Thursday, October 1, 2020

PRIMITIVES (1980) (Severin Films Blu-ray Review)

Label: Severin Films
Region Code: Region-Free
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 89 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono with Optional Englsih Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen
Director: Sisworo Gautama Putra
Cast: Barry Prima, Enny Haryono, Johann Mardjono, Rukman Herman, Jafarpree York

Coming from the creators who would eventually bring us the Indonesian horror classic Satan's Slave we have gut-muncher Primitives (a.k.a. Savage Terror) from Rapi Films, again teaming-up producer Gope T. Samtani and screenwriter Imam Tantowi with director Sisworo Gautama Putra for what is clearly a riff on the Italian cycle of cannibal films in the late-70s. In we have three anthropology students; Rika (Enny Haryono), Robert (Barry Prima, The Warrior) Tommy (Johann Mardjono) along with an experienced jungle guide named Bisma (Rukman Herman, The Warrior and the Blind Swordsman) traveling through the jungle observing the rituals of a peaceful primitive tribe they have come across. The experience is exhilarating and it ignites within the trio of students an urge to visit even more primitive and perhaps unknown tribes further upriver and deeper in the jungle. The jungle-wary guide attempts to talk them out of it, knowing that it is probably not a good idea, but when the students start waving cash in his face he changes his tune.

The foursome travel deeper into the jungle via the river on a bamboo raft until they come into some turbulent waters which causes them to loose control of the raft and end up violently crashing onto the rocks. The group become separated during the mayhem with  Rita and Robert making it to shore together while Tommy and the guide are swept further down the river separately, with each attempting to regroup with the others. 

While travelling through the jungle each of them encounter different horrible things, Rita and Robert end up being captured by a group of cannibals,. Both are stripped down to their skivvies, she tied to a boulder in their cave and he locked up in a bamboo cage, both slightly molested by the primitives while waiting to be made into their next meal. Meanwhile Tommy and wanders the green inferno witnessing all manner of animal-on-animal violence, he sees an anaconda swallow a komodo dragon whole and then a crocodile stalks, drowns and kills a water-sipping jaguar. All of this being fairly bad looking stock footage that's been inserted into the film. The guide Bisma ends up being eaten alive by a crocodile while Tommy watches helplessly from the edge of the river, not really attempting to help the guy either, btu he is such a tiny guy he probably couldn't have done much. 

Unfortunately not all the animal cruelty comes via stock footage, being a cannibal film their seems to be some unwritten guideline that dictates that some form of cruelty must be endured, and Primitives complies with a python that is beaten to death and eaten, as well as a Cayman that is stabbed and flayed for it's meat. There's even an orangutan that while actually not killed seems less than pleased, clearly seen biting at the hands of the actors playing his primitive captors all the while shrieking. 

There's certainly some gruesome cannibal 101 stuff happening on-screen, but it never reaches the heights (or lows, depending on your disposition) of the Italian sickie-films, perhaps because the wig-wearing cannibal clan are a bit silly in their portrayal, the actors covered in mud and making the most comically overwrought faces while grunting a bunch, it was hard to take them seriously. Separate from that there's a lot of laughable moments throughout the film, like when one of the primitives ends up mud wrestling an anaconda, and a bizarre scene of a rubbery looking hatchet that is thrown only to return boomerang style to clunk the thrower on the skull, and then a scene of Robert being thrown from the raft where he does an extended series of underwater somersaults which made me chuckle a bit. The character of Tommy is just a funny-looking guy, he's super scrawny with big teeth and oversized eye-glasses, he's just a humorous looking fella, and that he is prone to accidents is just that much more funny. There's not a lot of gut-munching gore either, while we do get some bloody penetration wounds there's not a lot of human entrails being eaten, so it doesn't have quite the stomach churning weight of something like Cannibal Ferox

The jungle set scenes are fairly standard looking but I do love the underground cave setting, where we get to see the communal life of the primitive tribal people, it's totally paper-thin but it's cool-looking as they sleep together, eat together, and harass their victims a bit, it's just a cool location and director Sisworo Gautama Putra gets a lot of bang for his buck with it. 

