Sunday, February 14, 2016

#2,008. The Man From Deep River (1972)

Directed By: Umberto Lenzi

Starring: Ivan Rassimov, Me Me Lai, Prasitsak Singhara

Tag line: "He dared the forbidden river where adventure ends and hell begins!"

Trivia: Ruggero Deodato's film Jungle Holocaust was originally conceived as a sequel to this film

Considered the first in what would be a string of cannibal films, Umberto Lenzi’s The Man from Deep River is the account of a an Englishman who finds he’s more at home in the jungle than he ever was in the western world.

Photographer John Bradley (Ivan Rassimov) travels to Thailand on business, but when he ventures too far into the wilderness, he’s captured by a native tribe and forced into slavery, catering to the every whim of his "master", Maraya (Me Me Lai), who also happens to be the Chief's daughter. Befriended by an old woman (Pratitsak Singhara), Bradley manages to break free, only to be recaptured a few hours later. But the attempt doesn’t go unnoticed; the chief, impressed by his tenacity, welcomes Bradley into the fold, inviting him to join the tribe. Though hesitant at first, Bradley soon settles in, and is content in his new life. His happiness is threatened, however, when some nearby cannibals attack, forcing him and the others to fight for their very survival.

By focusing on its lead character and his indoctrination into a foreign culture, The Man From Deep River has more in common with the 1970 western A Man Called Horse than it does Eaten Alive or Cannibal Holocaust. In fact, cannibals appear only sporadically throughout the movie (and hardly at all in the first hour). Instead, we’re treated to the dramatic tale of a man willing to turn his back on his old life in favor of a more primitive existence. 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. 

That’s not to say the movie is violence-free. In reality, it has plenty of blood and gore (in one scene, a pair of cannibals are punished by having their tongues cut out). Even more upsetting are the sequences in which actual animals are slaughtered (one in particular, which was later re-used for Eaten Alive, features the on-screen killing of a crocodile, and a later sequence with a sacrificial goat will likely turn your stomach). Still, even with such scenes, The Man From Deep River sets itself apart from other cannibal films of this era by putting the emphasis on story, resulting in a motion picture that can shock you one minute, and stir your emotions the next.

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