The Savage Innocents (1960)

The Savage Innocents
Directed by Nicholas Ray
Written by Nicholas Ray; adapted by Hans Ruesch, Franco Salinas, and Baccio Bandini from Ruesch’s novel
Gray Films, Joseph Janni/Appia Films, etc.
First viewing/Amazon Instant


Inuk: Oh ho ho, someone would rather lend his wife than his sled. You lend your sled, it comes back cracked. You lend your knife, it comes back dull. You lend your dogs, they come back tired and crawling. But if you love your wife, no matter how often you lend her, she always comes back like new.

I know somebody out there has been secretly yearning to see Anthony Quinn play an Eskimo.  This is your golden opportunity.

Inuk (Quinn) would have a perfect Eskimo existence if he only had a woman.  Finally he finds one.  Now he spends his days happily providing for his family which soon includes a baby boy.

One day, a Christian missionary visits.  Inuk attempts to make him welcome by offering to let him “laugh” with his wife.  The missionary takes offense at this. Inuk is vastly insulted and strikes him, accidentally killing him.  Life goes on as usual until years later when some troopers catch up with him.

I might be the only one, but I was offended by Quinn’s performance.  He is trying to come off as simple but seems only simple-minded to me.  The movie as a whole strips indigenous people of any dignity or complexity.  The scenery, on the other hand, is fantastic.  Some people liked this way more than I did so your mileage may vary.

From the IMDb trivia: “It was seeing this film, as an upcoming singer/songwriter, that inspired the young Bob Dylan to write the song “The Mighty Quinn (Quinn the Eskimo).””


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