Home accidents animal attacks Pit Dernitz –the man tore to pieces by a lion

Pit Dernitz –the man tore to pieces by a lion


Wandering here and there I came across a movie and more precisely a world movie, a documentary film dealing with strong themes intended to shock the viewer. Very famous in the 60s and 70s, the genre is named after the movie “Mondo Cane” (A Dog’s World) which was followed by many others.

The movie I saw was called “Savage Man Savage Beast”, from 1975, famous for the violent scenes in general, but for one in particular: a man tore to pieces by a lion. It is said that the sequence was real and that man in question was Dernitz Pit.

The incident: man tore to pieces by a lion

The incident occurred on Feb. 18th, 1975 in the Wallasee natural park in Angola. The sequence shows various tourists cars on safari, busy photographing the animals of the savanna.

At some point Pit Dernitz decides to get out of the vehicle to better shoot lions and at this point is attacked. The other tourists continue to film, powerless, and the man is devoured by the big cats under the eyes of his wife and children.

This scene created a bit debate not only for the great violence and the strong impact it has on the audience, but also because some believe it could be a fake and not a real scene.

True or false?

Anyone who thinks that this is a fake, meaning the scene was acted out, points out some inconsistencies.

  • There are no news from newspapers or television reporting of a man named Pit Dernitz devoured by a lion.
  • There is no natural park in Angola called Wallasee
  • There are a lot of movie gimmicks in the filming, such as zooms and cuts on the relatives in tears
  • No one intervenes to save the man, for example by driving the car to scare the lions away
  • How did the rescue team managed toget there shortly after the incident, as at the time there were no mobiles?

Those who think this is a real movie respond to these objections with the following points:

  • It was never in the news because the film had gathered much more attention and it’s easier to find news on the documentary rather than the event in itself  Besides, it’s normal to think that the family wanted to talk about it as little as possible.
  • Perhaps a natural park called Wallasee existed in the ’70s and now has changed its name, or the name was reported incorrectly.
  • The zoomis only used to better document the scene
  • The film says that the car could not be used because of the terrain.
  • Surely the guides were equipped with radio transmitters.

What I have noticed is that there are actually no existing news or newspaper articles on this Pit Dernitz.

The only thing I found, apart from the mention in the Wikipedia page of the movie, is a page of the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) where Pit appears as “actor died devoured by lions in 1975”.

Some say that being on IMDb under “actor” proves that the incident is a hoax concocted well. I believe instead that he is on that page simply because he starred, voluntarily or not, on a film.


No one actually knows if the movie is real or not, the issue is still hotly debated. I personally can say that the first time I saw it I thought it was true.

The name, place and date have made it all the more real, but remember that those were the years of the world movies, where everything was permitted to shock the viewer. 

Remember how in “Cannibal Holocaust” the actors, including a young age Luca Barbareschi, had been forced to “disappear ” for a while after filming it to make people think that they were actually dead?

But still, if in “Cannibal Holocaust” we discovered the trick, why did the same thing not happen for “Savage Man Savage Beast”?


  1. The car number plates are Rhodesian. I was at school in Rhodesia in 1975 and I remember reading about this incident. Some tourists (Belgian or French I seem to recall) did go to the Lion and Cheetah Park, just outside Salisbury (now Harare). A man got out of the car to get pictures and was attacked and killed by lions. The L&C Park is still going in Zimbabwe at the same place outside Harare. It is a small fenced enclosure of a few acres and you can drive through in your own vehicle (dont need a 4×4). BUT there are lots of warnings to not get out of your car. These European tourists seem to have ignored the sign and paid a terrible price. The old cars are the types that were available in Rhodesia at the time. Timelinewise this was just as the Bush War was hotting up.

  2. The vehicle Pitt got out of was a Renault R4. The one next to it was a R6. There was an old Chevrolet’ Impala. Alll had Rhodesian plates. I distinctly recall this incident being reported and seeing pictutes in the now defunct Scope Magazine and also a report in the Sunday Times. I cannot recall where it took place. The Lion and Cheetah park outside the then Salisbury is a distinct possibility.

  3. Senoslav, number plates change all the time. You can’t say with any certainty that these are ‘not’ Rhodesian plates. Put it into another context of identification; Ian Smith, what do you know about him, without looking it up!

  4. Don’t really care one way or another ,he was silly to get out of his vehicle but I hope the lion was ok tho

  5. I see people claiming it to be fake because of the person being listed as an actor on imdb. Any real person that appears on a movie or documentary is regarded as an actor by the site, regardless of being a professional thespian or simply someone granting an interview of caught by a camera, so it proves nothing.

    How about a third hypothesis?

    Maybe there is at least some degree of truth to the story. Maybe it realy happened, even if not exactly as depicted on the film.

    Maybe the movie attempt to re-enact (in a staged way) one event that actually has taken place. The footage may be faked, edited, manufactured, but the story that they were trying to portray may be real.

    This would be nothing new.

    Yes, it would relegate the movie to be labelled as fake in the sense that it pretends to be real, with authentic footage, while it wouldnt be the case.

    People and names may have been changed, but I do see a false dichotomy being presented.

    People think that if they are somehow able to discovery files from papers dealing with this issue then the movie scene must be real. This isnt a necessary conclusion. Maybe the event really did take place and somehow the movie makes did caught word of it. Maybe the original footage (IFit existed) was unable to be used for a reason (bad quality, objections from the family, whatever motive…) so they simply decided to stage their own version of it and try to present if as real, found footage that was used on a trial.

    This could actually make a lot of sense, because a superficial analysis could indicate that the movie was in indeed real simply because there would be reports of such an attack. it would lend false credence to the movie.

    Sometimes moviemakers will do that. Present their own re-enactements of real events, or versions based on modern urban legends.

  6. It was a real event. I remember it well. It was reported in the Uk press at the time with a number of papers carrying the story. There were many photos though of course no film in those days. One photo showed his arm sticking up above the lions and his thumb and first two fingers had been bitten off. A lot the people trying to say it waa fake were not born then.

  7. Yes I watched the video and yes it is absolutely real, the man’s first mistake was being NAIVE, his second mistake was he crouched downward not that he still not of been attacked because yes he would of the lion behind him which he did not notice viewed him as another wondering animal. All the lions acted the way lions act when they just made a kill the female try to eat as quickly as they can because they know once the male sees the kill he will take over and that’s exactly what happened. This man made a fatal decision the lions seen him as another easy opportunity to eat. I’m very good with picking out real videos and fake and this is absolutely real and I felt so bad for the man and his family. The lions should have been shot in 1975 because once they tasted human blood they would have killed again and again.

  8. Liam Katt, what the press reported was sourced by the film but there’s no actual source outside that. My take is that it is fake because it’s a Mondo type film which are mostly fake.


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