Monday, 25 June 2007

The Man From The Deep River/Il Paese Del Sesso Selvaggio

Il Paese Del Sesso Selvaggio, 1972. Directed by Umberto Lenzi. With Ivan Rassimov, Me Me Lai.


Lenzi-regular Ivan Rassimov plays photographer John Bradley, who is working in Thailand. When a man attacks him in a bar, Bradley kills him in self-defence, and decides to leave Bangkok and heads for the interior. Together with a guide he travels up a river, further and further into the jungle, but then one morning Bradley finds the guide killed and himself captured by a savage tribe.

J&B: Bradley is still in the civilized world...



Initially the natives treat him badly, but with the help of the chief’s daughter Maraya, played by cannibal queen Me Me Lai, and another native woman who happens to speak a little English, he manages to win their trust. This gives him the change to escape, but when he is caught and brought back to the village, he is severely punished.


Me Me Lai

After this, Bradley seems more willing to stay in the village. He falls in love with Maraya and become more and more accepted by the natives. But there’s opposition from the aggressive medicine man, and then there is the thread of a cannibal tribe...

Bradley gets help from Taima

The Man From The Deep River was the first film in the mondo-inspired cannibal genre. Umberto Lenzi made it in between his more adventure-oriented films of the sixties, about for instance Sandokan and Robin Hood, and his string of successful gialli and poliziesci of the seventies.

The medicine man


This film feels and looks more like one of those sixties jungle adventures then like a cannibal movie. Its main focus is on the native’s rituals and tribal life, but in a clichéd, unconvincing way. With characters like the old friendly chief, the handsome daughter and the bad-guy-medicine man, it is just too slick to make a real impact. The cannibal scenes, which play more like an separate episode near the end of the film, are on the other hand pretty gruesome, especially for a pre-Deodato cannibal film, and some were re-used for Lenzi’s fun, but ultra cheap-looking Eaten Alive.


Most of the actors don’t add anything to their clichéd roles, although Ivan Rassimov, who is one of my favourite Italian actors, makes the most of his poorly defined character. Me Me Lai, who was pretty ok in Last Cannibal World and Eaten Alive, doesn’t make too much impression here, I found her sort of dumb and irritating. Who I did like is Pratitsak Singhara as Taima, the native woman who speaks English and secretly helps Bradley.


Still, as a jungle adventure, it is actually entertaining enough. And it is nice too see what genre characteristics show up here. It would take several years though before Sergio Martino and Ruggero Deodato turned it into a genre of its own. When Lenzi got involved again he was more capitalizing on the infamous success of the previous entries, than actually developing or adding something new to it.

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