This Anglo-Canadian get together deals with an earthy adventure yarn, a struggle for survival, and an offbeat battle of the sexes.
Story is set in the mid-1890s when British Columbia was wild and untamed and only the strong came out on top. Jean La Bete (Oliver Reed), a huge, lusty French-Canadian trapper, returns to the trading post too late for the once-a-year ‘auction’ of harlots, thieves and femme riff-raff sent away from civilization for this purpose. So he settles for a young mute orphan, a servant in the trader’s house, sold to him by the grasping wife.
He hauls the protesting girl into a canoe and sets off for the wastes. There follows an edgy Taming of the Shrew situation as the hunter tries to win her affection by cajoling, bullying, threatening, and occasionally sweet-talking.
Reed is larger-than-life as the crude, brawling trapper yet also has moments of great sensitivity with his co-star. Tushingham, sans benefit of dialog has to depend on her famous eyes, and wistful mouth to put over a tricky role embracing many emotions, from spitfire to waif, and she does marvels.