Deep River Savages (1972)

aka Il paese del sesso selvaggio, Man from Deep River, Sacrifice
Article 4680 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-13-2014
Directed by Umberto Lenzi
Featuring Ivan Rassimov, Me Me Lai, Prasitsak Singhara
Country: Italian / Burmese / Thai
What it is: The birth of the Italian Cannibal movie

A photographer exploring in Thailand is captured by a native tribe. When one of the native girls takes a liking to him, he is allowed to join the tribe… if he passes the rituals.

This movie is generally thought of as the first of the Italian Cannibal movies, one of the most notorious subgenres of horror. However, as is often the case of a movie that is the first of its subgenre, it is less hemmed in by the conventions of the form, because the conventions haven’t been set yet. This one doesn’t come across as a nihilistic exercise in assaulting the sensibilities; in fact, it almost gets sentimental at times as the civilized man eventually becomes one with the natives, with the promise of domestic bliss being the primary catalyst for this transformation. Granted, the print I saw was several minutes short of the full print, so there’s a chance I’m missing a lot of gruesome footage; however, in this form, 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. One of the oddest bits of information I found about this one on IMDB is that the movie is something of a remake of A MAN CALLED HORSE, which implies that the Italian Cannibal movies had their roots in the American Western.

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