• Primitives (Severin Films) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: September 29th, 2020.
    Director: Sisworo Gautama Putra
    Cast: Barry Prima, Enny Haryono, Johann Mardjono, Rukman Herman, Jafarpree York
    Year: 1980
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    Primitives – Movie Review:

    When Satan’s Slave struck box office gold for Indonesia’s Rapi Films, producer Gope T. Samtani got the gang back together and had screenwriter Imam Tantowi once again team up with director Sisworo Gautama Putra to craft another horror picture, this time eschewing the supernatural elements of that earlier effort in favor of… trashy cannibal nonsense (except that there isn't really much in the way of human on human consumption going on)!

    When the film begins, a trio of college students – ‘Danger Is My Bussiness’ t-shirt wearing hottie Rita (Enny Haryono), hunky group leader Robert (Barry Prima) and bespectacled horny longhair Tommy (Johann Mardjono) - are led by a guide named Bisma (Rukman Herman) deep into the jungle where they soon meet up with a peaceful tribe of natives. They give them gifts, and in return, are welcomed as brothers by their chief and his daughters. They spend the night and all goes well, but the three students want more. They throw some cash at a reluctant Bisma and coerce him into taking them up river, deep into the more dangerous part of the jungle where they hope to come into contact with a rumored tribe of primitives that reside there, but which little is actually known about.

    The trip does not go well. They hit rough water and while Rita and Robert make it to land, Tommy winds up getting pulled underwater and whacks his noggin’ on a rock while Bisma gets separated from the rest of the group. As Tommy wanders around and watches animals attack each other (some of this footage is very real and looks like it was staged for the movie itself, some of it is clearly inserted from other sources and some of it is just plain fake), Bisma finds a gun and yells at the jungle while Robert and Rita get captured by the very tribe they were hoping to come into contact with. Not surprisingly, they aren’t as friendly as the first group…

    Clearly borrowing from the films of the notorious Italian cannibal film cycle that were popular around this time, Jungle Holocaust being the most obvious, Primitives is equal parts unsettling and really, really goofy. The animal violence is fairly strong in this, the worst example being a scene where a crocodile gets its spine slit open while the poor thing is still alive. Those with an aversion to this material are forewarned! Most of the violence towards actual humans, however, is definitely on the goofy side of things, the most obvious example, without going too far into spoiler territory, being a scene we’ll refer to as the ‘magical boomerang axe!’ The movie also has what may or may not have been supposed to be a rape scene, where one scrawny, filthy primitive accosts poor Rita while she’s bound to a rock. He grunts and thrusts away at her, but his clothes don’t ever come off and neither do hers, so it’s kind of tough to say for sure what’s really going on there.

    As to the cast? Barry Prima makes for a pretty decent hero. He doesn’t have a whole lot of range, but he can smile and look happy and he can grimace and look angry or he can drop his jaw and look frightened. That’s about all that the movie asks of him, and he does it well enough. Enny Haryono has as bit more to do in that she’s given a rougher go of it than he is, and she’s pretty convincing when expressing her character’s disgust and shock. Johann Mardjono spends most of the last two-thirds of the movie walking around the jungle looking out of it. Tommy doesn’t have very good luck in this movie, he seems to run into vicious animals a lot and is clearly prone to injury, Mardjono’s got that certain something that makes him a lot of fun to watch. He’s goofy and weird looking and his acting style is less than good, but you can’t help but love the guy.

    Director Sisworo Gautama Putra does a great job getting the most out of his locations. The movie is pretty nicely shot, using some interesting lenses to different effect throughout the film. The main cave where the second tribe lives is the perfect spot to stage a movie like this, it works very well. The movie also features a wonderfully weird soundtrack, its opening theme song sounding like something out of a weird synth band’s back catalogue, complete entirely inappropriate (but no less bizarre) robot vocalizing. While this was obviously made without a huge budget, the production values are pretty solid overall.

    Primitives – Blu-ray Review:

    Primitives is presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition, framed at 2.35.1 widescreen and taking up 21.7GBs of space on the 25GB disc. “Scanned in HD from the Jakarta vault negative for the first time ever” and presented uncut, the film opens with the disclaimer seen here:

    This movie was previously released by Video Asia on a DVD of dubious legality where it was double-featured with Ghost Ninja. That version started with a 'this is a true adventure...' text cards (white text over a red background) and was taken from a tape source with burned in Greek subtitles and more compression artifacts and macro-blocking issues than you can shake a stick at. It was misframed, featured visible tape rolls and used the 'Primitives' title card. It’s interesting to see the opening on this DVD, as it differs from the two versions included on this disc, but in short, this disc looked like garbage. Don’t believe me? Here are some screen caps.

    The Severin transfer is a MASSIVE improvement over that Video Asia disc, even if it is a composite of sorts. There is some DNR applied here, skin looks a little waxy and grain is suspiciously missing, but overall, detail is pretty strong here. Colors look really, really nice and skin tones look lifelike and natural. There are no issues with any edge enhancement and the elements used were clearly in nice shape as there are only random and sporadic instances of noticeable print damage. You’ll spot some compression artifacts in some scenes but despite the flaws inherent in the picture, this movie has never looked this good on home video before.

    English and Abkhazian audio options are provided in 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono with optional subtitles available in English translating both tracks. Limitations in the source are obvious in that both of these are older single channel tracks and sound like older single channel tracks, but there aren’t any problems. Dialogue is clean, the audio is properly balanced and the subtitles are clean and easy to read. That said, the English dubbed track sounds much cleaner and clearer than the Abkhazian tracks does for whatever reason.

    Extras start off with a featurette titled Producing Primitives, which is a seven-minute interview with Producer Gope T. Samtani. Here he speaks quite openly about the difficulties of shooting in a jungle, where some of the ideas for the movie came from, casting Barry Prima, what it was like on set, the success of the film and how the English language version came to exist.

    Way Down in the Jungle Deep interviews Screenwriter Imam Tantowi that lasts ten-minutes and sees him speaking about working with the film’s director, where some of the ideas for the film came from, the use of real animal violence in the picture and his thoughts on the film overall.

    Rounding out the extras on the disc is a theatrical trailer for the feature, alternate UK opening and closing title sequences (that has the same text cards as were found on the Video Asia DVD, but with yellow text on a black background and using the Savage Terror title), menus and chapter selection but it’s also worth pointing out that Severin has included some cool reversible cover sleeve art with this release (with the Primitives title on one side and the Savage Terror title on the reverse).

    Primitives – The Final Word:

    Primitives is nothing if not entertaining! It isn’t the most original cannibal film ever made but there are a few unique cultural quirks that help set it apart, and the performances are pretty fun even if the animal violence is… not so fun. Severin Films brings this much maligned to Blu-ray with a solid presentation and a few nice extras as well. Recommended!

    Click on the images below for full sized Primitives Blu-ray screen caps!