Deep River Savages, aka Sacrifice! aka The Man from the Deep River aka Il paese del sesso selvaggio gave birth to the cannibal genre, sometimes referred to as Mondo films (the Italian word for "world" derived from a pre-existing Italian title that was released in the early '60's). Some speculate that it was this film, Mondo Cane, translated into English as "A Dog's World" that served as a point of intrigue and inspiration for exploitation directors because it displayed an early glimpse of the "mockumentary" style - intended to showcase different cultural practices around the world with cleverly stages scenes or manipulated sequences that shocked civilized audiences. If one realizes this reference, it's understandable why Umberto Lenzi, the director of Deep River Savages, would head in this direction.
Deep River Savages is about a man named John Bradley who embarks on an expedition into the Thai rain forest to capture photographs of the wild life. Upon his request, his river guide takes him deep into the heart of the jungle, even though it is ill-advised. On the last day of his expedition he discovers that his guide has been killed and a local tribe takes him captive. After a short period of confinement, Bradley attempts to escape but realizes the futility of his endeavor and is re-captured. He decides to embrace his fate and live alongside the people, even becoming a respected warrior in the process, catching the eye of the village Chief's daughter, Maraya.
Viewers will be surprised to learn that this film's central theme is not a violent or cannibalistic one, but about romance and hope. One scene depicts a goat's throat being slit by a villager during a ritual, which to this day, still remains controversial among censorship boards. I have experience with cannibal films and was expecting this one to fall in line with the rest, but quite honestly, it's tame in comparison. There is less than five minutes worth of cannibalistic activity present but mor e readily available are sequences of drawn-out nudity; most of which don't seem too heavily contrived.
As I mentioned earlier, the Mondo films of the era inspired Lenzi's work on Deep River Savages as the theme matches it closely. Western audiences are meant to see the rudimentary and primitive lifestyle of the tribesmen who exist freely on the land, with a few elements added in that may seem shocking.
Individuals who seek out films within the cannibal genre will undoubtedly come across this one, and will most likely be disappointed by the outcome; while this could be categorized as an exploitation film the sleaze is kept to a minimum and even by mythological proportions, a lesson drawn from the story. Fancy that. Sadly, the film isn't sure whether it wants to be marketed as horror or sexploitation - my primary focus in viewing cannibal films is to understand the bulk of all the controversy and despite the censorship it certainly does not have anything on the likes of SalÚ. . Lenzi himself has admitted that cannibalism was not the focus of Deep River Savages but after the film was dragged through the ringer and came out on the opposite end of a shameless marketing ploy, that's mostly what participants in the genre think of when they hear the title.
I don't care for cannibal films during this era in cinema and I never will - the acting is suspect, the music is repetitive, the cinematography is drab, and the shock tactics are rendered useless, leaving only the themes represented, which are all but gone in later installments. Since I am perfectly immune by this point, there's nothing left for me to be interested in. If I could make one positive remark about Deep River Savages, it would be this: it's more subtle than Ferox and Holocaust combined and it does not begin to touch upon the level of absurdity that Mangiati vivi! does. The biggest draw to a film like this is all of the hoopla that surrounds it, and if you're curious, you'll eventually drawn your own conclusions - the consequences will remain your prerogative. As for your loveable Corpse Rot, I've already made up my mind.