It’s great to see DVD supplementarian Naomi Holwill releasing her works from their DVD addendums as standalone films to online streaming platforms. We previously enjoyed her genre insights with Fascism on a Thread: The Strange Story of Nazisploitation Cinema (2020), which was included on the DVD and Blu-ray restoration for The Beast in Heat. Now Holwill offers us her documentary supplement — the first documentary to do so — on the all-too-short career of seventies sex symbol Me Me Lai, one of the very first British-Asian pin-ups, which is included on the DVD restoration of Umberto Lenzi’s 1972 cannibal exploitation genre-inspirer Man From Deep River, aka Sacrifice!, aka Deep River Savages.
Sure, Lai made her feature film debut in the British sex comedy Passion Potion (1971), as well as working alongside Mike Raven in Ted Hooker’s lone writing and director credit Crucible of Terror (1971) and appearing in another Brit sex-comedy the Au Pair Girls, aka The Young Playmates (1972). But it was her work with Umberto Lenzi in Man from Deep River (1972) and Eaten Alive! (1980) and Ruggero Deodato in Jungle Holocaust (1977) that forever forged Lai in our gooey, horror-loving hearts as the Queen of Italian cannibal films. Then, after her final film, The Element of the Crime (1984) — her others were Blake Edwards’s Revenge of the Pink Panther (1978) and Undercover Lover (1979) — Lai vanished from the business.
Then along came some contraption called “the Internet,” to which Lai’s daughter uploaded a wealth of photos from her mother’s modeling, TV, and cinematic glory days. And it was those social media posts that inspired and enabled film historian Calum Waddell to local Me Me Lai for this document, not only on her career, but on an offensive genre that shouldn’t have existed*, but made our youthful, teen-Midnight Movie days of the ’80s all the more sweeter . . . and gooier.
The highlight of the documentary is that we hear it all from the source herself and not just a bunch of talking head genre experts. And where else can you hear someone who has worked with both and can tell us the pros and cons of working with the zombie-cannibal maestros of Lenzi and Deodato? Are we at all shocked to learn that Lenzi was the raving lunatic and Deodato was the more chill of the two? And is there too much Eli Roth in the frames — who, depending on opinion, is to horror docs what Metallica’s Lars Ulrich is to metal documentaries? Well, it depends on what you think of Roth and how you receive his films, such as Hostel and his own cannibal exploitation homage, The Green Inferno. As for myself: I bow to Roth’s passion and how he serves as the prefect fodder for Naomi Holwill and Calum Waddell’s passions: to give ’70s genre films their rightful preservation in cinematic history.
You can also enjoy Me Me Lai’s insights as part of Naomi Holwill’s High Rising Productions partner Calum Waddell’s Eaten Alive! The Rise and Fall of the Italian Cannibal Film (2015), which is featured on the Grindhouse Releasing Blu-ray for Cannibal Ferox in the U.S. and the U.K. Blu-ray for Zombi Holocaust by 88 Films. Our much adored Umberto Lenzi, Ruggero Deodato, Sergio Martino also offer their genre insights in that documentary.
I don’t know about you, but I cross my fingers in the hope that From Rollerball to Rome (2020) — Holwill’s document to Norman Jewison’s influential post-apoc film — becomes an independent online stream. I also hope for an eventual DVD/Blu-ray box set restoration of the films of Mark “Trash” Gregory** — including a subsequent Rising High Productions documentary on our beloved post-apoc warrior. And while you’re at it, Naomi, can we have a documentary supplement on Michael “Parsifal” Sopkiw? Of course, the team at Grindhouse Releasing and 88 Films needs to get off their collective duffs and give us a Micheal Sopkiw** four-pack DVD/Blu-ray restoration blowout.
You can enjoy Me Me Lai Bites Back on Tubi. Watch it. Great stuff.
* We dedicated an entire week to cannibal films with our “Mangiati Vivi” featurette. In the coming months, we’re hosting an “SOV Week” and “Video Nasties Week” that will catch us up on the Italian zombie and cannibal flicks we didn’t get to in our “Mangiati Vivi Week.” Bookmark us!
** Hey, we love Mike and Mark around the B&S About Movies cubicles, as you can tell by our review of 2019: After the Fall of New York, which includes an overview of Michael’s films. And don’t get us started on Mark Gregory, as we dedicated an entire week of reviews to honor his career with our “Who Is Mark Gregory and why is there an entire week all about him?” featurette.
About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies and publishes short stories based on his screenplays, as well as music reviews, on Medium.