Movies Till Dawn: Man Movies

The Man Who Skied Down Everest” (1975, The Film Detective) Japanese alpinist Yuichiro Miura, who set a world speed skiing record in 1964, sets his sights on conquering Mount Everest, albeit in a very different way: with the assistant of his expedition team, numerous sherpas and a parachute, Miura climbs the colossal mountain with the intent of becoming the first person to ski down the steep and treacherous South Col pass between Everest and Lhotse. Oscar-winning documentary plays more like an extended meditation on a seemingly impossible dream than any sports documentary; entries from Miura’s diary (read by actor Douglas Rain, the voice of HAL 9000 in “2001”), which become Zen koans over the avant-garde score by Canadian percussion ensemble Nexus and Larry Crosley, hone the focus on the emotional and spiritual challenges of the journey, including his guilt over the death of six sherpas in a cave-in, which fuel his doubts about the whole expedition. The result is a glacially paced but frequently insightful and moving look at the mind of an athlete, with the actual descent down Everest, which takes up a fraction of the movie, more or less an afterthought (albeit a harrowing one). The Film Detective’s Blu-ray gives a sparkling presentation to Mitsuji Kanau’s cinematography.

Sacrifice! (a.k.a.”The Man from Deep River,” 1972, Kino Lorber/Raro Video) While on assignment in Thailand, hard-living English photographer John Bradley (played by satyr-faced Eurocult regular Ivan Rassimov) is abducted and enslaved by a primitive tribe which, after putting him through an array of brutal rituals, eventually makes him one of their own. Inspired by fetishistic scenes of Richard Harris being tortured by Native Americans in “A Man Called Horse” – though the “mondo” cycle of exploitative documentaries and jungle-themed pulp adventure also weigh heavily on story and execution – this Italian-made adventure was a huge success in Europe and America, where grisly scenes of cannibals attacking the Thai tribe and real animal slaughter made it a hit on the grindhouse circuit. Though these elements are secondary in “Sacrifice,” they inspired a slew of Italian-made cannibal horror films in the ’70s, each attempting to outdo its predecessor with gory special effects. Director Umberto Lenzi would later abandon the slow, travelogue-style pacing and sudsy romance subplot between Rassimov and tribal princess Me Me Lay in “Sacrifice” for delirious, full-bore slaughter – real and imagined – in “Cannibal Ferox” (better known Stateside as “Make Them Die Slowly”). Kino/Raro’s Blu-ray offers a new HD transfer of the film, as well as optional English and Italian-language tracks; a making-of featurette, which includes interviews with Lenzi, co-writer Francesco Barilli (“The Perfume of the Lady in Black”) and Ms. Ley, and liner notes (which seem to be loosely translated from another language) detail the picture’s fast-and-loose history: some of the funding was provided through the black-market sale of Krupp flatware, while the cannibal angle was reportedly provided by the man who penned the novel on which the long-running “Emmanuelle” series was derived.

About Paul Gaita

Paul Gaita lives in Sherman Oaks, California with his lovely wife and daughter. He has written for The Los Angeles Times, LA Weekly, Variety and Merry Jane, among many other publications, and was a home video reviewer for from 1998 to 2014. He has also interviewed countless entertainment figures, but his favorites remain Elmore Leonard, Ray Bradbury, and George Newall, who created both "Schoolhouse Rock" and the Hai Karate aftershave commercials. He once shared a Thanksgiving dinner with celebrity astrologer Joyce Jillson and regrettably, still owes the late character actor Charles Napier a dollar.
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