‘Where adventure ends …and hell begins!’
The Man from the Deep River is a 1972 Italian jungle horror feature film directed by Umberto Lenzi (Cannibal Ferox; Nightmare City; Knife of Ice) from a screenplay written by Francesco Barilli and Massimo D’Avak. It is also known as Sacrifice! in North America and Deep River Savages in Europe. The movie was produced by Giorgio C. Rossi and Ovidio G. Assonitis.
The film is best known for starting the notorious cannibal horror sub-genre of Italian cinema during the late 1970s and early 1980s. The movie stars Ivan Rassimov and British-Burmese actress Me Me Lai (Eaten Alive!; Last Cannibal World).
Lenzi and scripters Francesco Barilli and Massimo D’Avak were presumably trying to imitate the content of mondo cinema (so-called ‘shockumentaries’), which had gained considerable grindhouse popularity since Gualtiero Jacopetti and Paolo Cavara made Mondo Cane in 1962, even though this film is fictional. Like The Man from Deep River, mondo films often focused on exotic customs and locations and graphic violence. That said, the film was mainly inspired by A Man Called Horse, which also featured a white man who is incorporated into a tribe that originally held him captive.
A photographer in the rain forest in Thailand is captured by wild natives, and after months of living with them, he marries the chief’s daughter and helps protect the village from a vicious cannibal tribe…
A large amount of the film’s notoriety comes from its inclusion in the UK’s list of so-called video nasties. Though it had been rejected for British cinema release and certification by the BBFC in 1975 the film was given a video release by Derann under the title Deep River Savages. In 1984, the Video Recordings Act was passed and the film was banned from the UK in its entirety.
In 2003, the film was again submitted to the BBFC; it was passed with a certificate of ’18’ after being cut by nearly four minutes to remove all contentious animal death scenes. Ironically, despite all the controversy surrounding its UK release, The Man from Deep River was passed with a simple ‘R’ rating by the MPAA, and the US and Italian DVD releases are both uncut.
“Featuring the stunning cinematography of Riccardo Pallottini, who captures the beauty as well as the savagery of this corner of the world (the film was shot on location in Thailand), and with a solid performance by Rassimov, The Man From Deep River is much more than your run-of-the-mill exploitation flick.” 2,500 Movies Challenge
” …this movie feels different than the later films. For starters, Riccardo Pallottini’s photography is bright, vivid and crystal clear, which is appropriate since this is more of a gory drama than an all-out horror film […] Approached on its own terms without certain expectations brought upon by what would come later, this is a pretty good film and is perhaps Lenzi’s best all-around feature.” The Bloody Pit of Horror
“Deep River Savages deserve respect in starting the cannibal subgenre. It’s a slower and less exploitative movie than the genre is known for, but It is also a good movie if you can look past the animal cruelty. Fans of cannibal films will, of course, need to see it, but there is something out there for those who enjoy jungle adventure films as well.” Cinema Terror
“The numerous scenes of bizarre tribal rites, rampant nudity, severed tongues, dismembered limbs, animal slaughter, and a single scene of bodily consumption are at odds with the serious drama, but Lenzi is a good enough cook to make it a tasty 93 minutes. A well made, excessively violent variant of Elliot Silverstein’s A Man Called Horse (1970), the hardcore cannibal crowd may still crave more than Lenzi’s Man offers.” Cool Ass Cinema
” …it may be the most benign example of the subgenre I’ve encountered. Unfortunately, there is a bit of the animal killing that would become a trademark of the form. At other times, it seems to be honing cliches from much older types of jungle movies; when the central character defies the witch doctor to try to cure a child, we’re in very familiar territory.” Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings
“Sporting a catchy easy listening-style score by Daniele Patucchi and a surprisingly effective emotional core between Rassimov and Lai, this is actually not a bad place to start if you’re curious about the whole Italian cannibal subgenre […] It’s hard to believe this fairly opulent, effective thriller would lead to Lenzi’s other, far more grotesque cannibal film a decade later…” Mondo Digital
” …it is mostly concerned with an anthropologically realistic-seeming crosscut of life among the untouched wilderness tribes. Other Italian cannibal films built in a savage social commentary, contrasting the cannibal tribes with white exploitation and seeing the tribes as coming to devour Westerners for their cruelty and exploitation. None of that travails Deep River Savages…” Moria
“This is easily Lenzi’s best foray into the nasty business of cannibal movies. It’s less exploitative and more focused on a classic adventure tale than on a gore-soaked horror movie – and that’s fine with me because the cannibal genre always needed a bit of seriousness to be able to entertain me.” Ninja Dixon
“Man from Deep River is mild as an exploitation film compared to what would come from the genre a few years later in the form of Cannibal Ferox and Cannibal Holocaust, but in its uncut form still has enough shocking scenes of rape, violence, and the consumption of human flesh to keep the story fast-paced and interesting.” Rock! Shock! Pop!
“I suppose the underlying message here is ‘they might be savages, but they are real people too!’ – a tropical Dances With Wolves if you will. It’s tedious stuff though, as Lenzi alternates ploddingly between the laughable and the unpleasant. Particularly hilarious is Rassimov and Lai’s soft-focus romance, as the couple romp through the trees and he teaches her English…” The Spinning Image
“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. […] Lai is not shy about taking her clothes off and does so often but that is pretty much what her role is limited to.” Video Graveyard
“Even though the flick does get bogged down every once and awhile, it still features enough gory goodness to make it worth a look for cannibal fans. Tongues are cut out, monkey brains are eaten, and there is an excellent scene where the cannibals munch on a girl’s boob. Speaking of the female anatomy, the amount of naked women on display in this movie is considerable.” The Video Vacuum
John Bradley [Ivan Rassimov]: “I’m a human being, like you! I’m a man, not a fish!”
Cast and characters:
Ivan Rassimov … John Bradley
Me Me Lai … Marayå (as Me Me Lay)
Prasitsak Singhara … Taima
Sulallewan Suxantat … Karen
Ong Ard … Lahuna
Prapas Chindang … Chuan
Pipop Pupinyo … Mihuan
Tuan Tevan … Tuan
Chit … Cannibal
Choi … Cannibal
Song Suanhud … Witch Doctor
Pairach Thaipradit … Thai
Aspect ratio: 2.35: 1