Audio/Video: Section 3 Video Nasty Primitives (1980) lands on region-free Blu-ray from Severin Films sourced from an HD scan of the Jakarta vault negative in 1080p HD framed in 2.35:1 widescreen. The source is not perfection, a disclaimer explains that the original negative was missing both the original opening and end credits which are considered to be lost, and have been replaced with the German credits from a 35mm release print. It does seem to have what looks to be some overly aggressive digital noise reduction leaving the image overly-smooth and plasticine without film grain, which is a minus bit it was not so egregious that I couldn't enjoy this jungle-cannibal flick. Blemishes pop-up by way of white speckling and some tiny faint scratches that are readily noticeable in a few scenes, but the colors and black levels look solid. 
Audio comes by way of both English and Abkhazian DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono with optional English subtitles, I preferred the English dub as it sounded a bit more robust to my ears. The flick has got a bizarre kraut-rock synth opening title track that sound very Kraftwerk-ish, as well as a score from Gatot Sudarto (Mystics In Bali) sounds good in the mix.

Extras begin with the seven-minute 'Producing Primitives' with Producer Gope T. Samtani who gets into shooting the film in the jungle, the cast and crew having to live with the locals in the sea during the production, how director Sisworo Gautama Putra (Satan's Slave) came to the project, and how the director is the one who have actor Barry Prima (The Warrior) his name, this being his first film. He also touches on the foreign distribution deal for the film and it's success at the time when cannibal films were doing well in the market, and how that success lead to them making English language films like Lady Dragon for the international market. 

In the ten-minute 'Way Down in the Jungle Deep' screenwriter Imam Tantowi 
speaks of initially wanting to be a director of children's films and how the script for this film was influenced by the discovery of the Tasaday Tribe in the Philippines 
as well as the book 'Anak Perdamaian' (Peace Child), as well as Ruggero Deodata's Last Cannibal World and Umbero Lenzi's Man From Deep River. Mentioning how fast the production process was a Rapi Films at the time, shooting in Pangandaran, and also doing some work as the assistant director on the shoot.  He says the producer Gope T. Samtani also stayed with the locals with the cast and crew but didn't much care for the rudimentary toiletries and would drive to the nearest hotel in nearby Garut to use the bathroom often, always bringing the crew treats from town, and of how well the crew worked together, detailing a few minor snafus that occurred. I thought it was interesting that the cave they shot scenes in was used as a movie theater by the locals and it had to be make it look more appropriately ancient to suit their needs for the film. He also gets into how this was Barry Prima's frst film, and the director has a hard time connecting with him using film theory which he did not understand, so it was left to Tantowi to coach him, using prompts like "make a face like you are constipated', As it's a cannibal film there is some seemingly inherent animal-violence, he talks about how the eating of the snake disgusts him, pointing out that the snake tamer on the set is one of the ones who ate it, but that he himself did eat a bit of the crocodile meat. 

We also get a 2-minute trailer for the film and a 6-min alternate title sequence. The single-disc release arrives in a black keepcase with a reversible sleeve of artwork, both sides featuring cool-looking illustrations , the b-side a reproduction of the UK Go Video Big Box VHS  release under the alternate title of Savage Terror, with the Blu-ray disc itself featuring an excerpt of alternate artwork that was featured on the Severin website exclusive pre-order slipcover for the film.

Special Features:
- Producing Primitives – Interview with Producer Gope T. Samtani (7 min) 
- Way Down in the Jungle Deep – Interview with Screenwriter Imam Tantowi (10 min) 
- Trailer (2 min) 
- Alternate Title Sequence (6 min) 
- Reversible Sleeve of Artwork 

Primitives (1980) is certainly not the most original cannibal film you will ever watch, it plugs along ticking off what needs to be seen in a film of this ilk, minus the extreme gore aside from the animal-cruelty, but it comes off as silly and half-hearted, but it is still an entertaining watch. The Severin Blu-ray looks and sounds good and the extras are entertaining, I do hope they keep releasing these Indonesian exploitation flicks,  I had fun with both this and their recent release of Satan's Slave (1980). 

More screenshots from the Blu-ray: