The Savage Innocents is a polyglot pic. Financial responsibility was carved up between Britain, America and Italy. Rank chipped in with a third of the $1.5 million budget and Pinewood studios and British technicians were used; Italy, through producer Maleno Malenotti, has a third stake; America (Paramount release) supplied the remainder. There’s a Yank director and screenplay writer, Nicholas Ray; America’s Anthony Quinn is the main star, while the [Japanese] femme lead Yoko Tani comes from Paris.
Remainder of the cast is drawn from various countries. Shooting, apart from Pinewood, took place in Hudson Bay and Greenland. Somewhere along the line Denmark gets an honorable mention among the credits.
Two undeniable things stand out. Art director and editor have done a standout job in matching and cutting so that it is virtually impossible to decide where Pinewood began and Canada came in. Secondly, the chief lensers have turned out some brilliant camerawork with color sweeping superbly across the widescreen.
The problem is whether the yarn [based on Hans Ruesch’s novel Top of the World ] stands up. For long sessions it is a documentary of life in the Eskimo belt. The story line is simple. It concerns a powerful, good humored hunter (Quinn) who spends the early stages of the film deciding which of two young women he wishes to make his wife. Second half becomes melodrama when he accidentally murders a missionary.
The memorable moments are those of Quinn hunting down foxes, bears, seals, walruses and the majesty of the bleak wastes, the ice, the storms and primitive living conditions. The human element doesn’t come out of it quite so well.
Quinn, mainly talking pidgin English-cum-Eskimo, comes out as an authentic Eskimo. Tani is a delight as the woman. Peter O’Toole is firstrate as a tough trooper.