Man from the Deep River

Il paese del sesso selvaggio (English: The Country of Savage Sex), also known as Man From Deep River, Deep River Savages and Sacrifice!,[1][2] is a 1972 Italian cannibal exploitation film directed by Umberto Lenzi and starring Ivan Rassimov, Me Me Lai and Pratitsak Singhara. It is perhaps best known for starting the "cannibal boom" of Italian exploitation cinema during the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Il paese del sesso selvaggi
Theatrical release poster
Directed byUmberto Lenzi
Produced by
Written byFrancesco Barilli
Massimo D'Avak
Music byDaniele Patucchi
CinematographyRiccardo Pallottini
Edited byEugenio Alabiso
Distributed byMedia Blasters (United States)
Release date
  • 8 August 1972 (1972-08-08) (Italy)
  • 23 May 1973 (1973-05-23) (United States)
Running time
93 minutes

Lenzi was probably trying to imitate the content of notorious Mondo cinema, which had gained considerable Grindhouse popularity since Gualtiero Jacopetti and Paolo Cavara made Mondo Cane in 1962,[3] even though this film is fictional. Like Man from Deep River, Mondo films often focus on exotic customs and locations, graphic violence, and animal cruelty.

The film was mainly inspired by A Man Called Horse,[4] which also featured a white man who is incorporated into a tribe that originally held him captive. The title Man from Deep River is even supposed to echo the title A Man Called Horse.[4]


British photographer John Bradley is assigned to photograph wildlife in the Thai rain forest, where a native tribe takes him captive.

Bradley starts in Bangkok, taking photos and sightseeing, until he arrives at a boxing match with a date. His date grows increasingly bored and disgruntled by Bradley's refusal to leave, until she finally walks out on him, which doesn't bother him in the slightest. An unidentified man sees her leave, and, presumably upset over the disrespect shown towards the woman, he follows Bradley to a bar where he confronts him with a knife. After a brief struggle, Bradley turns the weapon against the man and kills him. Even though he killed in self-defense, Bradley flees the scene.

The next day, Bradley rents a canoe and a guide to take him down river into the rain forest. Fearing pursuit by the authorities, Bradley pays off the man to not mention their encounter. After rowing a ways and taking several wildlife photos, Bradley's guide, Tuan, mentions his concerns about the dangers of traveling so far down river. John agrees to head back after one more day of traveling. John falls asleep, and when he awakes, he finds Tuan dead with an arrow in his throat. A native tribe captures John in a net and carries him to their village. The chief, Luhanà, is told that the group has captured a large fish-man. At the village, Bradley is hung in the net from a high pole, where a group of children hit him with bamboo stalks. While hanging, Bradley witnesses the execution of two war criminals by his captive tribe. The tribe is at war with another more primitive tribe of cannibals, the Kuru. Two cannibals have their tongues cut off in the village center. Bradley reacts with disgust, labeling the tribe as murderers.

Still in the net and hanging for hours, Bradley notices that he has attracted the attention of Marayå, the daughter of the chief who is immediately fascinated by the stranger. She convinces her father that John is not a fish-man, just a man. Luhanà agrees to release Bradley as Marayå's slave. He is forced to stay locked in a shack, where Taima, Marayå's governess, introduces herself. She is a missionary child and can speak English, and tells Bradley that soon he will be released, as Marayå will be married to Karen in ten days. Luhanà interrupts the two and unties Bradley because it is the day of the Feast of the Sun. During the feast, a helicopter flies overhead. Bradley tries to be rescued but is subdued by other warriors, who nearly kill him. Marayå intervenes, however, protecting her property. The helicopter gives John hope, and he plans an escape, with which Taima agrees to eventually help.

A month passes, as Bradley grows more tense. During one day of labor, a building accident kills a young man. Bradley watches the funeral ceremonies and is shocked by the rituals of the natives. During the ceremony, Taima tells Bradley that now is his time to escape. He does, but Karen and a group of warriors corner him at a waterfall, where Bradley kills Karen. Another helicopter flies by, and again Bradley goes unnoticed. After Karen's death, the tribe decides to incorporate Bradley as one of them. He faces various rituals and tortures until he is finally released and accepted as a warrior. He uses his knowledge of modern technology and medicine to help the tribe, but, as a result, becomes an enemy of the tribe's witch doctor. During this time, he and Marayå become fond of each other, until Marayå must choose a new fiancé. Of the tribe's warriors, Marayå chooses John, and the two are married. After the wedding, the two run into the wilderness where Bradley and Marayå have sex. This ends up getting Marayå pregnant. During the conception, however, a black butterfly flew over the two lovers, a foreboding of ill fate.

