“I’m a human being, like you! I’m a man, not a fish!” – Ivan Rassimov
Il paese del sesso selvaggio (“The Country of Savage Sex”), better known as Man from Deep River (actually The Man from the Deep River on the print) and Sacrifice! in North America or Deep River Savages in Europe, is a 1972 Italian exploitation film directed by Umberto Lenzi (Cannibal Ferox; Nightmare City; Knife of Ice).
The film is best known for starting the notorious cannibal sub-genre of Italian exploitation cinema during the late 1970s and early 1980s. The movie stars Ivan Rassimov and British actress Me Me Lai (Eaten Alive!; Last Cannibal World).
Lenzi was presumably trying to imitate the content of mondo cinema (‘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, graphic violence, and animal cruelty. 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 (largely due to the real animal killings).
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 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.
“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. It’s not without gore and blood, a chopped of hand – some nibbling on human flesh, a stab or two – but unfortunately most of the gruesome stuff is spent on killing animals.” Fred Anderson, Ninja Dixon
“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.” Josh Pasnak, Video Graveyard