLD, but unfortunately not in the lead role.

Don't go into MAN FROM DEEP RIVER expecting CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST or you'll be disappointed. If you liked A MAN CALLED HORSE check it out. It has some slow moments, but over all it’s a well-made film and a set above grindhouse fair of the same era.

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