Accompanied by his guide Chuan (Prapas Chindang), Brit Bradley (Ivan
Rassimov) has gone for an underwater photographing trips on one of the
many jungle rivers in Thailand ... until one day, he finds his guide
murdered by a primitive spear, and he himself is soon captured by a savage
tribe, who first think him a fish (because of his diving suit and
flippers) and hang him in the sun to dry - where Bradley soon catches the
eye of the chief's daughter Maraya (Me Me Lai).
After the savages notice that Bradley is quite human they let him work
with them - as their slave - but still treat him like an animal, since
they have never seen a white man before, and he doesn't speak their
language - and he doesn't even fall for the charms of lovely Maraya (that
Bradley even makes an attempt to escape, but fails miserably and is
brutally tortured - it's only thanks to Maraya that he isn't killed right
away. Again, Bradley is treated as a mere animal ... until he saves a boy
from dying from dyphteria using primitive improvised surgical tools.
Suddenly Bradley becomes a respected member of the tribe, and is
eventually to marry Maraya, the chief's daughter ... only the tribe's
witch doctor is (understantdably) furious and vows revenge. When Maraya
gets pregnant, the witch doctor sees his time for revenge come, and he
administers her a slow poison at some native ritual. Soon, Maraya growns
weaker and weaker, and her eyelight fails. Bradley, who really loves her,
grows so worried that he even wants to bring her back to civilisation to
have her treated, but the tribe stops his attempt to make a getaway cold.
Ah yeah, somewhere around this time, Bradley also witnesses a tribe of
cannibals feeding on one of his tribe. Brutally, Bradley's tribe strikes
back, with Bradley, mad with worries about his wife, being among the
Eventually, a battle about the tribe's village destroys most of the
same and costs many tribesmen including the scheming witch doctor, their
lives, but somehow Bradley can save Maraya, who delivers her baby ... and
dies. Bradley is furious, but he knows the tribe is his people now, and he
helps them build up their village again, and he hides when another helicopter
flies by that could get him away from this all ...
By and large, Deep River Savages is considered as the film that
initiated the (Italian) cannibal genre, even if the cannibal scenes are
extremely limited here to only a handful of minutes (very explicite
minutes though, mind you). More than later, full-blown cannibal movies, Deep
River Savages is a traditional if violent jungle adventure, and it's
reminiscent in plot (not style) of that sociological Western A Man
Called Horse from only a few years back.
The result is a film that crosses the line between serious storytelling
and trash moviemaking from both sides, but it's beautifully (if a bit
indifferently, considering the story) photographed, it profits greatly
from having been shot on site in the jungles of Thailand, and it is the
film that gave the cannibal genre it's dream couple, the delectable Me Me
Lai and (the less delectable) Ivan Rassimov ...
It's one of director Umberto Lenzi's better films, anyways.