The Savage Innocents (1960)

Genres - Adventure, Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Adventure Drama  |   Run Time - 111 min.  |   Countries - France , United Kingdom , Italy   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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A fascinating if uneven film from director Nicholas Ray, The Savage Innocents is the kind of stretch that gifted filmmakers need to make to keep expanding their talent. Granted, in some areas this is familiar Ray territory: a protagonist who doesn't fit in with the demands of contemporary civilization, conflicting moralities, intense struggle, and a visual vocabulary that finds beauty in unexpected places. But Savage is set in what would truly be considered "alien" territory -- not the milieu of disenfranchised and misunderstood youth but of a culture that shares only certain characteristics with that of recognized civilization. It also is a setting that enables Ray to explore the visual splendors of a barren, icy, brutal natural wonderland, and the director and his cinematographers make stunning use of this. (Perhaps a bit too much so, as the contrast between the location shots and the studio ones can be rather jarring.) Savage very definitely reflects Ray's voice and vision, and when it is at its best, it is captivating. However, occasionally, it stumbles; some of the primitive vs. civilized scenes nowadays seem a bit simple or patronizing. The voiceovers, which effectively add a documentary feel to the proceedings, also come across as intrusive and speak down to the viewer. And every so often one can feel the director straining; the film occasionally "shows off" rather than simply "showing." However, with Anthony Quinn delivering an excellent lead performance and a fine supporting cast, Savage is able to overcome its flaws and emerges as a film well worth watching.