It is now six months after Bradley has been captured, and he has finally accepts his new life with Marayå. However, Kuru cannibals strike, ambushing a boy and girl outside of the village. The girl is killed and the boy mortally wounded, but he still is able to inform the others of the attack before he dies. John joins other warriors to eliminate the attack party, and they arrive to see the Kuru party consuming the young woman. The group attacks the cannibals, with John participating in activities he earlier condemned. When Bradley returns, he learns that Marayå has fallen ill from the pregnancy and has been stricken blind. John believes the only way to save her is to take her back to civilization for modern medicinal treatment. Taima helps the two escape, but she is caught in doing so has her hand cut off as punishment. Bradley and Marayå are captured and forced to return.

Upon their return, Marayå goes into labor. Bradley rejects the witch doctor, sending him away from the ailing Marayå. The Kuru return to attack the village, setting fire to many huts before John and the other warriors can react. In the ensuing and graphic battle, John takes Marayå to safety until the cannibals are fought back and withdraw. As John tries to comfort Marayå's pain, he points out a black butterfly overhead. Marayå reveals the significance of the butterfly: death. Marayå finally gives birth and dies shortly after. John wanders aimlessly through the jungle upon his wife's death, sadly recollecting memories of her. Again a helicopter flies overhead, and, after a moment of contemplation, he takes cover with the rest of his tribe.


Ivan RassimovJohn Bradley
Me Me LaiMarayå
Pratitsak SingharaTaima
Sullalewan SuxantatKaren
Ong ArdLahunà
Prapas ChindangChuan
Pipop PupinyoMihuan
Tuan TevanTuan
Song SuanhadWitch doctor
Pairach ThaipradtThai


Though the "cannibal boom" of the 1970s and 1980s did not start until Ruggero Deodato released his film Ultimo mondo cannibale in 1977,[5] Man from Deep River is seen as either the inspiration or the start of the cannibal genre,[6][7][8] as the combination of the rain forest setting and onscreen cannibalism was not seen until its release[4] (director Umberto Lenzi said that cannibalism was not intended to be the central theme[4]). When released in America, it would prove successful on Time Square's 42nd Street under the title of Sacrifice!,[7] offering the opportunity for similar films to enjoy that same success (which was ultimately the case). Lenzi was even given the chance to direct Ultimo mondo cannibale, but the producers chose Ruggero Deodato when they refused to match Lenzi's price.[4] He would, however, make a follow-up in 1980 with his film Eaten Alive! (which even featured the Grindhouse theaters of 42nd Street that had made Man from Deep River famous[9]) and his most famous work,Cannibal Ferox.


Other than being the first cannibal film, Man from Deep River is also notorious for several scenes of extreme violence and gore, which is standard for its genre. Though several scenes of torture and cruelty are present, its inclusion of several on-screen slayings of animals tends to land the film in hot water with censors all over the world.

Status as a video nasty

A large amount of the film's notoriety comes from its inclusion in the UK's list of video nasties, films that the Department of Public Prosecutions (DPP) deemed obscene. Though it was rejected for cinema release and certification by the BBFC in 1975,[10] it was still able to make it to a video release under the title Deep River Savages. When the DPP compiled the "video nasties" in 1983, Deep River Savages made its way onto the list. In 1984, the Video Recordings Act was instated by the British Government, and Deep River Savages was banned from the UK in its entirety (largely due to the real animal killings). In 2003, Deep River Savages was again brought before the BBFC; it was passed with a certificate of 18 after being cut by nearly four minutes to remove all animal cruelty present, and was again subject to three minutes of similar cuts when resubmitted in 2016.[11] Despite the controversy surrounding the film's UK release, Man from Deep River was passed with a simple R rating by the MPAA.[12]

See also


  1. "Sacrifice!". 23 May 1973. Retrieved 20 October 2017.
  2. "Poster for Man from Deep River (Il paese del sesso selvaggio, aka Sacrifice!, aka Deep River Savages) (1972, Italy) - Wrong Side of the Art". Retrieved 20 October 2017.
  3. Goodall, Mark (2005). Sweet & Savage: The World Through The Shockumentary Film Lens. Critical Vision. ISBN 1-900486-49-0.
  4. Lenzi, Umberto. "Man from Deep River DVD Extras" (Interview). Interviewed by Shriek Show.
  5. David Carter. "Savage Cinema". Savage Cinema. Retrieved 24 October 2006.
  6. Mark Martinez. "Kult Movies". Retrieved 24 October 2006.
  7. Cannibal Ferox (inset). Umberto Lenzi. United States: Grindhouse Releasing. 2000 [1981]. GRID 9658 DVD.CS1 maint: others (link)
  8. Man from Deep River (back cover). Umberto Lenzi. United States: Shriek Show (Media-Blasters). 2004 [1972]. SSDVD 0421.CS1 maint: others (link)
  9. Umberto Lenzi (30 November 2004). Eaten Alive! (DVD). Shriek Show (Media Blasters).
  10. "The Man from the Deep River Rejected by the BBFC". British Board of Film Classification. Retrieved 24 October 2006.
  11. "Deep River Savages Rated 18 by the BBFC". British Board of Film Classification. Retrieved 27 October 2006.
  12. "Motion Picture Association of America". Motion Picture Association of America. Retrieved 27 October 2006.
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