The Savage Innocents

1959, Movie, NR, 111 mins


In one of his many portrayals of exotic, offbeat characters, Quinn plays an Eskimo, one of the the toughest roles of his career since he was required to perform a number of feats Eskimo-style, including hunting, fishing, and making love. The great actor is quite convincing in all these undertakings, but he had to be to make the film work, because it concentrates on the differences between standard Western culture and and the Eskimo way of life. The first portion of the film shows Quinn going about his daily tasks and visiting a trading post. He takes his wife and mother-in-law with him when tries to swap some skins, and kills a priest when the cleric offends Quinn by refusing an offer to sleep with the Eskimo's wife. A fugitive from the law (like so many characters in Nick Ray's films), Quinn is forced to send his mother-in-law out to die when she becomes too much of a burden. Quinn is arrested by two Canadian Mounties, but in their attempt to bring him back, one of the Mounties freezes to death while the other is saved by Quinn. Realizing that Quinn lives by an entirely different set of laws, the surviving Mountie then frees the Eskimo.

This realistic and stark picture emphasizes the harshness of Eskimo culture, yet Quinn and the other players who portray Eskimos exude a simple quality that makes them very likable. THE SAVAGE INNOCENTS was one of Quinn's first international productions; it was also one of the first screen appearances by Peter O'Toole, who caused a minor flap on the set when he objected to his voice being dubbed into pidgin English. The producers won, of course. This stunning pictorial account of the way Eskimos live, hunt, love, and die was filmed in the northernmost part of Canada, and the scenes of Eskimos fighting for survival are truly magnificent and deeply moving. However, despite the praise of the critics, the public greeted the film with tremendous indifference. leave a comment

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The Savage Innocents
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