The Man from Deep River, aka Deep River Savages (1972)

This is really the whole gooey enchilada, ain’t it: for this is where all of those cannibal hybrids of the George Romero-rebooted zombie genre originated.

What makes this film a film that I have never gone back to: three-plus minutes of this Umberto Lenzi puke fest has moments of real animal murder (not cool). Of course, this being our “Video Nasties Week,” the puritanical purveyors of the all-things-holy U.K. cut those scenes from the British release ever since it was first kept out of British theaters in 1975.

Yes. Sometimes you’ll find it out there as Sacrifice!

The plot, such as it is, is a blatant ripoff of the Richard Harris-starring A Man Called Horse (1970). That film’s positive critical reviews and box office success spawned two sequels in The Return of a Man Called Horse (1976) and Triumphs of a Man Called Horse (1983), each also equally acclaimed critical and box office hits.

Then there’s this U.K. Section 2 “Video Nasty” that made the rounds on the U.S. “Midnight Movie” circuit and earned a re-renting when it hit home video stores. Some of the titles you know the film under are l Paese del Sesso Selvaggio, aka The Country of Savage Sex, as well as Deep River Savages. The best known and distributed title is Sacrifice!, and that cut can be purchased from Raro Video.

Both films deal with a civilized man incorporated into a tribe that originally held him captive. Here, British photographer John Bradley (Ivan Rassimov) heads off to the rain forests of Thailand for a wildlife photograph wildlife assignment. After a bar fight with a local, Bradley, in self-defense, kills the man; Bradley flees the scene and heads down river to not only complete his assignment, but to escape arrest.

He’s soon captured by natives and put through a series of the tortures — as you’d expect from a cannibal film — only the tongue removals, along with everything else — was done here, first.

The highlights of the film — which is still not enough to get us past the animal cruelty — are the always welcomed Ivan Rassimov; he does the cannibal thing again in Jungle Holocaust and Eaten Alive!. Also starring here — and in both of those films, again, with Rassimov, is the Queen of Cannibal Cinema: Me Me Lai.

Then Ruggero Deodato released Jungle Holocaust in 1977. That film, alongside George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (1979), was the one-two punch that ignited the cannibal sub-genre of zombie films. Then Deodato gave us Cannibal Holocaust (1980). Lenzi was presented the opportunity to direct Jungle Holocaust, but the job ultimately went to Deodato. Lenzi would follow up his own Eaten Alive! (1980), with his third cannibal romp, Cannibal Ferox (1981). In between, Sergio Martino chimed in with The Mountain of the Cannibal God (1978).

You can learn more about Lai’s career — the star of The Man from Deep River (Deep River Savages), Jungle Holocaust, and Eaten Alive! — and the cannibal sub-genre of zombie films, in whole, in a documentary we recently reviewed, Me Me Lai Bites Back (2021). You can purchase restored DVDs and Blu-rays of The Man from Deep River from 88 Films, which also includes Lai’s documentary as a supplement.

We run down most of these cannibal films with our February 2018 “Mangiati Vivi Week” tribute, which serves as a great catch-all reference list. And what’s not on that list is being reviewed during our “Video Nasties Week” tribute, this week.

As always, we appreciated you surfing to B&S About Movies and using us as your one-stop source for discovering and rediscovering classic films from the Drive-In, UHF-TV, and home video eras.

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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