One of the first rather nasty movies I got by accident as a teenager came from a very straightlaced video store in my very straightlaced Midwestern home town. (I grew up somewhere that was nowhere near as remote as where Bacchus grew up but still, Paris it wasn’t.) The video sleeve (we’re talking the heyday of VHS here) was only mildly lurid looking. The title was The Emerald Jungle. I half suspect my local video store proprietors may have confused with with The Emerald Forest which, by comparison, was a rather innocuous adventure movie.

Innocuous this video release was anything but. It was an off-the-deep-end movie, filled with gratuitous sadism, nudity, religious insanity, and rape. But these almost seem like a sideshow compared with the central theme of the film, which was cannibalism. Yes, I had in fact stumbled on an obscure U.S. release of Umberto Lenzi’s Mangiati Vivi. (Literally, “Eaten Alive.”) A core member of the canon of the Italian jungle cannibal genre, in which pretty much everything goes, as long as it’s exploitative.

(Subsidiary bleg: if anyone knows why, exactly, the Italian film industry produced not just a few movies, but a whole damn genre devoted to jungle cannibalism, I’d love to know why.)

One actress in Mangiati Viv I’ve had in my head, Me Me Lai. She shows up in a few jungle cannibal movies, often in fairly bizarre scenes. For example here she plays a young widow, forced by the leader of a religious cult to copulate with her late husband’s three brothers, “in order that the marital bond should be broken, leaving her free to marry again.” (No, I don’t understand it either.)

me me lai

In the end, her character is captured by cannibals, killed and eaten. Don’t watch that scene anywhere near lunch.

In a similar movie, Ultimo Mondo Cannibale, this time directed by Ruggerio Deodata , she plays a native girl abused and dominated by oil prospector Robert Harper, played by the Italian actor perhaps best known for dubbing Darth Vader into Italian.

me me lai

In the end, her character is captured by cannibals, killed and eaten. These jungle cannibal movies do get repetitive. In fact, I’m pretty sure the footage was taken directly from a different jungle cannibal movie.

Of course, Me Me Lai didn’t just appear in jungle cannibal movies. I remember her also from a movie called Crucible of Terror. There is, I suppose, a certain ASFR appeal here, as her character, instead of being killed and eaten, is made into a bronze statue in about the most horrible way you can imagine.

Me Me Lai in Crucible of Terror

But unless you’re really into Me Me Lai or ASFR completism, I’d give this one a miss if I were you. In the hands of an Umberto Lenzi or better yet, a Lucio Fulci this one might have pivoted off its premise and been a minor horror classic. As it is, one might as well just called it Crucible of Terribleness. Unlike many of the movies that it has been my pleasure to blog about here, this one really lacks the courage of its demented convictions.

But I still think about Me Me Lai. She must have been a real trooper, especially in those jungle movies, where she’s naked or nearly so for much of her screen time, and acting amidst heat and humidity and insects — I’ve been to some of the places where her movies were shot, and believe me, it can be exhausting just to take a walk there. She comes across as quite the professional.

But little seems to be available about her, except that she was born in 1952 to an English father and a Burmese mother. After appearing in Lars von Trier’s The Element of Crime in 1984, she stopped acting and, as far as I can tell, disappeared from the public eye.

Hence the bleg: does anyone know what became of her?