Primitives, aka Savage Terror (1980)

This is a true adventure. Filmed on location in the jungle where the events portrayed actually took place. The production thanks the Indonesian Government for allowing this story to be brought to the screen.”
— Opening title card with a claim we’ve heard many times before

So, are you in the mood for a bizarre mix of repugnant gore wrapped in a blatant lack of common sense?

Well, then, wee video pup, you’re the mood for an Indonesian cannibal movie: Strap ye not the popcorn bucket on thou chin, get the puke bucket. And ditch the Dr. Pepper for the Pepto-Bismol.

We’re not kidding.

The VHS clamshell slipcover we remember that was part of the U.K.’s “Section 3 Video Nasties” list.

Yes, India did, in fact, jump on the Italian-made cannibal zombie sub-genre puke wagon . . . and upped the genre’s already stomach content-inducing cruelty and brain-burning weirdness. Well, what could we possibly expect from director Sisworo Gautama Putra?

You know Putra as the Indonesia horror purveyor who later gave us the whacked-o-rama (lifted from Phantasm) that was Satan’s Slave (1982). Primitives, aka Savage Terror in its home video shelf life, which served as Putra’s big screen debut, was inspired by his fandom of the successful Italian cannibal movies Sacrifice! (1972), Jungle Holocaust (1977), and Slave of the Cannibal God (1978). Putra’s — and his longtime screenwriting and producing partners Imam Tantowi’s and Gope T. Samtani’s — famdom were so great, that they lifted — okay, it’s a “homage” — scenes wholesale from those films. If you’re a fan of Cannibal Ferox and Cannibal Holocaust, you’ll see the homages (severed) afoot.

As with all films from the copyright-lawless tundras of India and Turkey . . . if ripping off Ruggero Deodato isn’t enough, and if the animal-on-animal wildlife stock footage violence isn’t enough, you’ll also hear “(We Are) The Robots” by Kraftwork, John Williams’s main theme from Star Wars, and James Last’s “The Lonely Shepherd” on its soundtrack.

Yeah, we’ve been here before: When three anthropology students, along with their guides, go in search of a lost primitive tribe — and have a rafting accident — they spiral into a nightmare of bloody rituals, torture . . . and the consumption of their own flesh, as they’re hunted down one-by-one by the very tribe they came to explore.

Martial Arts fans will find additional interest in the film as it stars Humbertus Knoch, aka Barry Prima for English-speaking audiences, in his feature film debut. Prima’s best known for his work in The Warrior (1981), The Warrior and the Blind Swordsman (1983), The Devil’s Sword (1984), and The Warrior and the Ninja (1985). He’s currently in production on his 75th project, Garuda 7.

You can get this Italian-styled cannibal slopper from Cult Action under its alternate title of Primitif, while the fine folks at Severin have it out under the Primitives title on Blu-ray and DVD. Severin’s reissue includes the extra-purchase incentives of bonus interview vignettes with writer Imam Tantowi and producer Gope T. Samtaini; it also includes an alternate opening title sequence, while the film is scanned in high-definition from the Jakarta Studio’s vault negative.

However, we found you a free-with-ads stream to watch on Tubi — and you can triple feature it with Eaten Alive! and Mountain of the Cannibal God via Tubi. You can also learn more about the Italian cannibal sub-genre of zombie films with our recent review of Naomi Holwill’s documentary Me Me Lai Bites Back (2020), as well as her producing partner Calum Waddel’s Eaten Alive! The Rise and Fall of the Italian Cannibal Film (2015).

Screenwriter Imam Tantowi and producer Gope T. Samtani also gave us their take on Indiana Jones with The Devil’s Sword (1984) and John Rambo with Daredevil Commandos (1986). But before those less-graphic ripoffs, they followed Primitives with Blazing Battle (1983). That film is an Italian cannibal-styled rip reset during the Japanese occupation of Indonesia during WW II. More than worthy of a U.K. “video nasty” albatross — if it only made to the U.K. shores — the faux martial arts-marketed flick features equal, sloppy helpings of over-the-top depictions of rape, along with torture scenes of impaling, eye gouging, and so on. Regardless of its marketing on the video fringe as a (comical) martial arts movie, Blazing Battle is anything but. Your caveat has been served.

Warning: No joke. Primitives is graphic to the extreme — more so than its Italian inspirations — and the blatant animal cruelty may disturb you.

Be sure to surf over to our three part “Video Nasties” exploration that lists all of the films on the U.K.’s Section 1, Section 2, and Section 3 lists, as well as our “Mangiati Vivi Week” tribute to Italian cannibal films.

About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook.

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